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Stories from the valley

Bees Hard at Work in the Valley

Contributed by Steve Beckley

There are more than 140,000 acres of almonds in the Sacramento Valley and they are all blooming right now. Bees are hard at work pollinating the crop, and it takes a lot of then to pollinate the valley’s orchards during the early spring bloom.   California does not have enough bees to pollinate the almond crop, so bees arrive from major honey-producing states of North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana and as far away as Florida. According to the California Almond Board, it is a win/win situation as orchards provide honey bees with their first natural source of food each spring and just like almonds are a nutritious snack for us, almond pollen is very nutritious for honey bees. Some of the bees will continue their work in the valley after almonds helping pollinate hybrid sunflowers, vegetable seeds and other crops.

Recently, I joined Jim Watson and Kyle Wiggin of Arbuckle, in a Williams almond orchard as they verified the colony strength of bees to insure the grower was getting what they paid for.  No issues were found, but I learned a lot about bees. A colony of bees consists of a queen and the workers and they live in a hive. It takes about 1.5 to 2 hives per acre to pollinate an acre of almonds.  It is important that the grower, hive owners and pest control advisers work closely together to insure the health of the bees.  

A notable place to learn about bees and pollination is the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center. They also have information on how to have a bee-friendly garden. 

To help celebrate the contributions of bees, attend the California Honey Festival on May 2 in Woodland, information can be found at