Buy or Rent: Bees for Almond Production
Recently, we took a look at why bees are so vital for the production of almonds, not just in Australia, but across the world. This is because almonds are 100% reliant on bees for their cross-pollination. And for this reason, from all corners of the globe, almond farmers depend hugely on strong, happy, and healthy honey bee colonies to ensure that their crops survive.
And we are not talking a handful of bees here; a big population of bees is required for the process (approximately 3 strong colonies for 17 acres). This is because single bees not only have to visit different flowers of the same tree, they then have to transfer that pollen to other trees of a different variety that are located up to ten metres away. For this reason, it’s most common for almond growers to rent huge numbers of bees during pollination time. Transported overnight when the bees are asleep and to avoid people being stung, the colonies are sent temporarily to almond orchards to help with this process.
But recently, as outlined in an article in the Sydney Morning Herald, a large-scale almond producer in Australia, Webster Limited, decided to buy $8 million worth of bees instead of being hit with the yearly rental costs of approximately $340,000 per annum. Journalist, Paul Sakkal, explained that the 5500 hives were purchased from Australian Rainforest Honey to avoid having to rent 2800 hives each year during the pollination window from the NSW south-coast and Riverina region.
The CEO of Webster described it as a “natural acquisition” considering the company had to rent large numbers of bees regularly regardless. The article also explained that this considerable purchase comes at a time when the cost of almonds in the US is expected to rise due to a bee shortage there, and that global almond price increases have a flow-on effect to the Australian market. Securing the bees now gives the company the potential to rent their bees out to other almond producers in the future.
But for those producers who can’t afford to purchase large quantities of bees for pollination, bee rental services remain a great option. Small beekeepers might rent a few dozen colonies to the process, while larger keepers rent a few thousand. The bees are transported to the plantation for this period of time to help with the pollination process. Luckily bees also love almonds, gaining nutrients from a good feed, coming away from their holiday to the almond orchard strong and happy.