Millions of hives are arriving in California from as far away as Maine as almond orchards prepare to bloom next month.
Bees are essential for pollinating crops, but drought and other factors make it difficult for them to survive.
California is home to 80% of the world’s almond supply with over 2.5 million acres of orchards – a $6 billion harvest. Almond grower Dave Phippen is introducing beehives to his orchards, but admits supply in California is limited.
“We need two and a half hives per acre, so you can imagine we need over 2 million hives to cover all the almond acreage in California and there just aren’t a lot of hives in California,” he said.
California supplies about 500,000 hives, but an additional 2 million will come from out of state. Essentially, California will need about 70% of all beehives in the United States
“Lately, with colony collapse disorder, drought, climate change, habitat loss, and newer, stronger pesticides, we’re losing 40 percent of our hives,” said county beekeeper Michael Eggman. of Stanislaus.
Eggman said he has to keep his bees in Washington state for much of the year because the California drought has dried up the wildflowers and plants the bees need to forage — and feed them. syrup doesn’t go that far.
“It’s like you and I trying to get healthy on Gatorade and granola bars,” he said. “We might hang on, but we’re not going to thrive. Having said all that, consider the last 12 drought years in California. It is literally a food desert for bees.
Eggman said it’s also a matter of supply and demand. In recent years, the demand for almonds has exploded. Almond milk, almond butter and a host of other almond products have hit the market.
Twenty years ago, growers had to pay $20 for a beehive in their orchard. The cost is now $220.
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