Loading Honeybees for Almond Pollination

The honeybees at Brookfield Farm don’t do a lot of traveling.  I have bee yards.  The bees move into the bee yards and live there.  If I do splits, those young hives are moved to a new location.

Honeybees being loaded for trip to CA almonds

Loading Bees

Other honeybees, however, do go on road trips.  I recently visited beekeeper Bruce Bowen as he and his assistant, Pat Ray, loaded 818 hives onto three trucks.  The bees then hit the road to California where they are now pollinating almonds.

Back in December the bees were prepared for their trip.  Hives were checked for population density and ample food stores.  Pallets were cleaned.   Timing was good.  There was good weather then, following that we had a bit of snow.

The bees that were heading south to California were gathered in one holding yard a few days before the trucks arrived.  Then late on a sunny afternoon and into a calm night, the bees were loaded onto the trucks.  One comment I heard from each driver was that they were pleased at Bruce’s organization of his hives, which allowed the bees to be loaded efficiently onto the trucks.

(I must pause for a moment and apologize for the layout of this blog posting.  For some reason, the computer in charge at wordpress keeps changing the placement of the images and words.  After 5 trys I’ve thrown in the towel. Thus, the words preceed all the images. Computers: can’t live with them, can’t do business without them)

A good, tight load is critical to the transportation of bees.  Equally  important is cleanliness.  These trucks must pass an agricultural inspection before they cross into the state of California.  Inspectors check for unwanted insects, dirt, and grass seeds.

Each of these pallets and hives were cleaned in December.  They were cleaned again on the day of loading, before they were loaded onto the trucks.  After loading the pallets of bee hives are covered in a net, which can be seen in the above photo.  This not only stabilizes the load, but keeps the bees from flying when the truck is stopped during the trip to the California almond groves.  One driver told me that he always tries to park away from other trucks when he stops.  Sometimes, he said, that just is not possible, but he is quickly the only truck in the area once others realize he is hauling bees.  Their fear is unfounded, but not uncommon.

Bowen and Ray loaded two trucks on the first day.  The third truck arrived, as scheduled, two days later.  It rained that day.  Thus these images show three different weather situations we encountered when loading bees: a sunny afternoon, a clear night, and a rainy day.

The wonderful drivers of these huge riggs loaded with bees were:

Forest, of  F & L Trucking, Battle Mtn., Nevada

Steve Easterday, Marsing, Idaho

The driver’s whose name I didn’t catch from White’s Bee & Berry Farm

The operation was fascinating.  Did it make me suddenly want to run a 1,000 hive operation and ship honeybees to the California almonds for pollination?  Not in your life.  I think I’m happy, for now, to keep the Brookfield Farm bees in bee yards.  But I think that, in the U.S., we all need to be a bit grateful to the beekeepers whose bees travel to pollinate our crops, and to the drivers who get the bees safely to the crops over thousands of miles of freeways.  Without these hard wonderful working folks, there would be very little food in the grocery stores in the U.S.

Bee Hives on pallets in holding yard waiting to be loaded

Before The Trucks




First pallets with beehives load onto a truck

First Hives On-Board

Loading Bees Which Will Pollinate Almonds in California

Loading In the Rain

Bowen loads the thrid level of beehives on to a truck heading for pollination

A well placed load is critical



Bowen lifts 2 pallets of hives for cleaning by Pat Ray

Lifting Hives For Cleaning




Bee Hives & Pallets are cleaned by Pat Ray

Pat Ray uses a long scraper






A swipe by hand finishes the cleaning of a bee hive pallet

Sometimes a hand works best

Pallet of Hives moves to a netted truck headed to California almonds

Bruce Bowen moving hives

3-hive high stack of bees being draped with bee netting on a truck

Bee Netting To Cover The Hives

Bee net and hives being secured on a semi before departure

Securing the Net & Hives

Large ratchet buckle used to secure bee load

Large load - Large ratchet buckle

Bees headed for California almond pollination being loaded at night

Night Loading

Beekeeper Bowen loads pallets of hives onto a truck heading for almond pollination

The Last Pallet of Bee Hives

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