As a young girl I remember almond pollination was the time of year that meant our winter was over and it was time to get back to work! Not only was I the co-pilot and expert on-the-road coffee pourer, I was the official load “tie-er downer.” My Dad would load the bee hives onto our truck with the boom and once a row was on, I’d come behind him and tie it down. Once the load was on, we would spend hours driving to California’s Central Valley to the almond orchards. Once there, we would set the bee hives down in spots designated by the grower.
My job was rolling up and stowing the straps and also what I’m sure was the most comical vision to anyone who might see us (although at 2 in the morning in the middle of an almond orchard there never was anyone) I had to hold the boom and run along beside the truck while Dad moved up a dozen rows. Me running in my big work boots…a gangly teen, trying not to swing around on the end of the boom…pure comedy!
Every year, almond pollination signals the beginning of a busy season for bees and their keepers in California. It’s the opening act in the annual crop pollination business of bees and a critical time for the industry. Almond pollination is just the start, and from there, bees move on to pollinate a wide variety of other crops like cherries, melons, avocados, olives, and more. In this article, we’ll explore the importance of bee pollination in California’s agricultural industry and how it impacts our food supply.
What is Pollination?
Pollination is the transfer of pollen from the male part of a flower (the stamen) to the female part of the same or another flower (the stigma). This transfer is essential for plants to reproduce and produce fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. Pollination can occur through self-pollination, wind pollination, or the action of pollinators like bees.
Why is Pollination Important?
Pollination is important because it allows plants to reproduce and produce fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds essential for our food supply. With pollination, we would have the variety of fruits and vegetables we enjoy today. In fact, more than 75% of the world’s food crops depend on pollinators like bees.
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Continue reading below to learn the importance of bee pollination!
The Role of Bees in Pollination
Bees are one of the most important pollinators in our food chain. Bees visit flowers to collect nectar and pollen, and in doing so, they transfer pollen from the male to the female part of the flower, allowing fertilization. Bees are especially effective pollinators because they have branched hairs on their bodies that trap and carry pollen from flower to flower.
The Importance of Bee Pollination
Bee pollination is essential for producing many crops, including those grown in California. Bees are responsible for pollinating more than 90 different crops and for more than $15 billion in increased crop value each year. With bees, the yield and quality of these crops would be greatly impacted, leading to a decline in food availability and an increase in food prices.
Almond pollination is a crucial time for beekeepers in California, as it’s the first major pollination event of the year. Almonds are California’s largest agricultural export, and the state produces over 80% of the world’s almonds. Beekeepers from across the country bring their hives to California’s almond orchards to help pollinate the trees, and it’s a significant undertaking.
It’s estimated that over 2 million colonies of bees are brought to California for almond pollination each year. Almond Pollination is an important time for the bees because, in many cases, the almond pollen is the first pollen the bees are exposed to after winter. The exposure to this pollen “wakes up” the hive. Once the pollen starts coming in, this tells the Queen spring has arrived and it’s time to get to work laying eggs and building the colony size up in preparation for nectar gathering which will come next.
Other Crops Pollinated by Bees
Bees are essential for pollinating many crops besides almonds. Here are some of the other crops that are pollinated by bees in California:
- Cherries: Cherries are an important crop in California and require pollination to produce fruit. Bees play a crucial role in pollinating cherry trees; with them, cherries’ yield and quality would be greatly impacted. In 2022 there were 12 million pounds of cherries harvested in California…that’s a lot of pollinated flowers!
- Melons: Melons are a popular summer crop in California and are pollinated by bees. Melons require pollination to produce fruit, and without bees, the yield and quality of melons would be significantly impacted. In 2022, California melons were an 8 million dollar crop!
- Avocados: Avocados are a valuable crop in California, and bees are essential for pollinating avocado trees. Avocados require cross-pollination to produce fruit, and bees are the primary pollinators for this crop. Interesting factoid about avocado flowers: the flower opens in the female form during one part of the day, then closes and reopens as a male flower!
- Olives: Olives are another crop that is pollinated by bees in California. Bees are responsible for pollinating olive trees, which are grown for oil and table olives. Without bees, the yield and quality of olives would be significantly impacted. One flower equals one olive, that’s a lot of bees visiting a lot of flowers!
- Apples: Apples are an important crop in California and require pollination to produce fruit. Bees are one of the primary pollinators for apple trees; with them, the yield and quality of apples would be greatly impacted.
- Blueberries: Blueberries are a valuable crop in California and require pollination to produce fruit. Bees are one of the primary pollinators for blueberry bushes; with them, the yield and quality of blueberries would be greatly impacted.
These are just a few examples of the many crops pollinated by bees in California. With bees, the yield and quality of these crops would be greatly impacted, leading to a decline in food availability and an increase in food prices. We must take steps to support bee populations to ensure the health and diversity of our ecosystems and our food supply.
The Impact of Bee Decline
Unfortunately, bee populations are declining alarmingly due to habitat loss, pesticide use, climate change, and disease. This decline is concerning because it threatens our food supply and the health of our ecosystems. Without bees, many crops would be unable to reproduce, leading to a decline in food availability and variety. Additionally, the loss of bees would significantly impact the animals that rely on these crops for food and habitat.
What Can We Do to Help Bees?
There are several things we can do to help bees and support their populations:
- Plant bee-friendly flowers in our gardens and yards: Bees rely on flowers for food and habitat, and planting various flowers that bloom throughout the season can help support their populations. Some bee-friendly flowers include sunflowers, lavender, cosmos, and zinnias.
- Avoid using pesticides and herbicides: Pesticides and herbicides can harm bees and other pollinators. If you must use these chemicals, use them sparingly and follow the instructions carefully to avoid harming bees and other beneficial insects.
- Support local beekeepers by purchasing their honey and beeswax products: Beekeepers play a crucial role in managing bee populations and supporting them by purchasing their honey and beeswax products can help ensure their continued success.
- Provide nesting habitats for bees, such as bee hotels or nesting boxes: Bees need places to nest and raise their young, and providing nesting habitats like bee hotels or nesting boxes can help support their populations.
- Educate others about the importance of bees and pollinators in our food chain: Raising awareness about the importance of bees and other pollinators can help build support for their conservation and ensure the health of our ecosystems and food supply.
By taking these steps, we can help support bee populations and ensure their continued role in pollinating crops and maintaining the health of our ecosystems.
The Importance of Bee Pollination Conclusion
In conclusion, bee pollination is critical to California’s agricultural industry and food supply. Beekeepers are essential in pollinating crops like almonds, cherries, melons, avocados, olives, and more. Without bees, our food supply would be severely impacted, and the health of our ecosystems would be at risk. By supporting bees, we can help ensure that they continue to play their vital role in pollination.