Honeybees are plentiful this year, says Joe Traynor, Bakersfield. At mid-February, beekeepers were advertising to place several thousand hives for almond pollination.

“There is no shortage of beehives, but there still is a shortage of strong colonies, as has been the case for the past five years,” he says.

“A bee hive is a wooden structure box — it’s what’s in the box that is the important thing. A strong colony is eight full frames of bees.”

Beekeepers have struggled to maintain healthy colonies while beset by a wide range of maladies, from varroa mites to viruses to nutrition issues to the latest colony collapse problem no one has yet identified. “It looks like it is caused by a variety of things,” says Traynor.

Prices for bees to pollinate almonds have ranged from $75 per colony to more than $200 this year; the wide range is related to colony strength.

During early bloom, daytime temperatures were well below that 55-degree to 60-degree range where bees start moving and pollinating. Weather warmed considerably Feb. 18-20, but another series of storms was forecast to start moving through over the weekend bringing more rain and cold weather.

“Growers who have a good supply of irrigation water have increased bee numbers to counter the wet, cold weather,” Traynor says. “It’s not much, maybe a quarter of a hive more per acre.”