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Stories from the valley

Hard at Work in the Sacramento Valley

Contributed by Steve Beckley

Bees and other pollinators are important to California and Sacramento Valley agriculture. It takes a lot of bees to pollinate the almond orchards during the early spring bloom.  California does not have enough bees to pollinate the almond crop, so more than a million colonies each year are brought in from major honey-producing states of North Dakota, South Dakota, and Montana.  Some of the bees will continue their work in the valley after almonds, helping pollinate hybrid sunflowers, vegetable seeds and other crops.

Most almond growers don’t have their own bees to carry out this task, so they rent hives of these hard workers.  I joined Jim Watson and Kyle Wiggins in an Arbuckle almond orchard as they verified the colony strength of bees to insure the grower was getting what they paid for.  They would stop at each group of hives and select a random hive and pull out a frame from the hive and count the bees.


No issues were found and I learned a lot about bees as a result. A colony of bees consists of a queen and her workers living in a hive.  It takes about 1.5 to 2 hives per acre to pollinate an acre of almonds. Each hive typically houses one colony of about 20,000 bees

Almonds are an important crop in the Sacramento Valley.  About 14 percent of the total California almond crop is produced in the valley.  In 2017, about 318,000,000 pounds of the nuts were produced in the valley for a value of over $728,000,000.