-Posted by Isaac
I can’t help but feel like I’m missing out on something.
If you’re unaware, this is a big time for most of the bees in the country.
Most of the bees. Not most of the beekeepers. Most beekeepers are like me. Still hunkered down for winter, trying to stay warm, trying to encourage their girls to just hang on for another couple months.
It’s only the professionals who undertake this daunting task.
…The amazing task of building hives strong enough for almond pollination. (In February!)
…The complicated and exhaustive work of getting them moved from one far off place to another.
Over a million acres of almonds in California’s Central Valley— that’s a lot of trees. And they all get pollinated by honey bees.
Right now, the blooms are about a week away, almost ready to open. Getting bees placed where they belong is crucial. Therefore, the timing on this entire process is crucial. I’ve been there. It’s the Super Bowl of Beekeeping.
Building the bees up in late fall and winter, negotiating contracts, hauling the bees, finding holding yards, placing the bees, and finally removing the bees from the orchards, finding somewhere else to put them…
It can be dangerous. Sometimes accidents happen.
But overwhelmingly, this great annual migration is highly beneficial to both bees and beekeepers. Almonds kick off the year, but those bees have to go somewhere afterward. Apples, blueberries, cranberries, citrus, forage crops and vine crops are all benefactors. Not to mention the resulting surplus of bees that comes from a pollen flow in February— packages, nucs and queen production timed perfectly for March and April. And then of course is the ocean of honey that results from placing strong bees on the endless clover of the summer northern plains.
Seen through this lens, February almond pollination is awesome.
But I have taken some flack for saying this. For contradicting the notion, held by many, that this big dance exemplifies the worst in commercial agriculture. It’s about big equipment moving tiny insects over thousands of miles, it’s about absolute monocultures, out of place and out of season, it’s an unsustainable industry, 100% reliant on fossil fuels, migrant labor, chemicals, fertilizers, poisons… and all dependent on the volatile world market.
C’mon Isaac, don’t be such a shill. It’s so unnatural!
And to that I’d reply, ‘Well… you’ve got a point… duly noted.’
But don’t blame the beekeepers! They’re just trying to make a living… the heroes in a tragic play. Blame the real culprits! The real villains in this dreadful modern tragedy: people who eat food.
I’ve actually heard people tout the virtuous honey bee, and the honorable beekeeper. They’ll espouse righteously that we owe every third delicious bite to this noble pair. And then, in the very next sentence, they’ll denounce the vulgarities of commercial migratory beekeeping!
Well now, which is it? Heroes or villains?
There seems to be a disconnect…
But enough of this. I’ve given you enough of my ramblings. What’s happening on the Honeyrun front? Well, after that monstrous cold, we had one glorious day of 60 degree sunshine.
And a couple warm cloudy days followed. The bees were able to get out and visit. So many buzzed around blissfully while I worked on the fence.
That’s right. We now have the best looking goat pen in North America.
I hope they appreciate it.
The warmth didn’t last long, did it? I saw that they’re calling it a fool’s spring.
Two solid days of rain, the streams swelled, the ditches spilled over, even our yard became a lake.
And now the cold.
The work has slowed. I spend long cloudy moments staring out from the shelter of the barn.
And I can’t help but think…
Am I missing something?