The Late Almond Bloom and the Question of Nutlets 2019
The almond bloom is exceptionally late this year due to the cool wet weather. The central and southern parts of the valley are in serious petal fall right now (as the image above shows), and almond growers are nervously wondering how the almond set will develop. Did the bees have enough flying time to get the job done when it was warm enough to fly but not raining? The latest Blue Diamond update includes a quote from a grower saying: “It’s hard to tell how bloom turned out. With more wind and rain than normal, we had reduced opportunities to pollinate the crop. . . . I’m always hopeful we’ll make a good crop, but I have my reservations this year.” The report goes on to explain the crop's near term fate: "The weather in the coming weeks will help determine what percentage of flowers stay on the trees as nutlets. An almond tree can typically only retain 20% to 40% of the flowers after pollination. Sunny, warm weather assists in retention." Nutlet is a cute word!
The March 6 synopsis for the northern region reads:
Northern Conditions and Bloom Status:
High Temperature: 54°F
Low Temperature: 45°F
Wind: 10 mph. Gusts up to 30 mph.
Rain: 0.3″ throughout the day.
Sky Conditions: Overcast
Bee Activity: 1 hour of poor activity.
The late bloom has given beekeepers some reservations too. Hive buildup has been slower, and the weaker colonies have tended to decline or barely hold their ground rather than strengthen. The pollen and nectar boost that we expect has been slow or missing. The Ebert bees may actually end up lucky to be in the northern reaches of California's almond land. The bloom is most exceptionally late at that end of the valley, but 40-60% of the bloom is still intact with better conditions forecast to close down pollination. It still looks a little cooler than desired, but marginally warmer and drier sounds better than the chill and rains that have been so frequent. The trees and bees should both benefit from the next several days.
We will know more soon! Fingers crossed, as ever in the bee world! Anyone fascinated with the day-to-day updates can follow them at the Blue Diamond Crop Progress Report!