Bee Fees Jump a Bit

Some Oregon blueberry growers will be paying a few dollars more for honey bee rentals this year, thanks to increasing fuel costs.

“Most beekeepers last year were around $45 (a colony), with some as low as $40,” said Canby beekeeper Chuck Sowers.

“Most of them are thinking of going up a few dollars mostly because diesel has gone to $3.75 a gallon and is still going up,” Sowers said mid-February. “I wouldn’t doubt that some of them hit $50.”

McMinnville beekeeper Nick VanCalcar said prices are ranging from $35 to $45. “Maybe a couple guys are above that. There may be some bargains below that, but I’d be leary of them.”

Sowers, who turns his little workers loose in Willamette Valley blueberry fields in April and May, said that in reality beekeepers are trucking companies. “You’re moving them around all the time and going to look at them.”

He added that most growers allocate two colonies per acre. “When you start getting more than two, it’s way too much competition for the bees. I know there are people in the Valley who put out as many as four (per acre).”

VanCalcar, who took close to 3,900 hives to California and will put 2,000 of those into Willamette Valley blueberry fields, said he’s heard of some growers who use up to five and a half colonies per acre. “They’re going to make sure they get their pollination.”

Sowers and VanCalcar said they believe that pollinations will come off better if palletized colonies are grouped together four to eight pallets at a time rather than stringing out the colonies.

Bees will forage at greater distances from the hives when grouped together, Sowers said. VanCalcar added that stringing out hives also means more work for beekeepers in dropping them off and picking them up.

Since maple trees can attract bees away from blueberries, VanCalcar said bees should be positioned so that they have to travel across the field to get to the maples. When in doubt about hive density and placement, Sowers tells growers to talk to their fieldman.

It’s much easier for beekeepers to position pallets in fields that are machine picked because of the wider roads, which are needed for picker turnarounds, Sowers said. “If you have less than a 20-foot road, it makes it real difficult (to unload and spot hives)."

Oregon beekeepers earn a good chunk of their incomes each year pollinating almond trees in California, where various reports say rental fees this year ran from $130 to $160 per hive.

Thanks to almonds, which are pollinated in February and March, beekeepers are able to rapidly build up their colonies for the pollination later on of tree fruits, berries, vegetables and vegetable seed crops in the Northwest. “Even in a bad weather year, hives will come back booming with brood,” VanCalcar said.

Sowers, who runs around 1,400 hives, 600 of which will go into blueberries and the others in pears and cherries, said that while colony collapse disorder (CCD) continues to be a major concern in other parts of the country, Oregon so far has been pretty much immune to the mysterious syndrome that has wiped out tens of thousands of hives in the last few years. “Last year and this year we’ve had very small losses (10 to 15 percent).” He puts most of the blame for losses on lethal mites and not CCD.


Message from the Chairman

Spotted Wing Drosophila Update

Market Outlook:
A Look Back …
and Ahead

Bumbles and Blueberries

Organic Blueberry Production Research Project

Critical Program Needs Industry Support

Small Growers to Receive GAP Certification Aid

Oregon Fresh Season Promotion On a Roll for 2011

Bee Fees Jump a Bit

Smooth Move Increases Insulin Sensitivity

New Trap Hits
the Spots
(Spotted Wing Drosophila)

OSU Researcher Driving Blueberries up a Tree

USHBC Unveils New “Little Blue Dynamos” Positioning and Campaign for Highbush Blueberries

Watching World Acreage and
Production Grow

Specialty Crop Grant Supports Oregon Berry Festival;
Free Berry Vendor Space Available


Oregon Blueberry Commission • P.O. Box 3366 • Salem, Oregon 97302
Paid for by the Oregon Blueberry Commission, an agency of the State of Oregon.