Almond orchards have transitioned from delicate white blooms to vibrant green leaves. Honey bees, busy of course, have moved on to do their job in berries, cherries, citrus, melons, and the more than 90 different blossoming crops around California and the rest of North America that rely on them for pollination. However, even when they’ve left to pollinate other crops, the California Almond community continues to care for honey bees throughout the year.
The California Almond community has taken extraordinary steps to be good partners to beekeepers in promoting bee health. For nearly four decades, Almond Board-funded pollination research has increased understanding of the partnership between honey bees and almonds and, since making honey bee health a focus in 1995, the Board has invested over $1.6 million in industry-funded research. Working with Project Apis m. and others, the Board encourages almond growers to provide blooming plants or bee pastures adjacent to almond acreage as additional food sources for honey bees prior to and after almond bloom. Furthermore, the Almond Board’s recently released Honey Bee Best Management Practices give growers a comprehensive toolkit for protecting bees in their orchards.
Another aspect of the industry’s commitment to honey bee health is the Almond Board’s membership in the Honey Bee Health Coalition, whose Steering Committee traveled to the Almond Board’s office in Modesto, California this spring.
While some honey bee groups deal with the needs and concerns of one company or crop, the Honey Bee Health Coalition is different. It is structured to work across the food chain with beekeepers, farmers, food companies, conservationists, and scientists. Members include Almond Board of California, the Saint Louis Zoo’s WildCare Institute Center for Native Pollinator Conservation, the National Corn Growers Association, Syngenta, the Oregon State Beekeepers Association, Unilever, Conservation Technology Information Center and many others.
The Honey Bee Health Coalition is focused on four main areas affecting bees and beekeeping:
·Ensuring honey bees have access to a varied and nutritious diet similar to the way people need to eat from all the food groups
·Putting the best available tools, techniques, and technology in the hands of beekeepers so they can better manage their hives
·Managing pests in a way that safeguard bee health
·Promoting public-private education, communications, outreach, and collaboration, through experiential learning and other platforms
During the Coalition’s visit, the steering committee saw first-hand how almond growers are supporting the first initiative. Through Project Apis m., about 150 almond growers on 3,000 acres are experimenting with wildflower plantings between rows of trees.
The mix includes a few varieties of mustard, which produce yellow flowers before the almond bloom, and clover, which put out red, white or purple flowers after almond bloom.
Almond blooms still are the favored food for the bees and almond pollen is a quality food source promoting hive health. So much in fact, that many beekeepers split their hives to grow their apiaries after almond bloom.
For us, participating in the Honey Bee Health Coalition brings home the fact that what we do to help these seemingly small creatures, honey bees, can benefit production of nutritious foods across the country.
To explore more ways that almond growers are protecting honey bee health, please visit http://www.almonds.com/consumers/about-almonds/bee.