One of California's most important specialty crops is almonds; in 2016 the state's crop was worth $5.2 billion. Our climate is ideal for almond production, and as a result we grow more than 80% of the world's supply. California's almond acreage has been increasing steadily as the market for almonds continues to grow, and has nearly doubled since 2005. This increasing demand has a tremendous impact on the nation's migratory beekeepers: the flower is self-infertile, so pollen must be transferred between plants by bees for nuts to be produced. Simply put: no bees, no almonds.
Two honey bee hives per acre of almond trees is required for good pollination. To fill this need, migratory beekeepers from all over the US bring their hives to California for almond bloom. Trees are at their peak bloom right now, and the girls are hard at work throughout the state. While bees obtain both pollen and nectar from almond flowers, the pollen is high in protein and provides healthy bee forage, which can give bees a good start to the year.
Why is there such a demand for almonds? They are also a healthy food for us! They are high in protein and monounsaturated fat and contain a number of vitamins and minerals.
Honey bee hives are often left in orchards for a month or more before and after almond bloom. While many growers understand the importance of alternative sources of forage in their orchards, if you live within flight distance of an orchard – 3 to 5 miles – your garden can help.
California's squash crop was worth $30 million in 2015, this was second highest in the US. Eat your squash! It is a source of protein, vitamins A, B6, C, and K, thiamin, niacin, phosphorus, folate, magnesium, potassium, and fiber. Although growers rent honey bees for pollination, much squash and pumpkin pollination is done by the squash bee, Peponapis pruinosa. Results of studies on the effect of honey bees on squash bee activity have been varied, showing a mix of positive and negative impacts.
Don't let the notion that squash plants need lots of room deter you from growing this easy specialty crop. Squash can be trained up a trellis or grown on a porch in a bucket planter. It's even a great way to get to know your neighbors via National Sneak Some Zucchini on Your Neighbor's Porch Day!
California's tomato crop (processing and fresh) was worth $1.7 billion in 2015; our state grows 96% of the US crop of processing tomatoes. A sure sign of summer, this tasty and nutritious specialty crop is a source of vitamins A, B6, C, E, and K as well as thiamin, niacin, folate, magnesium, potassium, and fiber.
No bees = fewer tomatoes. Research has shown that surrounding tomato fields with flowering plants improves yield. Tomatoes are both wind- and bee-pollinated, but bee-pollinated tomatoes have been found to have higher levels of vitamin C and to weigh more. Honey bees cannot pollinate tomatoes they require a special type of pollination called 'buzz pollination' that honey bees cannot do. Buzz pollinators can vibrate their bodies to shake pollen from the enclosed anthers of tomatoes and other solanaceous crops. Bee pollinators of tomatoes include carpenter bees (Xylocopa spp.) and bumble bees (Bombus spp.).
Bees obtain both pollen and nectar from almond flowers. Almond pollen is high in protein and provides healthy forage for bees. A solitary bee, Osmia lignaria, is active at the same time as almond bloom and is more likely than honey bees to fly in the cool, wet weather that can occur then. Although they are raised commercially for crop pollination, as solitary bees we currently have no way to produce them in the same quantity as honey bees. Osmia is a great option for home orchards; provide early-blooming plants and a solitary bee house to encourage them.
Honey bee hives are often left in orchards for a month or more before and after almond bloom. While many almond growers are recognizing the importance of providing alternative bee forage, if you live within flight distance of an orchard – 3 to 5 miles – your garden can also help.
California's almond crop was worth $6 billion in 2015; our state produces 82% of the world's supply of this specialty crop. Almonds are eaten whole, added to food, or made into products such as almond milk and almond butter. This nut is high in protein and monounsaturated fat and contains a number of vitamins and minerals. California's almond acreage continues to increase. Your garden can help ensure that there will be healthy bees for pollination of this important specialty crop.
National Pollinator Week is here! If you like to eat, thank a pollinator. Honey bees and dozens of species of native bees are hard at work right now creating the fruits, nuts, and vegetables that make our diets nutritious and flavorful.
And when they're not working food crops, they are busy pollinating the plants that wild animals rely on for food and shelter.
Celebrate with us this week at the Honey Bee Haven's open house on Friday, June 20, from 5:30 to 7pm. We'll have free zinnia seeds for all visitors while they last, honey tasting, and informal tours with experts available to answer your bee and plant questions.
To learn more about National Pollinator Week and the amazing bees, here are a few web sites that may be of interest:
Learn more about bees: Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation
The University of Florida's Native Bee Nest Site project