Beehives imported to California for pollination
California grows 1.5 million acres of almonds, and every spring, all of the acreage must be pollinated. With almond blossoms being a rich source of food for honeybees, it’s a natural symbiotic relationship. The problem in California is there are not enough bees to pollinate such a large number of almond trees.
To help mitigate this problem, the state imported roughly 2.1 million beehives for the 2021 almond pollination. Assuming each hive contains roughly 20,000 worker bees, this comes out to 42 billion bees. Hive imports will likely increase in 2022, as more almond acreage enters bearing age, according to Jacob Wenger, assistant professor of entomology at California State University in Fresno.
“Most hives will leave shortly after almond petal drop in mid to late March,” Wenger said. “This is because outside of the bloom season, almond orchards are a veritable food desert for honeybees with little to no flowering plants for them to forage on.”
Not all bees return to their home states, though. Some will move north to the state of Washington to assist in the pollination of apples, pears and cherries, according to Buzz Landon, president of the California State Beekeepers Association.
A small number of hives will stay in California for a few months to pollinate other smaller acreage crops, such as stone fruits, cane berries, apples, melons, squash and seed crops, Wenger said.
About 40 percent of commercial beehives travel to the upper Midwest because of the natural prairie grasses and conservation farms in those states, which provide the honeybees with a variety of forage.
Just like humans, honeybees need variety, Lewis said.