Make The Most Of Bees In Your Almond Orchard

Many times each year the question is asked: “How early can I remove the bees from my almonds without jeopardizing potential production?” Some will argue that once you are past 80% to 90% petal fall there is very little crop set. Others will argue that they are leaving the bees in until the last flowers are gone as each blossom represents a potential nut.

In 2010, I was asked this many times, and I can recall while working for the University of California (UC) Cooperative Extension, being asked that question numerous times, as well. This past spring provided a perfect opportunity to conduct an experiment to address this question for several reasons. First, the inclement weather provided a challenging situation for the bees to pollinate. Second, the late almond bloom overlapped into subsequent pollinating requirements for other crops, so many beekeepers were anxious to move hives out while almonds were still in bloom. Third, with hive rentals hovering in the $125 to $150 range, and up to three hives per acre, growers were very conscious about keeping their investment working as long as possible.

To evaluate this concern, I took a late blooming Butte/Padre block (since they are most likely to conflict with cherry/apple requirements) and took 15 tree paired replications of each variety. I waited until the trees were well into petal fall, and tagged limbs that still had buds in pink bud to popcorn stage. Care was taken to count only unopened blossoms.

Revealing Results

The grower still had hives present (2.5 hives per acre) during the experiment (started March 16). In late May, after any potential shedding, a percent set count was made of the sound nuts.

It should be noted that typically the first blossoms to reach petal fall are on the mid-outer section of the trees and on the weeping hangers. The last area where blossoms opened was on the upright upper-most shoots. These are the ones that were counted for this experiment.

The results of this test were quite revealing. Among the 15 paired Butte/Padre trees, the late-opening blossoms on the Butte averaged 56.4% set and the Padre 64.1%. This is substantially higher than the normal percent sets I have counted in experiments over the last 30 years, both at UC and independently. Typically Nonpareil is in the 22% to 28% set range in a normal year, and pollenizers range from 30% to 45% with the late varieties being amongst the higher percentages. Are these 2010 numbers the norm or an aberration? I suspect that since bloom weather was affected by rainfall this year, and many of the first blossoms to open may not have set, the precocity of the later flowers may have increased. This could explain why the sets are higher than normal.

Your Decision

Although this is only a one-year study, it does illustrate the potential benefit of having bees present until the trees are finished blooming to maximize yield potential. I realize that percent set is only part of the equation, since the total number of late opening flowers on the tree will ultimately determine whether there is an economic advantage to leaving bees in until the end of bloom. That is a decision the grower needs to make on a case-by-case situation.

Topics: ,

Leave a Reply

Nuts Stories
Photo Credit: David Eddy
Nuts
February 10, 2016
Incentives Available For Low-Emission Harvesters 
Almond and walnut growers who use lower-emission harvesting equipment may be eligible for financial incentives. Beginning this year, the USDA Read More
Bayer company logo
Crop Protection
February 10, 2016
Bayer Contests EPA’s Decision On Insecticide  
Company seeks to stop agency’s proposed cancellation of flubendiamide. Read More
AFG state of the industry
Apples & Pears
February 9, 2016
State Of The Fruit Industry 2016 [VIDEO]
According to an national poll of fruit growers, fruit industry suppliers, and researchers, the market is poised for growth in Read More
Almonds
Nuts
February 3, 2016
Avoid Tree Nut Cargo Theft
American Fruit Grower® and Western Fruit Grower® recently reported on a rash of nut thefts, in which truckloads of nuts Read More
honey bee on almond tree
Nuts
February 3, 2016
Tips To Help Secure A Good Beekeeper Agreement
Pollination is one of the most important aspects of almond growing, and this time of year, making sure you have Read More
Varroa mites
Fruits
February 2, 2016
EPA Releases List Of Products Labeled For Use Against Varroa Mites
Agency gives recommendations on products to protect hives against parasites. Read More
Mark Jansen
Photo: Blue Diamond Growers
Nuts
January 27, 2016
Almond Industry 2016 Preview
American and Western Fruit Grower talked with Blue Diamond Growers President and CEO Mark Jansen about the health of the Read More
The Latest
Citrus
February 13, 2016
5 Questions With The New American Farm B…
Zippy Duvall weighs in on priority issues. Read More
Disease Control
February 10, 2016
Broad-Spectrum Fungicide Approved For Sp…
Rhyme controls powdery mildew, brown rot blossom blight, and leaf rusts. Read More
Nuts
February 10, 2016
Almond Board Working Toward Next-Generat…
New sustainability initiatives will bring the almond industry into the 22nd century. Read More
Nuts
February 10, 2016
Incentives Available For Low-Emission Ha…
Almond and walnut growers who use lower-emission harvesting equipment may be eligible for financial incentives. Beginning this year, the USDA Read More
Crop Protection
February 10, 2016
Bayer Contests EPA’s Decision On Insecti…
Company seeks to stop agency’s proposed cancellation of flubendiamide. Read More
Apples & Pears
February 9, 2016
State Of The Fruit Industry 2016 [VIDEO]
According to an national poll of fruit growers, fruit industry suppliers, and researchers, the market is poised for growth in Read More
Nuts
February 3, 2016
Avoid Tree Nut Cargo Theft
American Fruit Grower® and Western Fruit Grower® recently reported on a rash of nut thefts, in which truckloads of nuts Read More
Nuts
February 3, 2016
Tips To Help Secure A Good Beekeeper Agr…
Pollination is one of the most important aspects of almond growing, and this time of year, making sure you have Read More
Fruits
February 2, 2016
EPA Releases List Of Products Labeled Fo…
Agency gives recommendations on products to protect hives against parasites. Read More
Nuts
January 27, 2016
Almond Industry 2016 Preview
American and Western Fruit Grower talked with Blue Diamond Growers President and CEO Mark Jansen about the health of the Read More
Nuts
January 26, 2016
Thefts Plaguing California Tree Nut Indu…
Thieves have been taking off with truckloads of tree nuts valued as much as a half million dollars, and catching Read More
Citrus
January 22, 2016
It’s Official: 2015 Was Earth’s Wa…
NASA, NOAA analyses reveal record-shattering statistics regarding global temperatures this past year. Read More
Citrus
January 21, 2016
Chance Of Profits Up For Growers Tuned I…
UF/IFAS study confirms how paying attention to the 10-day forecast can affect a farmer’s bottom line. Read More
Apples & Pears
January 20, 2016
Herbicide Flood Irrigation Application A…
Crops include stone fruit, pome fruit, grapes, tree nuts, and olives. Read More
Nuts
January 20, 2016
Regional Trials Pinpoint Almond Varietie…
Since the 1970s, the Almond Board of California has been trialing varieties regionally to determine the best and brightest trees Read More
Citrus
January 20, 2016
USDA Report: Pesticide Residues Not A Fo…
Following monthly samplings, survey finds more than 99% of products sampled fall below EPA tolerances for pesticide residues. Read More
Nuts
January 15, 2016
Researchers Crack Walnut Genome
Genetic sequencing paves the way for better breeding. Read More
Citrus
January 13, 2016
American Farm Bureau Elects New Presiden…
Georgia farmer Zippy Duvall to take leadership reins from retiring Bob Stallman. Read More
[gravityform id="62" title="false" description="false"]