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Pollinator Health

What about the bees?

Our fuzzy friends pollinate one in three bites we eat and get their first food of the year in our orchards, consistently leaving stronger than they arrived.

Without bees, we wouldn’t have almonds.

Between February and March each year, California’s almond trees burst into beautiful light pink and white blossoms. As the trees bloom, honey bees collect pollen and nectar, pollinating almond blossoms along the way. Each fertilized flower will grow into an almond.

While bees are essential to growing almonds, the bees benefit too.

When honey bees visit our orchards each spring, they get their first natural food source of the year. Just like almonds are a nutritious snack for us, almond blossom pollen and nectar is very nutritious for bees. The pollen from almond blossoms contains all 10 amino acids their diets require1 and the nectar contains a naturally occurring compound, amygdalin, which reduces the viruses and gut parasites that attack bees.2 The result? They consistently leave our orchards stronger than when they arrived.3 In fact, beekeepers regularly split their hives after almonds, helping to grow their apiaries.

Bees and Almonds

Are almond farms a monoculture?

It’s not just almond blossoms in our orchards during bloom. To start, 42% of California almond orchards (over half a million acres) maintain native plant cover between tree rows throughout the growing season, often including blooming plants.4

What’s more, many farmers plant blooming cover crops near or within their orchards as additional food sources for bees and other pollinators with support from Project Apis m., international nonprofit Pollinator Partnership and others. Since its inception in 2013, Project Apis m.’s Seeds for Bees program has helped almond farmers add pollinator habitat to over 123,000 acres of almond orchards.5 And through Pollinator Partnership’s Bee Friendly Farming program, more than 170,000 acres of almond orchards are recognized as bee-friendly for providing diverse forage and habitat for pollinators. This represents 86% of all bee-friendly certified U.S. farms.6 Another seed program farmers participate in is the Monarch Joint Venture, an initiative to protect monarch migration patterns across the U.S. by encouraging the planting of milkweed, an important food source and habitat for monarch butterflies, on farm margins.

Beyond providing nutrition and habitat for pollinators and building biodiversity on-farm, these plantings can improve soil health, water infiltration, and increase carbon capture.

Is transportation stressful for bees?

In the U.S., beekeepers make their livelihoods providing pollination services to farmers and making honey. In addition to almonds, beekeepers partner with farmers of over 90 different crops, pollinating things like apples, cherries, melons, blueberries, pumpkins, avocados, squash, and sunflowers.

Hives are transported between blooming crops on large trucks. While this process can be stressful to individual bees, the hives that move between crops fare better than those that don’t thanks to the high-quality nutrition they receive on-farm which overcomes any impact from travel.7

Source: National Geographic, May 2015.

Are bees going extinct?

A variety of factors have led to a widely documented and concerning decline in honey bee health. This includes activities associated with both beekeeping and crop production, putting at risk many of the foods we count on for a stable, nutritious food supply. However, looking at the numbers, the total number of honey bee hives in the U.S. has remained steady over the past 20 years.8 At the same time, beekeepers experience significant in-season hive losses due to the complex challenges they face and must work hard to keep their hives healthy. Pollinators more generally have experienced more significant declines, underscoring the importance of our work diversifying working agricultural lands with blooming cover crops and pollinator habitat.

To help address these challenges, we work with independent researchers, universities and non-profits and have been leading bee health research efforts since 1995. In total almond farmers have supported over 125 projects, investing more than any other crop group.9 

The results of some of that research, our Honey Bee Best Management Practices outline practices that protect bees as they pollinate and serve as a guide to others in agriculture for maintaining pollinator health on-farm.

"The almond industry has really shown itself to be a leader in pollinator health. From launching the California Pollinator Coalition to being recognized with the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign’s Business for Bees Sustainability Award, almond farmers are doing the work on the ground too."
Laurie Davies Adams, President and CEO, Pollinator Partnership

In 2021, the Almond Board led the development and launch of the California Pollinator Coalition with the California Department of Food and Agriculture and international nonprofit Pollinator Partnership. The coalition is made up of a diverse group of agricultural and environmental organizations — representing the large majority of California’s crop and range land — with the shared goal of providing enhanced habitat for pollinators. The Coalition and its members are working to increase habitat for pollinators on working lands as well as promote research and track its progress toward healthy and abundant habitats for pollinators.

Honey Bee Health by the Numbers

  • 33% of our global food supply relies on pollinators.
  • 90 different U.S. crops are pollinated by honey bees each year.
  • 86% of U.S. bee-friendly certified farms are almond farms.
  • 125+ honey bee health research projects funded by almond farmers to date.
  • 1995: The year we started funding research to address bee health challenges.
  • PDF
    Spotlight on: Bee Health
    Committed To Honey Bee Health
    Bee Pastures Explained

    1 Ramesh Sagili, Oregon State University, Department of Horticulture.

    2 JP Tauber, et al. Colony-level effects of amygdalin on honeybees and their microbes. Insects. 2020.

    3 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.

    4 California Almond Stewardship Platform. November 2023.

    5 Project Apis m. October 2023. Represents total plantings from 2013 - present.

    6 Pollinator Partnership. January 2023.

    7 Jeff Pettis and Dennis VanEngelsdorp. January 2017.

    8 United States Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Statistic Service. Honey Bee Colonies. 2004–2023.

    9 Gene Brandi. Vice President, American Beekeeping Federation.