The almond bloom is well underway here in northern California. Some orchards are in full bloom, and the later varieties are just starting to open. Last week and the next two weeks will be the most decisive for determining the almond set and how the bees develop. Fortunately the forecast for next week is favorable….daytime temperatures 60-75F and no significant rain in the forecast. There has been good moisture in the lead-up to bloom, so that fact combined with warmth should help with nectar potential and a bloom that isn’t extremely short.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with how it works during almond bloom, the bees mostly benefit from collecting masses of pollen to raise new bees. They usually get enough nectar to gain honey weight too, but the overall yield of nectar is very low compared to pollen, so honey is not harvested off of almond pollination. It has an unpleasant bitter aftertaste as well–it gets worse the more you taste. Beekeepers make ends meet based on earning pollination fees and gaining bee production early in the year rather than any income related to honey production. Sometimes the nectar yield is so extremely low that the bees have to be fed immediately upon release from the orchards or some of them can starve quickly. Apple blossoms, in contrast, tend to give a lot more nectar than almond trees (though we don’t get enough to harvest apple honey either).
Here are some of our bees on the first day when part of our orchard came into bloom in certain areas.
A lot of out-of-state folks don’t go through the bees once they’ve been placed in the orchard in February. It’s slow work to go along the roadways and through the trees. On the other hand, I don’t think you need to boost or save too many hives to make the trip worthwhile since the materials and the number of helpers needed are much fewer compared to the January trip. In February it’s just a matter of selective supplemental feed, an additional mite treatment if desired, and especially boosting smaller hives with good brood that has usually developed in strong hives by this point even before the bloom commences.
This is a perfect set of our bees the day before the bloom started in our orchard.
Now we hope that the sunshiny weather comes true and pray for lots of booming bee hives by late March!