Bee in almond blossom.
Bee in almond blossom.

Actions to maintain, improve bee health for pollination

Provide clean water for bees to drink. Either cover or remove water sources before a pest control treatment, or empty and refill water after treatment is made.

The Almond Board of California has three laminated pages of tips for actions that can be taken to maintain - and even improve – bee health vitally needed for pollination each year in almond orchards.

“Laminated for a good reason,” says Bob Curtis, the board’s director of agricultural affairs.

The sheets are meant to be put in pickup trucks and spray rigs as they make their way through the orchards.

One sheet touts the benefits of planting forage to improve honey bee health which was the focus of a Fresno field day that included remarks from Curtis. Another outlined best management practices for applicators. It’s in English on one side; Spanish on the other.

A third lists precautions to ensure honey bee hive health on one side and communication tips for growers dealing with beekeepers, bee brokers, pest control advisors, and applicators.

“Bees are an expensive resource,” Curtis said, “We want them to leave in good shape.”

Management practices Curtis urged included these:

  • Communication should occur between all pollination stakeholders about pest control decisions;
  • Agreements should include a pesticide plan that outlines which pest control materials may be used;
  • If applying pesticides, contact your local county agricultural commissioners;
  • Avoid applying insecticides during almond bloom until more is known, particularly about their impact on bee brood, the young developing bees in the hive. If treatment is necessary, only apply fungicides. Curtis warned that some adjuvants added to fungicides increase toxicity and should not be used if they are not on the label;
  • Any fungicide application deemed necessary during bloom should occur in the late afternoon or evening when bees and pollen are not present;
  • Provide clean water for the bees to drink. Either cover or remove water sources before a pest control treatment, or empty and refill water after treatment is made;
  • Do not directly spray hives with any pesticide spray application;
  • Do not hit flying bees with sprays. Bees that come in contact with sprays cannot fly because of the weight of spray droplets on their wings;
  • Report suspected pesticide-related bee incidents to the county agricultural commissioner’s office; and
  • Beekeeper and growers should agree on hive removal timing. The University of California recommends bee removal when 90 percent of the flowers on the latest blooming variety are at petal fall. But if forage has been planted in or near the orchard, it may be suitable to leave the bees in the orchard past that threshold.
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