Almond farmers cope with dwindling bee population
In the next two weeks Paul Betancourt's almond trees will begin to blossom.
“Each individual blossom lasts three days and in that three day period of its life it needs to be pollinated," said Betancourt.
A very important job that's left up to an increasingly rare insect.
“Almonds are not self pollinating and so we rely on bees to pollinate from male to female trees," said Betancourt.
And while bee populations have decreased nationwide, almond production in the valley has increased, driving up the price of rented bees.
"We need every bee we can get. Our almond acreage is expanding and we need a tremendous number of pollinators,” said Mueller.
Entomologist Shannon Mueller says farmers like Betancourt will likely see bee prices continue to rise.
"Bee populations go down my costs go up,” said Betancourt.
In Fresno County alone more than 52 million was spent by farmers on bee pollination in 2011. Making them so valuable that Betancourt keeps his locked up, worried someone might steal them. But his greatest concern this year is the weather.
"The bloom lasts about a week or two and we need good flying conditions for the bees," said Betancourt.
He worries cold weather and wind could prevent his expensive investment from getting off the ground but it's a risk he is used to taking.