Almond Living Magazine Promoting Pollinator Health and Stewardship 2/24/2021 Almonds and bees, nature’s perfect duo, are back together as California’s almond orchards burst into bloom. As the trees blossom, honey bees get their first food source of the year as they collect pollen and nectar across our orchards. When the bees move from tree to tree, they pollinate almond blossoms along the way. Each fertilized flower will grow into an almond. And just like almonds are a nutritious snack for us, almond pollen is very nutritious for honey bees, providing all ten of the amino acids their diets require. Honey bee hives routinely leave stronger after visiting during almond bloom. After almonds, beekeepers bring their bees to different locations across the United States, pollinating more than 90 other crops and making honey. In addition to all the work we have previously done, we are working to diversity and expand the nutritious forage that honey bees find in almond orchards each year while extending our efforts outside the orchard to benefit native pollinators too. Honey bees and native pollinators will find more forage in our orchards this spring as a result of the almond community’s five-point Pollinator Protection Plan, launched last year. This plan expands the industry’s long-standing commitment to researching, protecting and improving bee health. One of the five tenets of the Pollinator Protection Plan – increasing floral diversity on farm – led the Almond Board to create and fund the Bee+ Scholarship program which provides grants to farmers to help offset the cost of planting forage and habitat in and around their orchards. This effort led to 135 new almond farmers joining Project Apis m.’s Seeds for Bees program and added pollinator habitat to 14,778 acres of almond orchards, a 22% increase to the footprint of almond pollinator habitat in the last year. Another component of the Bee+ Scholarship encouraged farmer participation in Pollinator Partnership’s Bee Friendly Farming program. To date, 54,202 acres of almonds have been Bee Friendly certified, meaning farmers are actively protecting pollinator populations by implementing positive, incremental changes on-farm. “As a partnership designed by nature, almonds take our responsibility for honey bee health seriously,” said Josette Lewis, PhD, chief scientific officer for the Almond Board. “Through these efforts, we diversify and expand the nutritious forage that honey bees find in almond orchards each year while extending our efforts outside the orchard to benefit native pollinators too.” Ben King, a fourth-generation almond farmer, has planted cover crops on his farm for more than five years. “It comes out of a love for bees,” King said, “and recognizing the importance of taking what nature gives you and acting as a steward.” King notes that while bee hives regularly leave the orchard stronger than they arrived due to the nutritious almond pollen, the effect is amplified with the addition of more floral biodiversity via blooming cover crops. This work builds upon a longstanding commitment to pollinator health. Since 1995, the California almond community has supported 126 research projects – more than any other crop group – to address the five major factors impacting honey bee health, including varroa mites, pest and disease management, lack of genetic diversity, pesticide exposure, and access to forage and nutrition. Check out our announcement to learn more about the Pollinator Plan update and how almond farmers are improving on-farm biodiversity. To learn more about the partnership between almonds and bees, along with the California almond community's commitment to protecting pollinators, visit Almonds.com/Bees. 1 Ramesh Sagili. Department of Horticulture, Oregon State University. 2 Ellen Topitzhofer, et al. Assessment of Pollen Diversity Available to Honey Bees in Major Cropping Systems During Pollination in the Western United States. Journal of Economic Entomology. 2019.