Pollination by honey bees is essential to assure good yields of apples, melons, and vine crops. Melons (including cukes and pickles), pumpkin, the blueberries in East Texas, and onion seed production require strong colonies to assure that female flowers are well fertilized. Texas has 85,000 in-state hives and another 120,000 in-bound seasonal migratory hives. The state depends on both in-state and migratory beekeepers for pollination. The following notes describe many of the practices in the bee industry.
Hive density for crop pollination
- 1/2 hives per acre for watermelons
- 1 to 1 1/2 hives for muskmelons, cukes and pickles, and blueberries
- 1 to 2 for apples
- 5 hives per acre for onion and alfalfa seed (rotate hives).
Rental fees and usual costs for pollination
- Early: $45 for early spring pollination in the Lower Valley
Bee populations are just starting to increase after overwintering
- Seasonal $25 to $35 per hive for late spring, summer, and fall crops
Bee populations have buildup and pollination units are more plentiful
Sources and suppliers for pollination in Texas
- 6 to 8 local beekeepers who do the early pollination in the Rio Grande Valley
- 12 local and migratory beekeepers primarily pollinate in the Winter Garden area
- 30 or more local and migratories provide pollination for crops in Far East Texas
- Numerous migratories – for melons in Far West Texas and sunflowers and melons in the Plains
- Leading growers know that crop yields are easily doubled by active pollination
- Growers seek beekeepers with a history of supplying full, strong hives
- Formal written contracts are completed well before the season begins
- Growers alert beekeepers when crop will be sprayed so hives can be protected from spray hazards
- Beekeepers in Texas have learned to manage and sustain domestic hives in the presence of wild Africanized bees by frequent re-queening with desirable strains of domestic bees.