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Successful Pollination Starts with Contracts and Communication

Recent media reports about problems with honey bee health invariably mention almonds as the crop most dependent on honey bees in the United States. With heightened public attention on honey bee health, almond growers’ actions in relation to honey bees are also under heightened scrutiny.

Hives should be inspected as soon as they arrive to confirm
that they are delivered as contracted.
This is the first in a series of articles over the next few months that will address specific issues related to honey bee health, ongoing Almond Board research and steps growers can take to improve pollination and maintain honey bee health.

One of the first steps for each almond grower is to open communication and enter into a contract early with their beekeeper, ideally beginning in summer. Beekeepers who know they have a solid almond pollination contract in hand will likely invest more money in managing mites and providing supplemental feed to ensure strong colonies for the almond pollination season. For a sample pollination contract template, visit ProjectApism.org.

Inspect hives or hire an objective third-party inspector when colonies arrive to make sure they are delivered as contracted. UCCE agronomy crop advisor Shannon Mueller has developed an online education and training program for assessing the strength of honey bees and colonies that can help almond growers become better-informed consumers when both renting hives from beekeepers and hiring professional apiary inspectors to assess the strength of colonies at pollination. Visit the ANR Online Learning homepage for more info.

Give your beekeeper a reasonable window to provide additional colonies, if needed. During bloom, walk the orchards during favorable flight hours and weather to make sure there is plenty of bee activity. Let your beekeeper know the agricultural products used for crop protection, including tank mixes. Continue to report any concerns to your beekeeper, and keep a line of communication open throughout the pollination season.

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