Honeybee colonies are a delicate organism, according to bee biologist Gordon Wardell. Here he inspects a colony located at Paramount Farms near Lost Hills, Calif.
The buzz of a strong honey bee colony can put a jingle in more than the beekeeper’s pocket, according to one bee biologist.
As discussions evolve around protecting honey bees used to pollinate a host of crops – the largest and most prominent of which is California’s multi-billion almond crop – growers and their pest control advisors are encouraged to apply a set of best management practices to promote honey bee health.
Gordon Wardell, a bee biologist with California’s Paramount Farms, says he can show how promoting strong bee colonies through relatively simple means can put money in a grower’s pocket.
Wardell told a gathering of pest control advisors at the annual California Association of Pest Control Advisors’ (CAPCA) meeting in Reno, Nev., that eliminating bloom time sprays from Paramount’s almond orchards has improved Paramount’s bottom line while helping bees at the same time.
“We’ve found that bloom time sprays reduce our yield,” Wardell told the PCA’s gathered for the CAPCA meeting in Reno. “We have much more creative ways of reducing our yields without doing bloom time sprays.”
Avoiding all almond spraying operations during the critical bloom period is just one of a number of best management practices Wardell said Paramount Farms employs to promote healthier bee colonies. Paramount Farms is the world’s largest grower and processor of almonds and pistachios with 46,000 acres of almonds in Central California.
Paramount brings in about 90,000 colonies of bees each year for its almond pollination.
Without pointing fingers at a particular cause, Wardell told the CAPCA gathering that there are a number of things that can impact colony health. Some are well within the control of growers to positively change.
“The bee colony is actually a very delicate organism,” Wardell said.
Poor bee health and reduced colony strength can also have a negative impact on pollination during periods of marginal weather during bloom.
Wardell can point to years where the weather during almond bloom was not favorable to adequate bee flight times because of cold temperatures, wind and rain. It’s during these periods where stronger colonies can make the difference between good pollination and trees that are unable to set nuts because they were not pollinated.