It’s that time of year again here in the San Joaquin Valley! That time of year where the winter blues start to slip away, the sun starts to show itself a little more, and Spring is just around the corner. It’s also that time of year where if you’re driving around anywhere close to the country it might sound like it’s raining- bees!
Farmers and farming communities do their best to be good stewards when hosting bees on their land, after all, there would be no crop if there were no bees. But it’s almost like a whole new little community is moved in overnight. Which it is. And yes- it’s done, literally, overnight. Inside each bee box there is a hive, which houses the worker bees and their queen. The bees are shipped in on semi trucks and strategically placed throughout the fields at night. Each bee will go back to their hive at night to sleep and that’s when the beekeepers handle them- as far as moving the hives, checking on the health of the hive, giving the bees water, etc…
So, there’s been a lot of talk lately about the bee population and how it’s declining around the world. You might see a short story about it on the news or something and think, “well, that sucks…” and then not really think about it again. Well, to a farmer, that’s a story you don’t want to hear because it makes your heart sink to the pit of your stomach.
100% of the almonds sold in the United States are grown right here in the San Joaquin Valley. Yes- that is a fact. 100%. Every almond, in every bag, in every store, in the United States, comes from this Valley in California. *Mind blown, right?* <– I know mine was. And what does it take to make almonds? Yep, you guessed it (I’m sure the title didn’t give it away at all 😉 ) BEES!
Back to the farmer and his/her sunken stomach- here it is in a nutshell *pun intended*. Almonds are the perfect example of why bee’s are so important. Almond trees are a permanent crop (meaning they are planted and not rotated like corn, potatoes, carrots, etc…). Almond orchards, once planted, will produce almonds for 20-40 years. For every acre of almond trees, there is a certain number of bee hives it will take to be able to produce the maximum amount of almonds. Basically, it’s textbook supply-and-demand. If the number of almond trees stays the same or increases every year and the bee population is declining, I’m sure you can imagine where the price of bee’s is going. Demand is going down, supply is going up, and prices are going through the roof. Thus, the farmers heart almost falling out his/her you-know-what.
Bee’s will help any crop that blooms. Some crops, like almonds, depend on bees and require them to be able to pollinate and produce a crop at all. Other crops, like cotton and alfalfa, do not require bees, but they do help expedite the process of producing a crop.
While the bees are being hosted by the farmers a lot of things change around the farm; the tractors stop running, the spraying of the crop and the surrounding crop is limited if not stopped completely (yes, I mean pesticides and herbicides and all that jazz- don’t worry- this will definitely be touched on in its own post) all to protect each hive and each bee. Bee lives matter. This is one of THE MOST important times for a crop that needs bees to pollinate and produce. If the bees are too disturbed to do their job, the crop doesn’t get pollinated, and there will “bee” no crop to harvest.
Wait. Go Back. Did I just say that when bees are out, the tractors… STOP? Like, stop stop? Yes, yes I did. Bees determine where they work/ pollinate by their sense of smell. If they’ve been working in a field for a couple days, undisturbed but then a tractor comes and drives through the path they have been traveling, the bee will be thrown off. Believe it or not, the scent of diesel the tractor leaves behind will throw the bee off enough for the bee to go back to the hive and let the other bees know something has changed around the are they have been going. Pretty crazy, right?
So why share about bees? Well… it’s BEEcause it blew my mind when I first learned about it 😉 To most of us, bees are pests. To farmers, bees are necessary. But to all of us, bees are valuable.