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Orchards Buzzing With Activity
February's weather has been wet and windy at times, then sunny with just a hint of the heat to come, and blossoms have already sprung forth on many trees.

Aside from the reawakening of allergies for many in the local area, the blossoms also bring out another familiar spring site; bee boxes, set up in orchards to begin the pollination process.

In the 30000 block of Highway 120, just east of Escalon between Steinegul and Enterprise roads, a crew from Reisinger Apiaries of Emmett, Idaho was busy recently, feeding the bees that are about to hit their busy season here.

"We run about 6,000 hives, we've got quite a few different orchards," explained Josh Reisinger.

He and a crew of three workers were on a route of the local ranches and orchards they serve, feeding a pollen substitute to the bees, primarily corn syrup and sucrose, to help sustain them while there is still a bit of a chill in the air.

"It helps them grow," Reisinger added. "We feed them (each colony) about two gallons about twice while we're down here."

The bees in the hives - often called supers - spent the winter in Idaho, stored in a potato cellar dug into the ground.

"They spend about two months in the potato cellar and then the first week in January we starting trucking them down here," Reisinger said of bringing the beehives to California. "We try to be done by mid April, we have stops from Escalon all the way back over to Snelling, about 12 ranches, some small and some large."

The winter temperature in the potato cellar averages about 42 degrees, said Reisinger.

"That's a pretty comfortable temperature for them, they stay clustered," he explained, noting that they have honey to eat in the hive during the winter and also will rearrange themselves to make sure every bee has ample warmth.

Reisinger, who said he has been both in and out of the bee business over the years, grew up in it, as his dad was a beekeeper for 33 years. Now, he has taken on the job, trucking the hives to where the work is throughout the Central Valley.

The orchard he and his crew were working in this week was fitted with several boxes of bees contained in an 8-frame hive, while larger orchards may get hives with as many as 20 frames per box.

Bees and the familiar bee boxes will be around for the next few months, then Reisinger and his crew will pack them up and head a little further north.

"We'll take some to Washington to pollinate apples," he said. "And some of them we'll use to make honey."