Mites Attacking Bees used for Almond Pollination
In about a week, beekeepers in California will begin moving their colonies into Central Valley almond orchards for pollination. But this year, there's a shortage of bees and that has both beekeepers and growers concerned.
Tuesday, January 25, 2005
(BEES IN HIVE-NS FADE OUT ) Beekeepers are facing a crisis. (CROSS FADE FROM BEES TO NS ---INSIDE BARN -HOLD UNDER JOHNSON) JOHNSON --:05—I’ve lost approximately thirty percent of my hives since the first of September—(FADE JOHNSON DOWN AND THEN OUT) Orin Johnson of Hughson is a second-generation beekeeper. An infestation of the Varroa Mite is responsible for his losses. (END JOHNSON) The parasite has simply become immune to the miticides that kept it under control for over a decade. With the almond pollination season right around the corner, having fewer bees to rent, means Johnson is going lose a good deal of revenue. JOHNSON —:10—I’ve lost two hundred to two hundred and fifty hives. It would easily be 150 to 200 dollars per colony of lost income. So far the cost to Johnson is forty thousand dollars in lost pollination fees and replacing the dead bees. And Johnson will also lose income on all the honey he won’t produce this year. (ALMOND PROCESSING PLANT NS-—HOLD TWO SECONDS AND FADE AND HOLD) The shortage of bees is also threatening California’s resurgent almond business. At this processing plant of the Blue Diamond Cooperative near Modesto, almonds are shipped to all corners of the globe as fast as they can be packaged. (FADE OUT NS PLANT ) After some lean years in the 90’s, the industry is expecting its third consecutive BILLION-pound harvest. As Colleen Aguiar of the California Almond Board explains, bees are critical to the production of the nuts. AGUIAR -- :07—Without the bee, the pollen from each of the varieties wouldn’t make it to the other trees and almonds wouldn’t be created. They’re absolutely essential. (OUTDOORS NS -- HOLD TWO SECONDS FADE AND HOLD THROUGH BITE) Steve Van Duyn surveys a large windswept orchard located next to his home on the outskirts of Ripon, just a few miles up Highway ninety-nine from Modesto. Like many almond growers Van Duyn had to scramble this year when his California supplier told him he couldn’t deliver all the hives he had promised because of the “mite problem”. The law of supply and demand has Van Duyn paying handsomely for the hives that have been shipped in from Washington State. VAN DUYN --:08 –Ninety-seven bucks a hive. Last year I paid forty-six, so I’m having to pay over double of what I paid last year, but I’ve found my bees. FADE OUT NS As of last week some growers were paying over one hundred dollars a hive. Aguiar says the higher pollination fees will affect the bottom line. AGUIAR -- :11—Anytime prices increase its going to definitely cut into profits. But its an absolute essential necessity for the production of the crops, so it’s not really something you can cut back on, you have to have it. Although beekeepers throughout the country have been affected by the mite, Aguiar thinks enough of the surviving bees are being trucked interstate meet the needs of growers this year. Researchers are making progress in developing a new miticide for the killer pests, but U-C Davis Entomologist Eric Mussan says it could be awhile before an effective product is ready for the market. MUSSAN --:07—I don’t think anybody knows for sure. There are attempts being made out there, but at the moment we don’t see anything that’s ready tomorrow. Before sealing hives for the winter, beekeepers reported they had lost between ten and 80 percent of their bees. They’ll know the total extent of the damage over the next few days as they open their hives to prepare them for the drive to the orchards. Beekeepers and growers alike have their fingers crossed, hoping the mite hasn’t taken a greater toll. Bob Hensley KXJZ News