Extra honeybee feeding underway in Midwest, Upper Plains due to drought
According to Will Nissen, a beekeeper at Minot, N.D., there are 600,000 bee colonies in the state and nearly all are transported to California for almond pollination.
Stress from the lack of natural forage can be hard on bees and Nissen expects colony strength could be compromised.
While he normally brings 12,000 colonies a year to California for pollination in California, he may have 10,000 colonies due to losses.
Los Banos, Calif. beekeeper Gene Brandi says additional cotton acres planted in the San Joaquin Valley are helping feed bees remaining in California over the summer and fall months.
While many colonies are typically transported to the Midwest at that time to take advantage of native forage, the drought in some areas has caused some beekeepers to ship bees early to California.
Brandi, also the president of the American Beekeeping Federation, said it is hard to say how the drought in North Dakota and neighboring states will affect hive strength and the number of hives available for pollination early next year.
“Beekeepers are feeding protein patties and sugar to supplement the bees, but those aren’t as good as natural forage they would normally eat,” Brandi said.
Dennis vanEngelsdorp, president of the Bee Informed Partnership, a collaborative nationwide effort to understand honeybee decline, said one indication of hive strength is honey production.
When honey production is over in the late summer to early fall, more toxic materials are used to control Varroa mites.
Over the last four years, he says monitored mite levels have led to 4-5 treatments per year for control.