In the middle of January, commercial beekeepers around the nation begin loading up their bees and making the trek to California before the almonds start to bloom. This journey takes a lot of preparation and hard work.
We were given the opportunity to shadow a commercial beekeeper during this process. Working hard, for free, in return for a great education.
This process consists of opening each hive, looking for resources such as honey and pollen, counting seams of bees to ensure the boxes are full enough to fulfill the pollination contract, and loading the bees onto clean pallets.
Since our bees are coming from Texas, they’ve got to cross the California border free of pests such as fire ants. This makes the transfer of the hives onto clean pallets the most efficient way to ensure quality control on a massive scale.
Commercial beekeepers, unlike hobby beekeepers, crack open hive boxes faster and with more purpose than you could imagine. Looking for the telltale signs of a healthy hive and moving along to the next one. This assembly line of hive checks is impressive to watch. Excess resources are pulled out to be shared with weaker hives, set aside, and put into the next hive that needs it.
With all the rain we’ve had over the past few months, this process was often done standing on top of old lids and scrap wood to keep from getting stuck in the mud quite literally.
Since most of these hives haven’t been opened since the beginning of winter, “dead outs” were not surprisingly found, caused by a variety of robbing/starvation, absconding, or disease. While several people work each hive, new pallets are made and the work seems to never stop. This is what a lot of people love about beekeeping. It is physically challenging, mentally stimulating, and incredibly interesting.
Again, this journey keeps going and we’re happy to have an opportunity to learn from some of the best. Special thanks to Chris Moore, TBA President and owner of Moore Honey Farms for letting us visit your operation, pick your brain, and continue to pester you with questions.