Every January the world's biggest honeybee migration begins, as beekeepers around the country make their way to California with millions of hives to pollinate the state's vast almond orchards.

Lately, it's been a troubled migration. The worry stems from colony collapse disorder – a poorly understood phenomenon in which the majority of bees disappear from a hive in rapid fashion, usually within two weeks.

Each year brings the increasing fear that a farm will not have enough bees, said Denise Qualls, a bee broker and owner of the Pollination Connection. Her company, now in its 10th year, provides bees and bee inspections to almond farms.

The Central Valley is ground zero in learning the effects that colony collapse disorder has on agriculture. The Valley hosts most of the state's 820,000 acres devoted to growing almonds.

Before collapses started, it was typical to see eight to 10 frames inside each beehive box placed on a farm, Qualls said. She is seeing averages of 6 to 7 frames now.

(For more, see Honeybee woes are costly for Valley almond growers)

 

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