Almond Board of California is celebrating its community by running occasional features on farmers, processors, and others who support the industry, highlighting their commitment to sustainability.1
It’s almond bloom season! The bees are in California Almond orchards pollinating the blossoms, and almond farmers are doing more than ever to make their orchards a safe place for these essential pollination partners.
One important way almond farmers make sure the bees in their orchards are happy and healthy is by planting bee-friendly flowering plants in the fall, in advance of bloom season. Whether it is along field margins, between tree rows, or in adjacent empty fields, these flowers provide honey bees with extra nutrition before and after almond bloom.
Gino Favagrossa, third-generation farmer on Favagrossa Farms, is a firm believer in the importance of planting flowering plants to ensure the honey bees that come to his orchard have the supplemental nutrition they need to thrive. This time of year, when visiting Favagrossa Farms, you’ll see blend of five or six clovers between the rows of almond trees in the 160-acre almond orchard.
The flowering plants are an appetizer while bees are waiting for the almond blossoms, and the dessert while the bees are waiting to be picked up after the blossoms fall to the ground.
Though you may think it would, other blooming plants don’t compete with almond blossoms, as the bees prefer their main course. Almond blossoms provide honey bees with large quantities of high-quality pollen in a relatively small area, making it very easy for bees to collect. However, having other pollen sources available, like attractive pollen from flowering plants, promotes a pollen-collecting cycle, keeping bees working and stimulated.
Gino says the flowering plants have also helped foster good continuing relationships with his beekeepers who feel confident that they can safely leave their bees in the orchard for about a month after the almond bloom has wrapped up, knowing the bees will have plenty of food options.
Different seed mixes and planting patterns have different bee benefits. Project Apis m. (PAm), named for Apis mellifera -- the scientific name for the European honey bee, has identified low-moisture-requiring seed mixes, seed suppliers, and planting regimes specific to bee habitat in almonds, including specially blended mustard mix for fall and winter bloom, and clover mix and lana vetch for spring bloom. PAm funds research to help enhance the health and vitality of honey bee colonies, while improving crop production, part of which includes educating farmers about the value of providing forage so honey bees can be healthy, sustainable crop pollinators into the future. In fact, PAm provides free seed mixtures and seeds to almond farmers through its Seeds for Bees Program to support honey bee health.
Through this Seeds for Bees program, almond farmers have planted nearly 20,000 acres of dedicated bee pasture, equal to 14,800 football fields, all filled with blooming plants for bees to enjoy.2
Learn more about the ways that almond farmers can benefit honey bees year-round by visiting Almonds.com/Pollination.
1California Almond Sustainability Program definition: Sustainable almond farming utilizes production practices that are economically viable and are based upon scientific research, common sense and a respect for the environment, neighbors and employees. The result is a plentiful, nutritious, safe food product.
2Billy Synk. Director of Pollination Services. Project Apis m. Jan 2017.