Honeybees Pollinating Almond Trees Die-Off By The Billions
Many commercial beekeepers derive half or more of their income from almond pollination in the USA. Dennis Arp is one of them. The California Central Valley is where 80% of the global almond supply is grown. That is where Dennis Arp rents his bee colonies to almond mega-farmers.
Many commercial beekeepers whose bees work the almond groves lose their bees. Last winter, Arp lost 12% of his bee population. That’s 150 hives, all wiped out due to mite infestation.
The facts and figures are pretty devastating. Over one-third of all honeybee colonies in the US died in a mass die-off during the winter of 2018 to 2019. That’s a record 50 billion honeybees.
According to environmentalists and organic beekeepers, the cause is mainly a massive use of large-scale farm mechanization, meaning agricultural methods primarily applied to large almond farms. This disrupts many natural environmental processes.
This 2:42-minute video by FORA.tv is food for thought about the plight of the honeybees and where it is all headed:
This practice of targeted mass pollination brings an influx of billions of European honeybees into the area for commercially driven purposes, according to environmental advocates. It undermines native bee species in the area and creates ecological imbalance. Resources are burdened, and native bees are outnumbered by billions of incoming “foreign” competitors in their habitat. This adds an enormous burden to the endangered native insects, already challenged by global warming.
The US almond industry is a vast mono-crop landscape that destroys biodiversity and causes large-scale ecological imbalance.
Honeybees are designated as livestock. It is tragic that the number of honeybees that die each year in this way far outnumbers all other slaughtered livestock combined.
California’s Central Valley almond groves represent an industry that is worth $11 billion, and the area is the size of the US state of Delaware. The annual yield is 2.3 billion pounds or 1 million tons of almonds.
The average American eats 30 ounces (900 grams) of almonds every year. The big cash product has become almond milk. Sales grew 250% in the past five years, representing about $1.2 billion. Almond milk outsells other plant-based “milks” by four times, so the almond industry is growing even bigger.
And yet, so far, it all depends on honeybees. Almond orchards cannot produce when there are no honeybee pollinators.
There are other great threats to bees in addition to those mentioned above.
Pollinating almonds is highly stressful to bees because they are disrupted from their dormant wintering period and expected to work hard a couple of months earlier than their natural cycle requires.
Vast numbers of bees are packed in tight in a concentrated area so their susceptibility to infectious diseases is heightened.
And then there are multiple hazardous toxic problems. Almonds are heavily treated with glyphosate, an herbicide that is fatal to bees and causes cancer in humans. Neonicotinoid pesticides also threaten bees with severe danger of poisoning.
Global warming and habitat loss are also linked to the deadly Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).
Honeybees are a vital commodity to the almond industry. The very industry that needs bees most subjects them to multiple deadly exposures, with billions dying off. A new way of providing for bees and their well being must be found.
Xerces Society launched the program for Bee Better certification in 2017. The aim is to support honeybees by increasing biodiversity in acres of almonds for natural pest control. Mustard, clover and wildflowers were planted between native flower hedges and trees at the almond orchard perimeters to benefit bees.
The certification promotes bee-friendly farming and environmentally friendly production methods. It projects an image similar to fair trade, dolphin-friendly and organic consumer labels. Haagen-Dazs ice cream brand promotes Bee Better, and their products carry a Bee Better seal.
Organic almond grower Glenn Anderson has developed a system that also offers solutions to increase and maintain biodiversity for bee health.
Large-scale reform is critical in order to save honeybee pollinators of the almond industry from even higher death rates. Time is of the essence and solutions are needed now rather than later for the sake of the precious bees.
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