Almond growers have a lot of inputs to consider to produce their crop. They must balance the cost of labor, pest management, water, and bees for pollination. Those costs are not fixed year-after-year, especially renting the bees. The fact is the cost of colony rentals for pollination has steadily increased, and remained, at a premium. And almond acreage is projected to outpace the number of available colonies sometime in the next decade. Growers take these factors very seriously and it is not surprising that self-pollinating almond varieties have been a hot topic lately.
Right now, wildfires are decimating much of California, Oregon and Washington. This strain is conflated with the Coronavirus pandemic, which many of us hoped would be winding down by now, still raging in many states.
Hundreds of thousands of acres of habitat and forage are burning, along with homes, businesses and hives. It can be difficult to think about the devastating losses experienced by our friends, family and in many cases ourselves. While the future is uncertain for many, PAm’s thoughts are with everyone being affected. You can learn more about what the outlook is for native bees after a fire, and what scientists know about how honey bees act in a smoke-filled environment from this article from Oregon State University.
On Sunday, September 13th Foothills Honey Farms was working hard to remove colonies from evacuation zones in Oregon where they are in danger from the Beachie Creek and Riverside Fires. Some beekeeping operations have already lost their homes and businesses to fires*, and many more have lost colonies and equipment.
BIP released preliminary results for the 14th annual survey in June of 2020. This exchange has been edited for length and clarity.
We have all seen the chart showing the percentage of bees lost over the years. In recent years it has included “Total Annual Loss” in addition to winter loss-a reflection of requests from beekeepers who emphasize the importance now of losses year-round. Loss rates are estimates of colony turn-over over a season; a mortality rate of colonies and units lost to combinations. It is not a count of the total number of colonies in the country.
The survey began via the Apiary Inspectors of America in 2006 and was taken over by BIP a few years later. Since 2019 Auburn University’s Geoff Williams, who is now the president of BIP, and his Ph.D. student Selina Bruckner, are administering the survey for BIP with assistance from many organizations* and individuals who help get the word out. Winter loss was down 15.5% from last year, and 6.4% from the historic average.