Did you know that California produces more than 80 percent of the world’s almond supply? There are currently about 1.3 million acres of almond trees in California, and the farmers who grow these trees depend on bees to pollinate their crops. Every year, beekeepers from all over the country send about two million beehives to California in preparation for the almond harvest. The California almond industry is valued at an estimated $11 billion, and with concerns about colony collapse disorder on the rise, state lawmakers have launched two new programs that are designed to protect the bees that pollinate our almond orchards.
Known as Bee Safe and Bee Where, these two programs administered by the California Department of Food and Agriculture work in conjunction with one another to promote pollinator health and safety.
Under the terms of Bee Where, which went into effect on Jan. 1 of this year, beekeepers are required to register their apiaries with the state so that their precise locations can be digitized and recorded in an online database. This database is used to alert pesticide applicators when beehives are within a 1-mile radius of a planned application, and ensure they maintain compliance with a state-mandated rule that requires them to contact beekeepers 48 hours prior to their proposed application time.
Bee Safe, meanwhile, is designed to prevent apiary theft, ensure that hives are transported safely across California and promote best management practices for beekeepers. It also provides dedicated funding to help enforce policies related to bee health, such as the apiary registration requirement established by Bee Where.
“They’re two separate programs but they work together,” said Mel Graham, an agricultural integrated pest management specialist at the Santa Barbara County AG Commissioner’s Office in a recent interview. “[Bee Safe] is providing county ag commissioner staff with some training and some support as far as looking at the health of the hives and really educating our growers and the public about keeping the hives healthy.”
Thanks to the Bee Safe and Bee Where programs, California’s most important pollinators will have some much-needed help in the coming growing seasons.