- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
No, it's not Valentine's Day, yet.
Yes, the almonds are blooming.
No, it's not spring.
But it looks like spring in Benicia.
The almonds are blooming in the Benicia (Calif.) State Recreation Area.
Some are on the road at the entrance to the park.
Other trees are also blooming.
Benicia resident Gordon Hough, always on the lookout for those early blooms and elusive bees, photographed a honey bee nectaring on a Bradford pear blossom (as identified by Daniel Potter, UC Davis professor of plant sciences) in the Benicia park on Monday, Jan. 21. Gorgeous image!
Benicia (or Bee-nicia?) is graced with early almond blooms. We remember heading over to the Benicia State Recreation Area on the first day of 2014 and seeing almonds in bloom. Actually, several almond trees in the parking lot were blooming on Christmas Day of 2013. (See Bug Squad)
Meanwhile, California's commercial almond pollination season usually begins around Feb. 14.
Our state has more than a million acres of almonds in production, according to Kyle Kapustka of the Almond Board of California.
The 2017 California Almond Acreage Report, from USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), released April 25, 2018, estimated
- 1,330,000 total almond acres in California
- 1,000,000 bearing acres in California
The 1.3 million acres is up 7 percent from the 2016 acreage of 1,240,000, according to the report. "Nonpareil continued to be the leading variety, followed by Monterey, Butte, Carmel and Padre. Kern, Fresno, Stanislaus, Merced and Madera were the leading counties. These five counties had 73 percent of the total bearing acreage." (See overview of the almond industry on the Almond Board of California website)
Solano County, home of seven cities, including Bee-nicia, isn't one of them.
But don't tell that to the bees.
- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Talk about an early bloomer!
At least one almond tree was blooming in California on the first day of the year. In the Benicia State Recreation Area, to be exact.
We spotted the almond tree flowering on Jan. 1 near the entrance to the state park. The delicate white blossoms poked through a rusty fence as they were dignitaries at a meet-and-greet reception.
From the looks of the blossoms, the buds had probably opened in late December, maybe shortly after Christmas.
We're accustomed to seeing wild almond trees flowering in mid- to late January as we drive along Interstate 80, Solano County. But not this early! Jan. 1?
California's commercial almond trees usually begin blooming around Valentine's Day, Feb. 14. Our state has about 800,000 acres of almonds, each acre requires two hives for pollination. The buzzing bees are trucked here from all over the country. Indeed, California's $3 billion-almond industry--the state's largest export--is pure gold.
Meanwhile, it's too bad that there's no contest for finding the first almond tree blooming. Butterfly expert Art Shapiro, professor of ecology and evolution at UC Davis, sponsors a contest for anyone collecting the first cabbage white butterfly in the three-county area of Yolo, Solano and Sacramento. The prize he offers is a pitcher of beer.
Maybe there should be beer for a bud?
There's only one thing wrong with the bucolic scenes below: no foraging bees. But there will be.