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Work Of Yuba City Bee Keeper Slowed By Oroville Evacuation

Kathy Keatley Garvey

Kathy Keatley Garvey

Mid-February is when beekeepers scramble to put tens of thousands of honey bees into California's almond orchards for pollination. The Oroville Dam evacuation order forced a Yuba City apiary to stand down. 

There's never a good moment for a massive evacuation order.

But for Yuba City bee keeper Valeri Strachan-Severson, the timing was really unlucky.

"When that happened it was kind of a shock and then concern and then you think about -- well we need to get this done," says Strachan-Severson. "But you can't because you don't have somebody there to do it."

Several of her semi drivers were under evacuation orders.

With almond bloom just around the corner, pressure was mounting. Growers were getting anxious.

"(The fear is) if the tree doesn't gradually bloom and it blooms all at once and you don't have something there to pollinate it then you won't have the crop," says Strachan-Severson. "So I understand their being anxious about it and I don't blame them for calling because I would do it too."

Once the evacuation order was lifted Strachan-Severson was able to play catch up and scramble the rest of the hives within 72 hours.

Bob Curtis with the Almond Board of California says the delay only affected beekeepers in the Oroville evacuation area.

He expects a strong pollination season. As for rain in the forecast - bees work around it.

"Given the right temperature, say for instance anything above 50 degrees, and if it's not raining any window of opportunity the bees [get, they] are going to go out and forage for pollen and transfer the pollen to the almond flowers, so we get a crop," says Curtis.

Curtis says almond bloom is just beginning in the southern Central Valley.

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