Monday, September 9, 2013

Expert: Columnist 'knows zero' about pollination

Randy Oliver, the Grass Valley beekeeper and biologist quoted in my story today
about whether stress from servicing the almond blossom contributes to bee die-offs, emailed me this afternoon to add to his remarks.

Oliver said that Daily Caller columnist Steve Milloy "misrepresented" what he wrote in this essay on the causes of colony collapse disorder, adding that Milloy "obviously knows zero about either bees or almond pollination. You can quote me on that!"

Specifically, Oliver took to task Milloy's assertion that almond pollen is nutritionally inferior as a food source for bees.
In fact, almond pollen is one of the most nutritious pollens for bees, and they thrive on it once the bloom starts. Most beekeepers don't move their bees in until just prior to bloom, so the bees can start foraging within days, unless cold delays the start of bloom, as it did last season.

The fact is that the bees are generally moved in from somewhere where there is nothing in bloom anyway--almonds are one of the first plants to flower in the year (it's not even "spring" yet when they bloom).

California beekeepers have always moved hives to almond pollination in order to help their bees to build up early in the season.

As I said before, there are certain logistical problems associated with very large-scale transportation and holding of colonies prior to pollination, and the potential transmission of disease within the orchards, but these are very different issues than saying that almond pollination is the cause of bee health problems.
For his part, Palo Cedro's Shannon Wooten also told me the almond pollination brings the "first big growth spirt" for bees, which are invigorated by the food source.

[In the photo, bees fly around in a holding box during a bee beard demonstration Saturday at the annual Honeybee Festival in Palo Cedro]

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