- Author: Stephanie Parreira
Bees are the most important pollinators of California agriculture—helping us grow field crops, fruits, nuts, and vegetables. Honey bees receive most of the credit for crop pollination, but many other kinds of bees play an important role as well. There are 1600 species of bees in California! Take time during Pollinator Week to learn about the different kinds of bees and what you can do to help them flourish.
Why should I care about other kinds of bees?
Bees other than honey bees contribute significantly to crop pollination. For example, alfalfa pollination by alfalfa leafcutter bees is worth $7 billion per year in the United States. Other bees can also boost the result of honey bee pollination—in almond orchards, honey bees are more effective when orchard mason bees are present. The more bee species, the merrier the harvest!
While growers often rent honey bee colonies to pollinate their crops, some wild bees pollinate certain crops even better than honey bees do. For instance, bumble bees are more effective pollinators of tomato because they do something honey bees do not: they shake pollen out of flowers with a technique known as buzz pollination. Likewise, native squash bees are better pollinators of cucurbits—unlike honey bees, they start work earlier in the day, and males even sleep in flowers overnight.
How can I help honey bees and other bees?
When it comes to land management and pest management practices, some bees need more accommodations than others. That's why it is important to know what bees are present in your area and important to your crop, and plan for their needs. Use this bee monitoring guide from the University of California to identify the bees present on your farm.
You can help all kinds of bees by using integrated pest management (IPM). This means using nonchemical pest management methods (cultural, mechanical and biological control), monitoring for pests to determine whether a pesticide is needed, and choosing pesticides that are less toxic to bees whenever possible. Check out the UC IPM Bee Precaution Pesticide Ratings to learn about the risks different pesticides pose to honey bees and other bees, and follow the Best Management Practices To Protect Bees From Pesticides.
Bees also need plenty of food to stay healthy and abundant. Plant flowers that provide nectar and pollen throughout the year. See the planting resources below to find out which plants provide year-round food for specific types of bees.
Like honey bees, native bees need nesting areas to thrive. Bumble bees, squash bees, and other bees nest underground. Ground-nesting bees may require modified tilling practices (such as tilling fields no more than 6 inches deep for squash bees) or no-till management to survive. For aboveground nesters like carpenter bees and mason bees, consider planting hedgerows or placing tunnel-filled wooden blocks around the field. See the habitat resources below for more information about native bee nesting in agricultural areas.
Enjoy your “beesearch!”
Bee Habitat Resources
- Habitat for Bees and Beneficials
- Managing Wild Bees for Crop Pollination
- Native Bee Nest Locations in Agricultural Landscapes
- Farming for Bees: Guidelines for Providing Native Bee Habitat on Farms
- Hedgerow Planting for Pollinators: Central Valley, Central Coast, Southern California
- Conservation Cover for Pollinators: Central Valley, Central Coast, Southern California
- The Integrated Crop Pollination Project: Tools for Growers
- Insect Pollinated Crops, Insect Pollinators and U.S. Agriculture: Trend Analysis of Aggregate Data for the Period 1992–2009.
- Native bees are a rich natural resource in urban California gardens. (PDF)
- Honey bees are more effective at pollinating almonds when other species of bees are present.
As many folks at KARE already know, the California Farm Demonstration Network was recently formed and formally launched in a MOU signing ceremony that was held May 5th at the Winters, CA orchard of Russ Lester. The Network is a partnership of several groups including the California Farm Bureau Federation, the USDA NRCS, the California Association of Resource Conservation Districts, the California Department of Food and Agriculture, UC ANR, and the UC Davis College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, plus many farmers, local farmer associations, and other private and public sector affiliates. The attached You Tube link provides a brief introductory overview of a small part of the Network's initial efforts.
Since UC ANR is a formal signatory to the MOU that launched this effort and because many of us in ANR are already and will hopefully be involved with the Network's efforts in the future, we would like to actively encourage participation of any and all ANR colleagues who'd like to become involved with the Network in any capacity. At this point, for instance, we welcome your involvement in everything from service on the Network Steering Committee (or other technical and advisory committees that are now being formed) to hands-on collaboration with any of the various farm demonstrations that are going to be started and that you'll have direct roles in starting yourselves. This is frankly a great time for everyone to step up and to register their interest in becoming involved. The overall purpose of the Network is to increase adoption of conservation agriculture, soil health, and climate-smart systems in California. Its goals emphasize the development of water-, climate-, and nutrient-smart systems for California's diverse crop production environments and its focus areas include, but are not limited to the following: participatory learning resulting in the adoption of improved management practices grounded in sound science and experience-based principles, the public, voluntary showcasing of innovative systems developed by experienced farmer leaders, a program of farm demonstration evaluations that employ monitoring, data collection, and analysis of findings, and the use of proven, creative methods for sharing, discussing, and communicating results and findings to scale-up even broader adoption of improved systems.
