Dry weather proved costly for beekeepers

TULARE COUNTY, Calif.

Action News went to Tulare County to find out why that weather has proved costly for beekeepers.

Almond trees will be blossoming in just a few weeks and without bees they'll have a hard time blooming.

Local beekeepers say this winter's warm, dry weather made it difficult to keep bees from trying to pollenate too early.

David Bradshaw owns Bradshaw Honey Farm. He says he's had his third worst honey crop in 35 years. This winter he's lost roughly 35-percent of his hives. "I usually run 4200 colonies and I probably lost 1300 of them."

Bradshaw and other beekeepers are blaming the numerous warm, spring-like days the Central Valley has had this winter. When the temperature is 60-degrees and the skies are sunny -- bees are fooled into thinking it's warm enough to venture outside, look for food in flowers and pollinate crops.

Bradshaw has already lost many bee colonies this winter -- empty boxes are all that's left. "They'll come back with an empty stomach and no surplus nectar and next day they just repeat and when you have 20-30,000 bees heading out looking for food pretty soon the cupboards are going to be bare."

That's when Bradshaw steps in to create a substance that essentially mimics pollen. It substitutes the stores inside the colony that bees have likely used up.

Bradshaw said, "Its brewers yeast, soy flower, and corn syrup. I put lemon grass soil and spearmint oil in there."

He creates a one-pound patty that will feed a healthy colony in about a week. Bradshaw has already flagged almond trees nearby. His bees need to be ready to pollenate the crop in two weeks. Purchasing the supplies for and making the patties is costly but it keeps the bees he has left, healthy.

Bradshaw said, "Bees can work 24-7 but they need a break, need a vacation. Need time to hibernate and the weather we had the last two months didn't allow for that."

Bradshaw says they need a three-month break so they don't use up their lifespan.

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