Honeybees are Crucial to California’s Almond Crops - Little Bee of Connecticut

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Honeybees are Crucial to California’s Almond Crops

The demand for crops dependent on honeybees and other pollinators, such as almonds, apples and blueberries, has grown over 300% in the past 50 years. This recent study, published by Environmental Science & Technology, also outlines that the areas most dependent on pollinators for crop survival provide the worst conditions to house these same pollinators!

Come on! Our nation’s pollinators can’t seem to catch a break…

When Bees Have to Commute
Because California produces just about 80% of the world’s almonds, and the state doesn’t have enough suitable habitat for honeybees to thrive naturally, can you guess what needs to happen?

Shuttles for bees! There are many companies that now deliver their bees, sometimes traveling thousands of miles, to these needy crop areas in California. The bees do their work, generally from January to March, pollinating the almond trees, and are then bundled back up for the long ride home again.

This all sounds like a nice compromise, right? If the almond trees are taking up all of the land, and therefore the natural habitat for bees and other pollinators, what’s the harm to raising these bees elsewhere and letting them work in CA?

There are a Few Things Wrong with this Arrangement…
First, the areas growing these high-value crops tend to use chemicals more often and tend to have less diverse species of flowering plants and shrubs. Diversity equates to health. The “corporate” bees, raised in controlled environments, get to head back home to their native beehives after a few months in California. But what about the wild bees and other diverse species of pollinator? They don’t have the luxury and are now suffering.

Second, if you throw in a severe drought and the ongoing risk of wildfires, things will only get worse. The local pollinators won’t thrive and will die off. When this happens, it actually causes the bees that are shuttled in to work less efficiently. There is new research coming out of Penn State, by Christina Grozinger, director of the Center for Pollination Research, that shows “…if you have multiple species of bees, you get better pollination. Having a diverse community of pollinators can be crucial for both production and quantity.”

Sounds like a MAJOR Catch 22, right?
Take over the land to produce high-yield crops DEPENDENT on pollinators. Destroy the natural resources including all diverse plant life, and use pesticides guaranteed to destroy the habitat these pollinators require. Truck in bees from other states and hopefully get them to pick up the slack on the pollination time card. Meanwhile the lack of diversity in local healthy pollinators stresses out the commuter bees making them less efficient than the natural pollinators would have been if the ecosystem could be designed to actually WORK on both sides of the equation!

What about Bees with Special Job Requirements?

When you remove the “local” pollinators from an area, you’ve essentially removed the working species that know the land, are familiar with the plants in their area and can work efficiently to gather the pollen from these plants.

Bees that are shipped in to an area do not know the lay of the land, and may not be entirely familiar with different plant species and the intricate ways they might need to harvest pollen from these plants. Neal Williams, a professor of bee biology at the University of California has said, “…in California, when wild bees emerge in the spring and fly Ito almond and fruit orchards, there’s an increase in nut and fruit yield.” The more diverse the pollinator group working the land, the more marketable the crop. It makes sense then that the current situation is not working and a new design must be found.

Another bit of Scary News
According to USDA Surveys on honey colonies in the US, up to 230,000 colonies collapse in California during almond pollination season. “Pollinator fees are now the largest single component of operation costs in almond production in the Sacramento and northern Joaquin Valleys.”

Luckily…there are some almond growers out west that are actually starting to experiment with a diverse population of pollinators. While honeybees will generally fly row to row in an almond orchard, these growers are working with a local bee called the “blue orchard bee”, which flies erratically from tree to tree and row to row, scattering the pollen more efficiently than the honey bee.

This is the tip of the “almond”, but it’s a step in the right direction and hopefully other growers will follow suit.

If you haven’t read our last blog, which focused on the EPA and the use of toxic chemicals, we want to reiterate some news and facts that might interest you below!

Have you heard of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s (NRDC) Pollinator Initiative?
This is a major campaign designed to defend bees, butterflies and other pollinators from harsh chemicals released from many large companies and approved for use without restriction. Right now they are fighting a court battle against the EPA’s reauthorization of the weedkiller “glyphosate”, stating that the EPA has completely ignored warnings from medical experts and scientists about the serious risks to our environment and health.

Hundreds of thousands of NRDC members and activists are contacting the EPA now in protest of these dangerous chemicals and calling on restrictions. It’s timely because the EPA is scheduled to perform a hazard review, which includes these chemicals, that should be completed by the end of 2022. However, once they reach their conclusions, they will not need to have another review until 2037! 15 years later! If the ruling does not reverse the use of these chemicals, more of our pollinators will be lost, or soon enough, completely wiped out.

Food Sources Will Also Decline
“A study published by Rutgers University in July 2020 found that foods such as apples, cherries, and blueberries are already ‘pollinator limited,’ meaning a lack of pollinators is leading to lower crop yields.

But there is HOPE! Take Action by Contacting the EPA!
We must join the fight and act now so we can affect change and insist that the EPA follows the science to restrict the use of these pollinator-destroying chemicals.

TAKE ACTION NOW BY VISITING: nrdc.org/savebees to fill out the form petition. Your message will be sent to: Michael Regan, EPA Administrator with the subject line:
Save our pollinators – and our food supply – from toxic pesticides! Add your personal info and you will have joined the fight against big corporations and the manufacturing and use of these toxic chemicals.

*Our source is the NRDC “Natures’ Voice” Summer 2021 Publication.

Thanks for supporting the bees and for supporting Little Bee of CT. Visit https://littlebeeofct.com/ to learn more about our company and our products.

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