blosoms wind down
boxes are deployed in an almond orchard at the California State University-Chico farm in the middle of blossom in mid-February. The blossom is mostly winding down.


A quick and vibrant almond blossom is wrapping up in California, prompting beekeepers to remove their hives from orchards to avoid having their bees come in contact with chemicals being applied to other nearby crops.

Warm and balmy afternoons in mid- to late February facilitated lots of bee activity while making the blossom proceed more quickly, noted Bob Curtis, the Almond Board of California’s director of agricultural affairs.

Now that even the latest varieties such as Butte and Padre almonds are in petal fall, some hives have been moved to stone fruit orchards as the early varieties of those crops have started to bloom, reports the National Agricultural Statistics Service office in Sacramento.

“We had in essence about two weeks rather than three weeks” of full blossom, Curtis said. “During the daytime, there were plenty of bee flight hours … The other plus with this bloom is that we did have very good overlap of cross-compatible varieties.”

Under best-management practices the group developed in 2014, the almond board has been urging to remove their hives when most of their latest variety is in petal fall to avoid having fly elsewhere to forage — and coming in contact with pesticides applied to other crops.

“They can fly up to four miles,” Curtis said, adding that some growers are applying chemicals to tree fruit crops and alfalfa.

The precautions come after bee producers suffered devastating losses at the end of the almond blossom two years ago, when a mixture of fungicides used by almond growers and insecticides applied to field crops proved harmful to both adult bees and broods.

This year’s blossom followed another tough winter for beekeepers in terms of die-offs, with some reporting significant losses. A variety of factors have been blamed for the latest deaths, including signs that the mite believed to cause many of the deaths is developing a resistance to treatments against it.

Bee activity during the blossom was monitored closely by researchers from the nationwide Bee Informed Partnership, whose aim is to help beekeepers improve the strength of their hives, the California Farm Bureau Federation reported.

So far, the feedback from many beekeepers to the almond board has been positive, Curtis said. Beekeepers are pleased with what they call their brood increase — the egg-laying and development of immature bees in hives — during the blossom, he said.

Depending on the weather this spring and summer, the quick and early blossom could portend another early harvest. In 2015, many growers were wrapping up their harvest by Labor Day after a warm spring and summer helped accelerate the crop’s development.

NASS is expected to issue its acreage estimate for almonds in 2016 on April 27, and it typically makes its first production estimate for the nut in May.



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