Upside-Down Almond Pollination


Arriving in Australia.

It’s September, but some beekeepers are just wrapping up almond pollination and moving their bees to canola.  Sounds late. California’s almonds finished in March. Canola blossom ended months ago, too. But not for Australian beekeepers.

Here’s a news piece from SunraysiaDaily:

MILLIONS of bees trucked into Victoria to pollinate almond plantations last month are now working their magic to help boost the state’s spring canola crops.

“The honey bee industry provides benefits of between $4-6 billion to the Australian economy each year, and specifically to pollination-dependent plant industries such as almonds, cherries and pome fruit,” she said.

Beekeepers who move to almond pollination into the southern state of Victoria will face many of the same issues as California pollinators – monoculture limits nutritional diversity, pesticides wreck hives, trucking stresses the bees, and pests transfer hive to hive in the dense apiaries.  Hopefully, the migratory beekeepers are being compensated for all this.

Australia is now the world’s second largest almond producer, having just passed Spain’s production. Australia is still far behind the USA. California produces about 2 million tonnes a year; Australia, about one-tenth that. But the Australian groves are expanding. With that, the need for pollinating honey bees is growing, of course.

In 2009, just 55,000 colonies were rented for almond pollination in Australia. In 2012 about 110,000 honey bee colonies were trucked into Australia’s almond groves. This year, it was 195,000 with 300,000 expected to be rented within 5 years.


About Ron Miksha

Ron Miksha is a bee ecologist working at the University of Calgary. He is also a geophysicist and does a bit of science writing and blogging. Ron has worked as a radio broadcaster, a beekeeper, and Earth scientist. (Ask him about seismic waves.) He's based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
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