Posts Tagged: honey bees
Growing almonds isn't all it's cracked up to be.
The next time you're enjoying a ice cream bar coated with almonds or a salad with toasted almonds, think not only about the honey bees, but the growers.
The Almond Board of California recently reported that "Despite the higher yields and increased efficiencies California almond growers have gained over the years, the costs associated with growing almonds have risen dramatically while net returns per acre have shrunk."
A study by Cooperative Extension Specialist Karen Klonsky of the UC Davis Agricultural and Resource Economics showed that the total cost of producing an acre of almond is $3,897.
Yes, one acre.
Klonsky analyzed costs for an assumed 40-acre orchard in the northern San Joaquin Valley with 16-foot-22-foot spacings, 124 trees per acre, microsprinkler irrigation, and a 25-year orchard life.
The cultural costs totaled $1,752 or 45 percent of the total cost of production.
Cultural costs? Think pruning, weed control, pickup and ATV use, pollination, irrigation and fertilization, disease, and pests (insects and gophers).
Pollination--that would be the honey bees--accounted for $280 per acre or 16 percent of the cultural costs. (California has some 750,000 acres of almonds, and each acre requires two hives for pollination.)
Overall, next to cultural costs, the cost of land proved to be the second-highest expense, followed by production costs, cost of trees, and equipment.
"Applying this cost scenario to a price of $1.90 per pound, Klonsky calculated the break-even point would require a 2000 pound-per-acre yield," the board reported in its March newsletter.
And you thought growing almonds was easy?
In the Pink
Cool temperatures and honey bees do not a good team make.
Since honey bees don't forage until temperatures hit 50 to 55 degrees, we haven't seen many bees gathering pollen from our nectarine trees.
If you love nectarines, there's a lot to love. California boasts some 29,300 bearing acres of nectarines, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That's down slightly from the 30,300 acres tallied in 2009.
Although acreage is down, yields are up. The 2010 crop totaled 8.03 tons, up slightly from the 7.25 tons harvested in 2009.
Meanwhile, pollen-packin' honey bees turned out in force last Sunday to forage on the pink blossoms of our two nectarine trees.
No thanks to the recent storms, almond orchards are encountering Nature's Extreme Makeover--from fluffy popcorn blossoms to tattered petals reminiscent of bottom-of-the-bag kernels.
Still, there's something spectacular about driving down a rural road in Dixon, Calif., and encountering rows and rows of almond trees.
Look a little closer and you'll see the bee hives. (It takes two hives per acre to pollinate California's 750,000 acres of almonds.)
Look a little closer and you'll catch a bee in the act of pollinating.
Today the cold temperature, plodding rain and incessant wind kept the bees clustered inside their hives.
It's Presidents' Day and far too early for nectarines to burst into bloom.
The unseasonable weather, however, fooled 'em.
Didn't fool the honey bees. Despite the relatively low temperatures--50 degrees--they buzzed into our yard to greet the blossoms and carry the nectar and pollen back to their hives.
A touch of blue sky, some silky pink blossoms and golden honey bees.
Life is good.
Caught in Flight
Lots of Pollen
It's good to see so much interest in native bees and native plants.
At the UC Davis Department of Entomology, we're frequently contacted by folks throughout the country asking what to plant to attract pollinators--native bees, honey bees (honey bees not native; European colonists brought them over here in 1622), and other pollinators.
The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation has a wonderful list of native plants on its website. You click on your region and you'll be directed to a list.
If you poke around the Xerces Society website, you can find information on why native bee habitats are important and how to create native bee habitats. Also check out the pollinator handbook and the fact sheets.
Plant lists are available to download below in PDF format.
Yellow-Faced Bumble Bee