Plea to almond farmers: Sow wildflowers, save bees

The Modesto BeeMay 24, 2014 

Third-generation farmer Daniel Bays, 27, checks out sprinklers in one of his family’s almond orchards Tuesday, May 7, 2014, in Westley.

RANDY PENCH — rpench@sacbee.com

A group that looks out for the welfare of pollinating honeybees is again asking almond farmers to sow wildflowers that diversify the insect's food sources.

About 1.7 million commercial colonies will be placed in orchards next February to carry out the pollination vital to turning blossoms into marketable nuts. The bees will draw much of their sustenance from the nectar and pollen in these flowers, but they need other sources just before and after the bloom to stay healthy.

The wildflowers are part of a wide-ranging effort to sustain a beekeeping industry that has suffered from disease, mites, drought and the still-unsolved colony collapse disorder.

The seeds come through Project Apis m., named for the honeybee's scientific moniker, Apis mellifera.

"This is to offset the dearth that honeybees face when they move into the state and nothing else is flowering," said Meg Ribotto, director of pollination programs.

The seeds include mustard, alyssum, vetch and clover, which can be planted after the 2014 harvest and in advance of winter rain.

The group suggests that almond growers sow the flowers between rows, on orchard edges and in other spots where they can coexist with the trees. The plants can function as cover crops, fixing nitrogen into the soil and protecting it from erosion.

For more information, email projectapis@gmail.com.

The reporter can be reached at (209) 578-2385 or jholland@modbee.com.

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