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Stories from the valley

Hardworking Sacramento Valley Bees

Contributed by Steve Beckley

Almonds are a major crop in the Sacramento Valley and they are in bloom right now.  As you currently drive through the area, you have an opportunity to see the beautiful trees.    Behind the scene in the orchard are hardworking bees pollinating the crop, and it takes a lot of then to pollinate the orchards during the early spring bloom.   California does not have enough bees to pollinate the almond crop and 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.

beekeepers in suits removing bees from their boxes

I joined Jim Watson in a College City/John District almond orchard to inspect bee hives as he verified the colony strength of bees was what was needed to provide pollination.   These hives belonged to Tauzer Apiaries and I recommend you follow Tauzer on their Facebook page to learn more about bees and the services they provide.  A colony of bees consists of a queen, 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 a team effort as bee inspectors such as Jim, growers, hive owners and pest control advisers work closely together to insure the health of the bees and the trees get pollinated.  

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. 

The next time you have some almonds or use honey, remember the important role of the pollinators play in Sacramento Valley agriculture. .