We sincerely welcome your support of and interest in the Network and hope that colleagues throughout the Division will become involved with it and in particular, if anyone would like to help by serving on the Network's Steering Committee as a delegate of ANR, please step forward and let us know.
The introductory video was edited and produced by two students in the Soils and Biogeochemistry Group at UC Davis, Jessica Chiartas and Irfan Ainuddin.
Reedley College provides upward bound math and science programs to 405 students from ten high schools ranging from Madera to Dinuba. These programs serve mainly low-income and first generation college bound students with a goal of generating enthusiasm for science and math leading to increased college enrollment. About a quarter of these students attended workshops at Kearney in June and July.
Kris Tollerup, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in the statewide IPM program and at Kearney Agricultural Research & Extension Center (KARE), almond, pistachio, tree fruit and grapes, taught a workshop on integrated pest management (IPM) strategies and practices. Students went to the fields and performed insect collection sweeps in alfalfa. They used dissecting microscopes to assist with identification of beneficial, neutral, and pest insects. Students learned about IPM strategies as well as how the practices and crops in one grower's field can impact his or her pest pressure as well as the pest pressure in a neighboring grower's crop.
Andreas Westphal, UC Cooperative Extension assistant specialist in the Department of nematology at UC Riverside and KARE, pathogens and nematodes affecting plants, taught the students about nematodes. Students used compound and dissecting microscopes to help identify different nematodes and different stages of nematode development. Samples of plant damage were also available. This workshop included IPM strategies for plant parasitic nematode pest management.
Jeff Mitchell, UC Cooperative Extension specialist at KARE, statewide cropping systems, taught the students about population predictions and the need to find ways to increase food production, increase available quality water, and sustain the environment. Students learned about conservation tillage, soil texture, soil stability, and leadership. They conducted soil texture and soil stability tests. Students discussed how much better the conservation tillage soil's stability and water infiltration was compared to the conventional tillage soil.
Themis Michailides, plant pathologist in the Department of plant pathology at UC Davis and KARE, ecology, epidemiology and control of fungal diseases of fruit and nut crops and vines, postharvest diseases, aflatoxin and mycotoxins of nut crops and figs, taught students about different pathogens, beneficial organisms, and the impact of certain organisms. Students used compound and dissecting microscopes. Larger samples were also available to see the symptoms and visible damage to the host plant. IPM strategies were discussed.
KARE staff provided 3 workshops.
-Students learned about sensory evaluation. Students took turns preparing and delivering samples and being the consumer that determined consumer acceptance. Different strategies to make the data more robust were discussed and demonstrated. Students discussed the results and observed the variation in consumer preferences. They used raw agricultural as well as value added commodities. There was insufficient time for statistical analysis, but the general concepts and impact of statistical analysis were discussed.
-Students discussed different experimental designs and terms. They visited actual research fields and learned how the plots are laid out and how the variables are controlled to help address certain issues and obtain robust data that is useful to stakeholders.
-Students also learned how and why fruit maturity and quality standards were set, as well as methodologies for determining fruit maturity and quality. They performed fruit maturity and quality testing in a laboratory setting and compared their objective and subjective assessments of the fruit. To get the sugar to acid ratio, students conducted titrations and used refractometers. Students used a penetrometer to determine fruit firmness. Some of the students toured other labs in the facility and learned about pathology efficacy trials and altered atmosphere strategies.
An Op-Ed article written by Jeff Mitchell, CE Cropping Systems Specialist in vegetable cropping systems, irrigation management, soil quality, organic soil amendments, extension models, and postharvest physiology in the Department of Land, Air and Water Resources at UC Davis and at UC ANR Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center and Randy Southard, Professor and Soil Genesis/Morphologist in the Department of Land, Air and Water Resources at UC Davis was included in the October 30 issue of the Sacramento Bee. More information on conservation tillage practices can be found on the Conservation Agriculture Systems Innovation (CASI) website.
In their capacity as California Agriculture Systems Innovation members, Jeff Mitchell, Cooperative Extension cropping systems specialist at the UC ANR Kearney Agricultural Research & Extension Center and in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis specializing in vegetable cropping systems, irrigation management, soil quality, organic soil amendments, extension models, and postharvest physiology and innovative conservation agriculture farmer John Diener of Red Rock Ranch in Five Points, CA were part of a panel organized by the Berkeley Food Institute that discussed "farming practices to reduce risks tied to drought." Read more.
See the video of the panel discussion.