By now, you probably know the story of the honey bee – tiny insects with a big job pollinating many of the nutritious foods that we eat every day. What you might not be aware of, however, is just how hard they work and what an essential role they play in the production of one of our favorite snacks – almonds. Did you know that it takes nearly two million colonies of these hardworking insects to pollinate 860,000 acres of almonds in California each year?
Almonds are the earliest crop to bloom in California, and they also require the most honey bees. The bees first start arriving in October and November to escape the cold that permeates other parts of the country, such as the Mid-West. However, not much is blooming in California at that time, meaning their food sources are incredibly scarce.
That’s where Project Apis m. comes in.
Project Apis m. is the largest nonprofit, nongovernmental bee research organization in the U.S., and we’re currently focusing on an important initiative that provides food for bees used for commercial pollination services. The Seeds for Bees project provides forage for bees before and after almond bloom when their options are extremely limited, enlisting growers as participants in the program from July through Thanksgiving. Once growers are on board, we send them seed mixes to plant in open areas of their orchards, such as along fence rows.
Earlier this year, Bayer provided $100,000 to Project Apis m. for the program. Thanks to this funding, along with contributions from other organizations, we can send our specialty Project Apis m. seed mixes to growers in the Central Valley who have agreed to participate in Seeds for Bees. This year, we’ve also extended the program to growers in Washington state, where honey bees travel after almond bloom, to help the crops grown in that region, such as apples.
Additionally, we’ve been working with the Bayer CropScience Western Field Technology Station near Fresno, California, for an important study of which types of cover crops are most attractive and nutritious for bees. By examining bloom time, bloom length and bee forage time on blooming crops, we can determine the best, most beneficial seeds to include in the mixtures we send to growers.
Bees require access to pollen and nectar from a wide variety of wildflowers and other plants to really be healthy. Can you imagine only eating one type of food for months at a time? Not only would it be boring, but we wouldn’t have many of the essential nutrients that a varied diet provides or be able to fend off problems and diseases. The same is true for honey bees. There’s nothing better than diverse, natural forage, which is what the Seeds for Bees program aims to provide.
Project Apis m. is proud to be an official Feed a Bee partner to help increase forage for some of agriculture’s hardest workers.
Because when the honey bee wins, we all do, too.