Ah, fall. The leaves are changing, the weather’s getting chilly, and the bees are wrapping up their last few jobs before the winter. Back in the office though, beekeepers and growers aren’t slowing down. Yep, it’s that lovely time of year when everyone starts to worry about almond pollination.
POLLINATION PREP DONE RIGHT
For those of us who are sending bees to California for the first time, there are a lot of things to consider before loading the trucks. First, I strongly recommend you review Joe Traynor’s articles on almond pollination. Joe’s been brokering hives for decades, and he’s the best resource out there on the topic. When it comes down to negotiating price, now is the best time to reach an agreement with your grower. Don’t wait until it’s time to cut a check to haggle on price. If you agree to do an inspection, figure out who’s paying for it, who’s actually doing it (either a state inspector or a private company), and when you want it done (early season hive strength results will be different from late season).
MAXIMIZE VALUE FOR YOUR GROWER
Keep in mind that while almond pollination is a pivotal time of year for you, your grower has a different perspective. They don’t care so much about the details—they just want the job done right and done on time. These are the top items on your grower’s mind:
Did I rent enough hives?
Are the hives I rented strong enough?
Will the hives arrive on time for bloom?
Communication is absolutely essential. You need to tell your grower ASAP if you’re concerned about meeting one or more of those above items. That said, you don’t want to burden your grower with issues that aren’t related to the above items. If your trucker falls through or you choose a different overwinter yard, these are problems you should resolve on your own. Over-communication can cause growers to think you’re too high-maintenance to work with. The name of the game is long-term value. Your goal should be to show that you’re trustworthy and capable—this is how you secure contracts year over year. On that note, you should plan to check in with your grower at least once a month to let them know how the bees are looking. Are you still on track to hit your quota? Do you still expect to hit the 8-frame average? Is there any reason they should worry about on-time delivery? Lining up more bees at the last second is a major headache, so help your grower out by giving them a clear idea of what to expect.
Almond pollination is not an easy job, otherwise it wouldn’t pay so well. The best way to avoid conflict is to set clear expectations and communicate well. Finally, give your grower a few ways to get in touch. Repeatedly getting sent to voicemail is the fastest way to lose your contract next year.