If you've ever tried growing certain vegetables or fruits in your backyard garden and saw low yields or small and pruney fruit, believe it or not, the problem probably boils down to poor pollination.
Almonds, blueberries, cranberries, apples, pumpkins, among many, rely on insect pollination. Some crops rely more on pollinators than others. Insect pollination isn't just about the number of fruits produced – it can also improve the quality. For example, self-pollinated flowers may produce fruit, but they might be very small or misshapen.
So how do farmers make sure their crops will produce enough fruit to make a profit? There is a pollination window for most crops; this window usually lasts two to four weeks, depending on the crop, and the ideal timeframe for pollination is often even more narrow. During that time, insects need to be flying around visiting flowers to feed on pollen and nectar to ensure that pollination happens.
But how do you guarantee insects will find your plants?
To optimize yields, many growers turn to beekeepers for pollination services. Basically, "renting" honeybee hives during crop flowering season. World Honey Market travels the country each year, putting our bees to work to ensure large corporate farms can have the best possible yields.
Managed crop pollination services have become a large part of what we do as a company and help agriculture throughout the United States. Although, like most beekeepers, we still keep beehives to produce honey and wax products for consumers, paid pollination services are becoming an increasingly important part of our industry.
Take Almonds as an example. Almonds bloom for a few weeks in California in February and March. Almond blooms rely almost completely on insect pollination to produce harvestable almond fruits. Without pollination assistance, the industry could face an almond shortage.
But there is more to do it than simply driving and dropping off our bees. Beekeepers, like us, and the growers, usually sign a pollination agreement. That way, if there are any problems, both businesses are protected. For example, a beekeeper can specify that the grower should not spray pesticides that can damage the colony's health while the hives are in place. This is extremely important for the health and safety of our bees.
Traveling across the country with bees isn't as hard as it might seem, not that it's easy either. Most people's first question is how do we move them without them flying out on the highway. Honeybees naturally return to their colony at night, as they rely on daylight and warmth to forage. This makes it easier for us to transport hives when needed. At night, when all the bees are at home, hive entrances can be shut off to stop them from escaping during the journey.
World Honey Market is proud to be a pollinating partner for Ocean Spray Cranberries, Blue Diamond, Agriland, South Valley Farms, and many more. If you are looking for pollinators for your farm or crops or are interested in learning more about setting up bees for pollination on your own subsistence garden, contact us today. We would love to talk to you further.