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Fewer bees in US a threat to world’s almond supply

February 16, 2013 • Business


Bee inspector Neil Trent of Scientific Ag Co., inspects a frame of bees to assess the colony strength Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013, near Turlock, Calif. Not enough bees covering a frame means an unhealthy hive, and fewer working bees to pollinate California’s almond bloom, which starts mid-February. (AP Photo, Gosia Wozniacka)

TURLOCK, Calif. (AP) — In an almond orchard in California’s Central Valley, bee inspector Neil Trent pried open a buzzing hive and pulled out a frame to see if it was at least two-thirds covered with bees.

Trent has hopped from orchard to orchard this month, making sure enough bees were in each hive provided by beekeepers. Not enough bees covering a frame indicates an unhealthy hive — and fewer working bees to pollinate the almond bloom, which starts next week across hundreds of thousands of acres stretching from Red Bluff to Bakersfield.

“The bloom will come and go quickly,” said Trent, who works for the Bakersfield-based bee broker Scientific Ag Co. “The question is: Will the almond seeds get set? It depends if you have enough of a workforce of bees.”

That has growers concerned as nomadic beekeepers from across the country converge on the state with their semi-trucks, delivering billions of bees to the orchards for the annual pollination. Most almond trees depend on bees to transfer pollen from the flower of one tree variety to the flower of another variety before fertilization, which leads to the development of seeds.

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