Why do they have honey bee hives at the end of each row in almond orchards and where do they come from?

Why do they have honey bee hives at the end of each row in almond orchards and where do they come from?

 

As were cruising along through orchard country on one of our trips, we noticed another curious thing (at least we thought so 😉).  At the end of nearly every row in many orchards were beehives. Not having seen copious quantities of almond honey at local grocery stores it didn’t seem that this was part of a naturally synergistic commercial enterprise in honey and almonds. Though I have to say, honey-roasted almonds are a mighty tasty treat in my opinion. Since this is my blog, I do say so.  But I digress.  To answer these puzzling questions my friend Google and I got to work.

As to the first question the practice of placing honey bee hives at the end of each row came about as a result of poor environmental decision making and massive expansion in the almond growing industry. 

On the environmental side, there are two primary issues.  One is pesticides that killed off a significant portion of the bee population and continues to be a danger to them. The second has to do with feeding all those hungry little bees. At some point, someone thought it a good idea to dig up all the “weeds” in between rows making everything look nice and neat and easy to harvest by machine.  There was one small problem with this. Fruit and nut bearing trees require pollination to bear their fruits and nuts.  Who does the pollinating? Why bees do of course.  So far so good, right? Uuuummm… no.  You see bees can’t survive on pollinating almond trees alone.  That only happens for a few weeks in February.  The rest of the year bees need other food sources like wildflowers, clover, alfalfa and other pollen and nectar producers. The nice, neat and easy to mechanically harvest orchards are decidedly lacking here.  Once the almond trees finish blooming Northern California becomes a food desert for bees.  

Compounding this problem is the massive expansion of almond orchards in NorCal.  Almond orchards need lots and lots of bees, 2-3 hives per acre to be specific.  This is far more than the environment around them can support.  Enter commercial bee keepers.  The demand for bees to pollinate almond orchards is so great that nearly all the bees in the country make an annual trip in February to the almond orchards of Northern California.  Beekeepers make far more leasing their bees to orchards to pollinate trees than they do from honey.   This answers the second question.

Incidentally, this answered another long standing question for me from several years back.  I was on I-80 headed to Reno and got stuck in a 4 hour traffic jam caused by an overturned tractor trailer hauling beehives. I was baffled by the notion of a tractor trailer full of bee hives not to mention extremely grateful for tight seals around the windows in my car. 😉 I pity the first responders on scene to that accident! Yikes!

So there you have it folks – why they have honey bee hives at the end of each row in almond orchards and where they come from. 😊

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Short Utility Poles Along Rail Lines

Why are the utility poles along railroad tracks so short?

We’ve made an annual tradition of making a trip to Klamath Falls, OR to photograph the eagles that migrate south from the northern parts of North America December through February.  Along route 97 headed into Klamath Falls, the railroad tracks have short telephone poles, usually leaning at a good 15-35 degrees, parallel to the railroad tracks.  Being the curious people we are (well at least the non-photographers among us looking for things other than raptors along the way) we wanted to know why these poles are so short.  So of course my friend Google and I took up the task of finding out.  So here’s the deal…

The telegraph poles (yes, “telegraph” not “telephone”) are a holdout from years ago.  The poles are short for several reasons. First and foremost (at least it seems to me it should be first and foremost) the poles are short so that should they topple over for some reason (storm, earthquake, fraternity hazing activity…) they won’t block the track. Other reasons are cost and ease of maintenance.  Shorter poles, of course, cost less than longer poles.  Also, at the time these were put up, the voltage carried by the lines was fairly low compared to today’s power lines.  Since the right of way for railroad tracks was often restricted, safety concerns were less of a concern.  Over the years, the poles have sunk due to water tables, leaving them leaning at various degrees and shorter above ground.

What, you ask, were they used for? OK, so you didn’t ask (yet) but I’m going to tell you anyway 😊.  They were used for telegraphs (thus the name…), communications between depots and operators, signaling, what’s called CTC or “code lines” to communicate with remote switches and signals and in some cases, local telephone service.

Today, modernized lines communicate with microwave signals rendering the code lines obsolete.  And there you have it, folks – why the utility – I mean “telegraph” – poles along railroad tracks are so short. 😊