My hives have returned from California where they have been since the end of January. Even with the early bloom and dry weather, the almond pollination was a success.
After unloading my hives yesterday morning I was quite excited to take a look at the bees and I was happy with what I found. Most of the hives had large clusters and plenty of weight. I did end up feeding about twenty-five percent of the them. Another ten percent of the hives were either very weak or had died, which is normal. I will have plenty of strong hives to make the needed splits this spring to bring my numbers back up – no package hives to purchase this year.
The hives will remain in this holding yard for about two weeks until the local orchards bloom. I put out a water barrel and some candy to help prevent robbing. I will be returning in a few days for a second round of feeding and to check mite levels.
As I spoke to several sources about the California almond pollination there were a few differences from last year. First, there seemed to be plenty of strong hives to go around and prices were up in some areas. Because of this, inspectors were more strict with inspections. Any cluster smaller than seven or eight frames was discounted. Last year many growers were willing to take any hives that had bees in them. Second, the unusually warm weather brought on the bloom a week or two early in most areas. Currently, the biggest concern is the water situation, but hopefully this latest round of storms helped bring some relief. The truck driver who brought my hives back to Utah got stuck at Donner Pass on his way to California. The freeway was shut down for two days because of snow and icy road conditions.