Moving busy bees during almond pollination

almond tree branches tagged

Almond producers and beekeepers can boost production outcomes by better timing the removal of hives from almond pollination, according to new research results from NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI).

Recently published in Applied and General Entomology Volume 47, Bloom progression is the preferred predictor of when to remove Honey Bee hives from almond orchards, outlines how almond growers and beekeepers can make evidence-based decisions on when to remove hives from almond pollination.

Lead author and NSW DPI Technical Specialist Elizabeth Frost said the research will help ensure maximum yield for the grower and timely hive release for the beekeeper’s next production event.

“Almonds are highly dependent on insect-vectored cross-pollination, with about 215,000 hives being transported to mature almond plantings in the 2016/17 season in Australia,” Ms Frost said.

“We understand that almond growers want to maximise yield, whereas beekeepers want to transport their hives promptly onto the next mass flower, so deciding when to remove bee hives from almond orchards is a challenge.

“Research has shown that tracking individually tagged branches is an objective and practical method to predict when to remove hives from the orchard because bloom progression is strongly correlated with bee-collected almond pollen.

“It is preferred over the current standard of subjective canopy assessment, which is open to operator error arising from misinterpreting the complex branch architecture unique to each tree and misinterpreting the foraging of bees on remaining flowers when the bees are actually foraging for nectar when pollen production is low.

“Flower quantities in the second sampling period show that, despite the remaining flowers, pollen production was at its lowest point, which supports the decision to remove hives from the orchard.”

In Australia almond pollination occurs from mid-July to early September, then following this activity the bees can be moved onto canola crop pollination or honey production.

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