Hives should be inspected when they arrive in the orchard,
especially for colony strength — ideally, eight to 10 frames
It’s not all up to beekeepers; almond growers can also be active participants in improving pollination of their crops. According to best management practices developed by Project Apis m., providing supplemental food and clean, accessible water is a good start.
Direct beekeepers to sources of native flowering forage before and after bloom, and consider planting a cover crop of mustard, clover and vetch in orchard perimeters or adjacent fallow land.
Like all living things, bees rely on clean, abundant water for
optimum health. Provide a water source near colonies with landings
and screens to help bees access water without drowning.
Growers can also assist beekeepers with hive placement and inspection. Allow hive placement in warm, sunny areas where there is little human interaction, and keep orchard roads maintained for easy access so beekeepers can easily service and move hives.
Inspect hives or hire an objective third-party inspector when colonies arrive to make sure they are delivered as contracted. Check colony strength when colonies arrive in the orchard; eight to 10 frames is optimum. An online education and training program
for assessing the strength of honey bees and colonies is available at the ANR Online Learning website. Walk orchards during flight hours to assess bee activity.
Finally, let your beekeepers know the agricultural products applied during bloom, and use care in applying crop protection materials to minimize contact with bees. Additional
articles in future issues of California Almonds Outlook will further explore best management practices related to pesticide use during bloom.