Just how bad is California’s drought situation? Bad enough that a number of honeybee operations are being driven out of the state.
And that’s going to pose a big problem for California’s agricultural industry: As much as one-third of all food is pollinated by bees.
“The lack of rain and snow has reduced the amount of plants the bees feed on, which in turn limits the amount of pollen and nectar that bees collect,” reports NPR. “This year in the state, there are just not enough plants and trees in bloom to keep many commercial beekeepers profitable.”
While some beekeepers are turning to supplemental feed to keep their bees alive, it’s not the ideal situation for honeybees. Not by a long shot. “The quality of these meal substitutes isn't as good as the real deal,” NPR explains. “They're expensive, and it's like eating fresh versus canned vegetables."
“Commercial beekeepers are having difficult times keeping bees alive, and they're kind of spread out," Tim Tucker, president of the American Beekeeping Federation told NPR. "They're going to Montana and they're going to North Dakota."
More than 400 of California’s Central Valley crops depend on honeybees for pollination, which includes more than 900,000 acres of almond trees that need pollinating in the springtime.
"[The farmers are] scrambling, trying to figure out as many options as possible to make sure their bees stay healthy and are prepared for next year," Ryan Jacobsen, CEO of the Fresno County Farm Bureau told NPR. "That includes trying to move to newer areas and trying to plant new feed sources."
The California drought is just one problem the bees are facing. According to the Fresno County Farm Bureau, as many as 40 percent of honeybee colonies in the West are being lost each year due to colony collapse disorder, the mysterious situation afflicting bees around the globe. Some research points to agricultural pesticides as a contributing factor to the bees’ decline.
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Honeybee image via Shutterstock