Almond pollination is big business for beekeepers these days, especially with the high global demand for almonds and lower supply of bees making the market value for each pollinating colony quite high. But besides almonds, there are a lot of other crops in the USA that require our honeybee friends to spread their pollen around.
Bees love a fruit medley
One of the crops for which bee pollination is essential is the melon….watermelon, cantaloupe, as well as other varieties. California, Arizona, Texas, Georgia, and Indiana are the leading US producers of cantaloupe. In fact, California produces about 75% of all cantaloupes in the nation.
Watermelons are grown in approximately 44 states in the US, with Georgia, Florida, Texas, California, and Arizona being the largest producers. Seedless varieties have sterile pollen, requiring growers to plant rows of different varieties of the melon with viable pollen. With reduced viable pollen, it’s recommended to have 3 times the amount of bees than that required for the seeded varieties: 3 hives vs. 1 hive per acre.
According to the 2017 USDA Cost of Pollination Report, the top crops needing hives for pollination (besides those required for the “big guy”, the almond) are apples, blueberries, & cherries. Watermelon, cranberries, & cantaloupe follow close behind:
The price per colony to pollinate the almonds is hovering around $170 per hive, which is over 2 times the average price you’ll get sending your bees out to other crops. But, it may be worth your time to get your bees out to the cranberry, blueberry, & pumpkin blooms, as well as others. Cranberries offer the biggest pay day, at close to $77 per colony.
Most of these crops offer an average of $50-$70 a hive:
Your operation may benefit from branching out in its cross-country pollination effort, taking your healthy bees to other crops...especially all that fruit! Fruit salad, please, honeybees!