Bee On Flower

Young bee on almond blossom in spring

Big Ag in California needs most of the U.S. bee supply transported to California to pollinate their almond crop, endangering the entire U.S. food system.

Health Impact News

80% of the world’s almonds come from California’s Central Valley. Almonds are the #1 agricultural crop grown in California. It is a $4 billion industry.

There’s just one problem with this huge industrial agricultural system: it needs bees to pollinate their almond trees every spring. Therefore, every year, much of the nation’s bee supply, as well as Canada’s, is transported to California to pollinate the almond trees. This year, it may be that nearly 100% of the U.S. bee supply will go to California to pollinate the almond trees.

Last year, many of the bee hives from the northern climates arrived dead, forcing almond growers to find other sources of bees. Many could not find bees at any cost, as even bees used in the citrus crops of Florida were transported to California to try to meet the demand. The almond industry barely survived last year.

According to an article published recently by Paul Driessen of the DailyCaller, the California almond industry is putting pressure on the northern climate bee keepers to hurry bees to California, at great risk to the bees:

A major problem is that bee colonies, especially those from northern states, lack sufficient time to emerge from their heat-conserving winter cluster. To meet this challenge, some beekeepers maintain 20,000 to 30,000 hives. Each one requires careful inspection for devastating diseases and parasites – a meticulous task impractical at such a scale.

Making their task more difficult is the fact that beekeepers are trying to impose large-scale agricultural methods on an animal whose husbandry practices have been virtually unchanged since the nineteenth century.

Unfortunately, almond demand for bees has led many commercial beekeepers to put their stocks at risk, because the payoff can amount to half an individual keeper’s yearly profit. (Source.)

Beekeeper Ed Colby described the consequences of bringing together bees from all around the United States and letting them mingle together. The result is “bees come back from California loaded with mites and every other disease you can think of. … But the upside is they pay you money, and it’s good money.”

Is it a sustainable form of agriculture to transport 1.5 million honey bee hives to California from as far away as Florida to pollinate the almond groves each year? This style of agriculture produces a large crop of nuts, but is this good for the bees, the nutritional quality of the almonds, and the health of consumers?

Marilyn Gleason reports at PostIndependent.com:

Without bees, an acre of the trees will produce 400 pounds of almonds. Bees increase the yield to 2,400 pounds or more per acre.

The California orchards are a hotbed for spreading honeybee diseases. The Asian Varroa mite, which weakens bees and makes them susceptible to diseases, was unknown in Colorado before the mid-1990s. The annual mingling of billions of honeybees has aided and sped the spread of mites to every part of the U.S. Nosema ceranae is another exotic bee disease spreading quickly. … Pesticides are known bee killers. Recently researchers began taking a closer look at fungicides, which growers spray on the flowering almonds. (Source.)

Attempts are being made to minimize harm to the honey bees by spraying the almond blossoms at night while the bees are in the hives.

Even though beekeepers select their healthiest hives for the journey, heavy losses are typical. “A lot of bees died last year,” said Johnston. “We expect the same this year.” Limbach said he lost 30 percent of the bees he sent to California last year.

So the question we need to ask, and certainly one the USDA and FDA should be asking, is:

Are we willing to risk our entire bee population on the California almond market?

 

Sources

“Flight of the honeybees’ commercial keepers,” The Daily Caller, 03/20/14

“Garfield County beekeepers abuzz about Calif. almond crop,” Marilyn Gleason, PostIndependent.com

“Beekeeping Industry ‘Doomed’ — Might We See Destruction of Food Supply Before the End of This Decade?,” Dr. Mercola, Mercola.com, 6/08/2013