When Kerman Calif. almond grower Don Hornor went out early Tuesday (Feb. 24) to check his pollinating bees, he was stung.

“It was 6 a.m. in the morning—too early for bees to be moving--and when I opened up the box they swarmed out at me. Strongest bee hives I have had in five years,” he happily proclaims.

Although there have been reports of weak colonies this season, Hornor says almond growers in the Kerman area are happy with the bee strength now pollinating the 2009 crop.

However, he is not happy with the prices ($100 to $140 per colony).

Nonpareils were in full bloom on Feb. 23 with the California varieties Buttes and Padres starting to bloom in mid-week. He expects full bloom in later varieties by this weekend. More storms are forecast to come in this weekend, but it should clear up early next week. It takes about 10 days to pollinate all of Hornor’s almonds.

The welcome series of storms that brought in badly needed snow and rain prompted one fungicide spray for Hornor’s 540 acres of producing almonds.

Hornor’s almonds are irrigated with deep well water and he has sufficient water to make a good crop. “I am going to put in another well this summer, but the well drillers tell me I will have to wait for them to get around to me,” he said.