Change, it’s said, is the only constant, and for the almond industry, continual change is what keeps us moving forward in important areas like pollinator protection.
The Almond Board of California (ABC) recently published an update to its popular “Honey Bee Best Management Practices for California Almonds,” otherwise known as the “Honey Bee BMPs.”
The guide is based on input from the almond community, beekeepers, UC Davis, state and federal regulators, PCAs, applicators and many others,
Bee Where Program – Staying Connected
The almond industry uses research, grower outreach and education, and more to constantly determine ways to better protect pollinators during almond bloom and throughout the year. Since 2014 when the first version of the Honey Bee BMPs was released, new programs and research learnings have been developed, so it was time to revise these resources.
One key change is the introduction of the Bee Where program, an improved registration and reporting system that keeps beekeepers, growers, PCAs and applicators better connected. With funding from ABC and the California State Beekeepers Association, this new platform should greatly improve hive registration and, most important for PCAs and applicators, will help them locate those hives.
Using the Bee Where program, beekeepers can register hives with the county agricultural commissioner and PCAs and applicators can use electronic crop management programs to help them pinpoint hives within one mile of a planned spray site.
This is a huge improvement over the corkboard-and-pins approach used by agricultural commissioners in the past.
Recs – Pesticides During Bloom
The Almond Board’s recommendation is to avoid applying insecticides during bloom, as they can affect adult bees and brood (young developing bees) in the hive. One exception, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), is documented as safe to both bee adults and immatures.
Fungicides should only be applied during the afternoon and evening when the bees are done foraging for the day and there’s no exposed pollen on the flowers. Most fungicides are already formulated with adjuvants, and the University of California states that the only time a grower may want to add an adjuvant is when the label explicitly instructs to do so.
ABC’s board recently released a set of goals for the industry, one of which aims to increase the use of environmentally friendly pest management practices.
The goal for this industry-wide initiative: ensuring that almonds are a safe place for bees and promoting stewardship practices around pesticide application during bloom.
Planting Supplemental Forage: An Option
Growers are encouraged to plant supplemental forage, either inside or outside of the orchard, as it has been shown to improve overall bee health. ABC-funded research shows that planting supplemental forage provides immediate and longer-term benefits for colonies.
For instance, there is a trend toward increased colony strength with supplemental forage, especially mustard plants. Research also shows that orchards with supplemental forage plantings tend to have higher nut set than those without plantings.
Besides improved pollinator health, planting forage could also result in a cost savings – such as more pollination contracts offering reduced hive rentals for growers who have planted forage.
Three pieces comprise the Honey Bee BMP materials: “Honey Bee Best Management Practices for California Almonds,” “Honey Bee BMP Quick Guide” and “Honey Bee BMP Quick Guide for Applicators”. They are available in English and Spanish) and can be accessed online at Almonds.com/BeeBMPs.