Terra Bella beekeeper Jack Brumley agreed that bee losses are not as devastating as they have been in past years, but still are around 25 percent. He noted that one out-of-state beekeeper lost more than half his bees since they were trucked into California in December.

Shannon Mueller, a UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor in Fresno County, said there has been an increase in requests by almond growers for beehive strength evaluations recently due to concerns about colony collapse disorder. The person requesting the inspection pays the county for the service which ensures almond growers get what they pay for.

The evaluations are good for the grower as well as the beekeeper, said Mueller. The independent inspections by the county determines the strength and value of the hive. Growers pay about $150 per colony for pollination services.

County inspectors select a set of hives and open the centers to count the number of frames that are covered with bees. Eight covered frames are average, and mean plenty of bees will be out foraging and covering more trees per day. Mueller cautioned that two hives with four frames each do not add up to the strength of an eight-frame hive.

Brandi said some growers specify an eight-frame minimum and will pay higher rates.

He said a California State Beekeeper Association survey found that growers are paying slightly more this year per hive.

While the bees make money for pollination, beekeepers also depend on their honey production. The dry winter weather means there will be less native forage — wildflowers and other pollen sources — for honey bees. Out-of-state bees usually stay for the citrus bloom before the bees are trucked back home.

Dave Baker, director of member services for Blue Diamond, said that while the industry has about 100,000 new acres bearing this year, they do not expect to have any problems pollinating the 2012 crop.

“From what I’ve been hearing they will all be covered,” he said.

“Every year is different with almond tree strength. Last year we had a strong nonpareil bloom. We’ll wait and see what the trees to this year. Bud set looks a little weaker right now.”