Almond growers depend on bees for good crop

Almond trees blooming

LOST HILLS, Calif. -  

California is the world’s largest producer of almonds and the largest growers are in Kern County.

That’s why millions of bees from across the country are now in Kern County to pollinate the almond orchards.

"It's the most exciting time of the year because when you're standing out in the orchard and you can hear bees in the trees,” said Gordon Wardell, Bee Biologist for Paramount Farming Company.

Paramount hired their own expert to make sure they have enough healthy bees for pollination.

"Every one of the flowers is going to produce a nut if a bee visits it. If there's no bees there's no nuts."

Wardell told 23 ABC there are 780,000 acres of orchard trees in California alone. That means over one million bee hives are needed for pollination and there are 30,000 bees in each hive.The almond industry has grown to the tune of two billion pounds of almonds per year, which is why farmers must prepare to buy their bees ahead of time.

“We start agreeing on contracts and prices in the fall, “ explained Don Davis, President of Alina Farms Corporation. “If someone forgot to do bees they would not have a crop.”

Davis owns 800 acres of orchards and Paramount Farming Inc. owns 46,000 acres.

“So we bring in roughly 91,000 to 92,000 colonies to pollinate our crop,” said Wardell.

Wardell also told 23 ABC it has been a rough year for bees with a shortage and diseases affecting bees in the Midwest. However, farmers and experts are doing what they can to make sure they have bees for years to come.

“We really don’t know all of the challenges that are facing us, but we're trying to figure out what's going on inside those bee hives,” said Wardell.

“It would devastate not just almonds but devastate the whole food supply if we didn't have bees,” said Davis.

The bloom and pollination period only lasts a few weeks. The almonds will then start developing and mature during the summer. Farmers should begin to harvest their crops in August.


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