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Honey Bees

Nature’s Perfect Duo

When almonds trees bloom, bees get their first food source from our orchards’ nutritious pollen. While bees are only with us for two months of the year as they pollinate the crop, we work to support their health for all twelve.

We’ve been leading bee health research efforts since 1995, so farmers can confidently provide safe habitats that allow them to leave stronger to pollinate other crops. In collaboration with partners beyond our industry, our Honey Bee Best Management Practices serve as a guide to all of agriculture for protecting pollinator health on-farm.

What’s more, we’re working with others to solve the complex set of challenges bees’ face because we know by partnering together, we can find real solutions. Because without bees, there would be no almonds.

Bees and Almonds

Pollination Partners

Between February and March each year, almond tree buds burst into beautiful light pink and white blooms in preparation for pollination. As the trees blossom, honey bees forage for pollen and nectar in the orchard. When the bees move from tree to tree, they pollinate almond blossoms along the way. Each fertilized flower will grow into an almond. After almonds, beekeepers bring their honey bees to different locations across the United States, pollinating more than 90 other crops and making honey.

Almond Trees need cross-pollination, and honey bees help move pollen from tree to tree, setting the crop.

 

Bee Hives consistently leave almond orchards stronger than when they came in because almond pollen is very nutritious to bees and is their first natural food source of the year.1

While bees are essential to growing almonds, the bees benefit too. Almond orchards help strengthen bee hives because:1, 2

  • Almond orchards provide honey bees with their first natural source of food each spring.

  • 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.

  • Beekeepers can then split many of the hives to grow their apiaries.

 

Honey Bee Health by Numbers

Committed to health.

A variety of factors have led to a widely documented and concerning decline in honey bee health, including activities associated with both beekeeping and crop production, putting at risk many of the foods we count on for a stable, nutritious food supply. While the total number of honey bee hives in the U.S. has remained steady for the past 20 years,3 beekeepers experience significant in-season hive losses and must work hard to keep their hives healthy.

That’s why we’ve been leading bee health research efforts since 1995, working with leading universities, researchers and non-profits to solve the challenges bees face. While those are complex – varroa mites, other pests and diseases, lack of floral resources, limited genetic diversity and pesticide exposure – we know by partnering together we can find real solution.

 

FACTORS IMPACTING HONEY BEES WHAT WE'RE DOING
VARROA MITES Investigating treatment options and beekeeper guidance for treating this devastating pest.
OTHER PESTS AND DISEASES Kickstarting Tech Transfer Teams who work with beekeepers to monitor hives and advise on pest and disease treatment.
LACK OF GENETIC DIVERSITY Funding researchers to bring new, foreign genetic material into the U.S. and making it available to beekeepers for improving breeding stock.
PESTICIDE EXPOSURE Understanding if pest control materials needed to protect the almond crop during pollination impact bees and how to minimize impacts.
LACK OF FORAGE AND NUTRITION Understanding the benefits and management practices for supplemental bee forage and supporting the distribution of blooming plant seed.

Funding more bee health research than any other crop group,4 the California almond community’s support of more than 125 research projects helps farmer confidently provide pollinators with safe habitats in their orchards.

Based on that research and in collaboration with universities, government agencies, and non-profits, our  Honey Bee Best Management Practices (BMPs) serve as a guide to all of agriculture for protecting pollinator health on-farm. These guidelines provide recommendations ranging from making the orchard a safe and welcoming place for honey bees to how to treat for pests and disease without harming bees.

Recommendations actually go far beyond the almond orchard, providing important insights for all crops when it comes to promoting honey bee health.
Dr. Eric Mussen, UC Davis Extension Apiculturist Emeritus

Building on these efforts, the California almond community launched a five-point Pollinator Protection Plan in 2020 outlining initiatives underway that further bolster pollinator health. Created and funded by ABC as a result, the new Bee+ Scholarship program provides grants to farmers helping to offset costs associated with planting blooming cover crops, an important source of supplemental nutrition for honey bees and habitat for all pollinators.

Bee-friendly orchards.

Working with Project Apis m.Pollinator Parternship and others, the Almond Board encourages almond farmers to plant pollinator habitat near or within their orchards as additional food sources for honey bees before and after almond bloom. These blooming cover crops support honey bee health and provide food sources for native pollinators. What’s more, they can also improve carbon sequestration, soil health, water infiltration and more.

Bolstered by ABC’s Bee+ Scholarship program, Project Apis m.’s Seeds for Bees program expanded this year, adding pollinator habitat nearly 15,000 acres of almond orchards, a 22% increase to the footprint of almond pollinator habitat in the last year. Since its inception in 2013, Seeds for Bees has helped almond farmers add pollinator habitat to more than 82,000 acres of almond orchards.5

Another component of the Bee+ Scholarship encourages 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.

What's the buzz on bee pastures?

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Spotlight on: Bee Health
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Committed To Honey Bee Health
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Bee Pastures Explained

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

3. USDA-NASS. Honey Bee Production Report. 2000–2019.
4. Gene Brandi. Vice President, American Beekeeping Federation.
5. Billy Synk. Director of Pollination Services. Project Apis m. Nov. 2020. Represents total plantings from 2013present.