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Bees-iest time of the year
Local growers hope for sunny days
almond bloom pic
Hughson bee keeper Orin Johnson tends to a hive of bees located on the perimeter of a Keyes almond orchard. Almond growers are hoping Mother Nature provides mild, sunny weather for the almond bloom in the coming weeks. - photo by JONATHAN MCCORKELL / The Journal

In the coming weeks millions of honey bees will be hard at work in Turlock area almond orchards, that is if Mother Nature cooperates with sunshine and mild temperatures. Earlier this month a week-long warm streak got some varieties of almond trees beginning to bloom, only to be halted again by a winter storm.

For bee keepers and almond growers the inconsistent weather is keeping them on their toes.

“Right now the bees are playing hide and seek. They are out there once temperatures get up a little bit,” said Hughson bee keeper Orin Johnson.

 Under cooler temperatures, below the upper 50s, bees will typically remain in their hives to stay warm.  With some almond varieties blooming earlier than others after the warm streak the challenge for growers is to wait and hope Mother Nature cooperates.

Often the rows of trees alternate almond varieties to promote cross-pollination. Pollen itself is the fertilizing element of the blooming plant.

“I’m seeing the bees out there so it’s happening. Time remains to tell how it’s going to get started this year but there is plenty of time, we’ve got until late March,” explained Johnson. 

Over the next week is predicting light rain on Friday, a chance of rain on Saturday with a partly sunny Sunday and Monday. Rain is expected Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

With cooler temps and rain on the horizon almond growers have been spraying fungicide to help keep flower blooms on the almond trees from rotting off with moisture.

“Now is a critical time and we are hoping the weather will cooperate for a few days and let the bees do their work,” said almond grower Vito Chiesa.

A successful bloom season could bring a bountiful harvest this summer and fall, along with a stable price for consumers.

Bee hives are fed sugar water and synthetic pollen to promote hive growth in winter months, with the goal to create massive honey bee hives of20,000- 40,000 bees just in time for the almond tree bloom. As the trees bloom and the weather warms up the bees come out of their hives, which are placed at a rate of two per one-acre of trees.

To contact Jonathan McCorkell, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.