The 2021 Almond Season & Indoor Wintering with John Miller (S3, E43)


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John Miller is a commercial beekeeper based in Gackle, North Dakota and New Castle, California. His family has been keeping bees since 1894. Their season starts each spring when John and his sons take their bees to the almond orchards in Central California. In this episode, John gives us an update on the 2021 almond pollination.

For the past three years, John overwintered his thousands of colonies in a specially designed building in Gackle. Moving them indoors has reduced his winter losses from about 35% to about 8%.

It is a very special building.

The red light in the building allows people to see, but because bees don’t see red, they stay inside their colonies. Carbon dioxide, humidity and temperature are monitored continuously, and temperature is controlled by letting fresh in if it gets too warm and it’s colder outside, or, keeping the doors sealed if it gets too cold inside. Five percent of the air inside is replaced everyday to maintain healthy carbon dioxide levels. If any levels reach unacceptable levels, the building phones John so he can take corrective actions.

The colonies are fed before going into the building and he monitors colony food consumption all winter by placing 12 colonies on a platform scale, taking a reading every day. It turns out a colony loses about 2 ounces a day. But it also loses bees. The building generates a 275-gallon tote full of dead bees a week.

He cautions, what goes into that building is what comes out. Colonies don’t get better overwintered indoors…. sick in, sick out. Healthy in, healthy out.

What’s really exciting is that California Food and Ag inspectors have coordinated with Almond Board reps and the North Dakota Department of Ag, so that just before John moves bees to almonds in the spring, CA inspectors come to ND and check the bee’s health and the pallets for weeds, bugs and the like. They inspect his 15,000 colonies in about 2 hours. That way, when the semi’s reach California, they can breeze right by the Truckee Inspection Station and head straight to the almond orchards. Inspectors, truck drivers, beekeepers and almond growers all appreciate this blinding flash of common-sense approach to inspections, afforded all because of indoor wintering.

John is a positive and influential advocate for beekeepers and the beekeeping industry. He writes on occasion for Bee Culture Magazine, served on the National Honey Board, is featured in the 2011 book by Hannah Nordhaus, “The Beekeeper’s Lament”. This is John’s second time with Beekeeping Today Podcast. You can learn more on our second ever show: Season 1, Episode 2.

Links and websites mentioned in this podcast:


Thanks to Strong Microbials for their support of Beekeeping Today Podcast. Find out more about heir line of probiotics in our Season 3, Episode 12 episode and from their website:

This episode is brought to you by Global Patties! Global Patties is a family business that manufactures protein supplement patties for honey bees. Feeding your hives protein supplement patties will help ensure that they produce strong and health colonies by increasing brood production and overall honey flow. Global offers a variety of standard patties, as well as custom patties to meet your specific needs. Visit them today at and let them know you appreciate them sponsoring this episode!

We want to also thank 2 Million Blossoms as a sponsor of the podcast. 2 Million Blossoms is a quarterly magazine destined for your coffee table. Each page of the magazine is dedicated to the stories and photos of all pollinators and written by leading researchers, photographers and our very own, Kim Flottum.


We hope you enjoy this podcast and welcome your questions and comments:

Thanks to Bee Culture, the Magazine of American Beekeeping, for their support of The Beekeeping Today Podcast. Available in print and digital at

Thank you for listening!

Podcast music: Young Presidents, "Be Strong", Musicalman, "Epilogue"

Beekeeping Today Podcast is an audio production of Growing Planet Media, LLC

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