California Drought Has Beekeepers Scrambling To Find Places To Pollinate
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PATTERSON (CBS13) — Beekeepers say finding the sweet spot to pollinate is like finding a needle in a very dry haystack.
In a normal year, beekeepers will move their bees around like cattle at least four times in search of new flowers.
“Out of almonds, into the citrus bloom, into the sage bloom in the coastal range,” said beekeeper Orin Johnson. “The only place I’ve made honey this year was a little bit in the citrus. Everything else was too dry.”
Normally by the end of June, Johnson has made half of his year’s honey.
“In a good year, we’ll have 50 or 60 barrels of honey in the warehouse that I’ve produced. This year, I have four.”
Johnson moved his bees last week to an alfalfa field, but today they can’t work. Their hives are being treated for mites.
Johnson, a second generation beekeeper, said most beekeepers will lose 30 percent of their bees every year to parasites, disease, and weather. He said beekeepers work harder than they did 10 years ago.
“When I was young with my father, we didn’t know what feeding bees was,” said Johnson, who gives his bees a sugar water nectar. “In today’s environment we feed for at least 30 percent of the year, maybe 40 percent of the year.”
Johnson said beekeepers’ income comes from renting their bees to farms and orchards in the early spring and then having a successful honey harvest. He said his summer honey will come from the pollen of alfalfa and lima beans.
“People say ‘Lima bean honey? Yuck.’ It’s wonderful if you ever make it.”
The University of California San Joaquin County Cooperative Extension said it hasn’t heard of honey price increases at the grocery stores, but Johnson said if California doesn’t get a decent amount of rain in the fall and winter, it’ll be more work for beekeepers to care for their bees.
“My son was wanting to get back into the bee business and asked me what I think, ” said Johnson. “Ten years ago, I would have said ‘jump at it,’ today I’m very hesitant. It’s a totally different business today than it was 10, 15 years ago.”