As Southwest Michigan fruit farmers look ahead to the growing season, they are also in the midst of "bee rental season."  

Most all of the area fruit farmers now have to rent bees to make sure their crops get pollinated. Over the years there has been a big decline in bee populations creating a shortage of bees.  

So farmers like Mike Hildebrand of Berrien Spring rent hives of bees every spring.

"We've been renting bees just because we want to make sure that as many blossoms get pollinated as possible.  So you just want a critical mass of bees out in your orchard, especially if it’s cool weather and
bad pollinating weather.  

Now, it's just a necessity.  You're not going to grow anything if you don't have bees in your orchard," says Hildebrand who runs Hildebrand Fruit Farms.

Hildebrand says that there are beekeepers who start out earlier in the year renting their bees out in Florida.  Then they just work their way north in keeping with the pollination season for various crops.  

Once they finish renting out their bees in Southwest Michigan, they will ultimately keep moving north until they round out the season up in Traverse City, MIchigan renting their bees out to cherry farmers.