The weather has not been kind to the almond orchard bees, or the almond orchard flowers, but the bees have still had some time to fly and to pollinate what few blooms are available. Thats OK since bees are still being moved into the orchards. With over 1.2 million colonies to move in a weeks time, and even with nearly unlimited resources the logistics for this event are nearly incomprehensible. Nevertheless colonies are being loaded, hauled from holding yards to orchards and unloaded and spread out all over kingdom come 24 hours a day for as many days as it takes, but it better not take too many days because those almond blossoms dont get pollinated if the bees arent in the orchard. You can see whats going on, bloom wise, here.
Interestingly, the cool, rainy weather helped mask some of the problems that some colonies were having, or it seems to have set them off, its hard to tell. But colonies with Colony Collapse Disorder-like symptoms are again beginning to pop up. The guest blog here a few days ago by Maryam Henein highlighted one of the larger finds, but many other smaller outbreaks are coming to the fore, unfortunately many after the colonies have moved into the orchards.
These are showing up as the colonies are being inspected, so the whole story isnt known yet. It seems there will probably still be enough strong healthy colonies to do the job needed by the almond growers, but only because, again, of the Australian bees brought in for the job and the fact that there are new players again this year trying their hand at pollination who are replacing some of those who have had to drop out.
This again brings to question the meaning of the word "urgent" by Congress. Last May Congress said the problem of getting to the bottom of the CCD issue was "urgent." The beekeeping industry, too, felt it was urgent, and they got out their checkbooks The National Honey Board, Project Apis, The California Bee Breeders, The California Beekeepers, The California Almond Board, The Montana Beekeepers and the Montana Department of Agriculture, plus countless individuals and other smaller groups. The industry response has been dramatic, positive and beneficial. But it is a small industry and this is certainly one of those problems that needs a bigger player ... USDA ... or someone else, to quickly lend a hand.
Helping hands are in place in some respects... Several USDA projects are taking place even as you read this ... long term projects to help unravel this situation ... but some are still in limbo... for instance, the $4 million grant USDA graciously made available last May wont be available until at least the end of August this year ... thats 15 months from start of idea to releasing the funds ... but that research wont be able to start until the following winter or spring... so add another few months to the wait.
Meanwhile, thousands of empty boxes are being put back on trucks and heading home ... boxes that held millions of honey bees only a few weeks ago. Gone. Where? Why? And what will those beekeepers do now?
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