- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
That's the soothing sound of honey bees gathering food for their colony--and in the process, pollinating almonds.
The buzz is to bees what a purr is to a cat.
On the UC Davis campus, almonds are still blooming--on Bee Biology Road and in the UC Davis Arboretum, among other sites.
But the almond pollination season that began around Valentine's Day in California is almost over. By mid-March, it's fini.
The solo almond tree that bloomed in early January in the Benicia State Recreation Area is already leafed out. It's the perfect hot spot: sun-warmed asphalt, southern exposure and no neighbors to shade it.
Meanwhile, the Almond Board of California (ABC) newsroom is buzzing, too.
"Through research we know that almond pollen is very nutritious for honey bees," said Bob Curtis, director of agricultural affairs at ABC said in a news release. "Research also shows that bee hives increase in strength during the time they spend pollinating almonds. This allows many beekeepers to then split their hives and grow their apiaries, giving the beekeepers and their bees a good foundation for the upcoming year. After their stay in the almond orchards, bees move on to pollinate more than 90 other crops in our state and elsewhere in the nation."
California now has 1 million acres of almonds, and each acre requires two bee hives for pollination. And how many almond growers are there in the state? More than 6,000, according to ABC.
"While good soil, climate, and other factors are crucial, without honey bees to pollinate our trees each spring, there would be no almonds," said Curtis in the news release. "And without almond blossoms, the bees would lose their first source of natural pollen each year. It's a win-win relationship."
Back in 2014, almond growers, beekeepers, bee breeders and scientists got together and hammered out the "Honey Bee Best Management Practices (BMPs) for California Almonds."
Extension apiculturist (now emeritus) Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, participated in that major endeavor.
In the news release, Mussen said that the almond industry is "responding strongly on honey bee health and, in particular, pesticide use and considerations during bloom. He said that the BMPs "go far beyond the almond orchard, providing important insights for all crops when it comes to promoting honey bee health."
"Since their release, the BMPs have been shared at over 70 industry meetings with more than 7,000 copies distributed to almond farmers and beekeepers alike," according to the ABC news release. "The strong, favorable response to the BMPs marks another milestone in the effort to protect honey bee health and preserve the mutually beneficial relationship between honey bees and almonds."
Without bees, no almonds, so the relationship between the almond growers and the beekeepers must continue to be nurtured, cultivated and strengthened.
Meanwhile, listen to the bees buzz, a sure sign of winter's demise and spring's promise.
- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
The Almond Board of California will unveil its Honey Bee Best Management Practices tomorrow (Thursday, Oct. 16) in an ongoing effort to promote and protect bee health.
The board will do so by holding a press conference at 8:30 a.m. Pacific Time with questions directed at Richard Waycott, CEO, Almond Board of California; Bob Curtis, associate director of Agricultural Affairs, Almond Board of California and Extension apiculturist (retired) Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
It promises to be a comprehensive set of Best Management Practices or BMPs.
Remember last spring when beekeepers in the San Joaquin Valley almond orchards reported losing 80,000 colonies? Beekeepers believe that pesticides killed their bees after the almond pollination season ended but just before they could move their bees to another site.
"When should the colonies be allowed to leave the orchards?" Mussen asked. "When pollination no longer is happening. That does not mean that the bees should remain in place until the last petal falls from the last blossom."
Communication is key to a good BMP. The Almond Board recently published three informational pieces, “Honey Bee Best Management Practices for California Almonds,” "Honey Bee Best Management Practices Quick Guide for Almonds,” and “Applicator/Driver Honey Bee Best Management Practices for Almonds” (in English and Spanish).
The topics include:
- Preparing for arrival
- Assessing hive strength and quality
- Protecting honey bees at bloom
- Honey bees and insecticides
- Honey bees and fungicides
- Using integrated pest management (IPM) strategies to minimize agricultural sprays
- Honey bees and self-compatible almond varieties
- Best management practices for pest control during almond bloom
- Removing honey bees from the orchard
- Addressing suspected pesticide-related honey bee losses
- What to expect in an investigation
The Bee Informed Partnership (BIP), headed by Dennis van Engelsdorp, produced three short videos as the result of a 2012-2013 beekeeping survey. Project Apis m (PAm) published some of the information online about varroa mites, nosema, honey bee nutrition and the like.
It's important for almond growers and beekeepers to keep the lines of communication open. Bees make a "bee line" toward the almond blossoms, but the growers and the beekeepers don't always make a timely "bee line" toward one another to resolve issues that surface.