California honeybee populations are at their highest in seven years. This state has the largest beekeeping industry in the United States. Why are honeybees important? In California, bees contribute tens of billions of dollars of value to the economy, “Including the indirect value of honey bee pollination (meat, dairy products, vegetables, hay, etc.), honey bees are responsible for nearly half of California’s agricultural production (cash receipts for farm marketing), which is currently valued above $32.0 billion. ” (Source: UC-Davis) It has been estimated they are involved in helping produce about one third of all the foods we eat.
In 2007 there were only 340,000 honey bee colonies in California. Colony Collapse Disorder had contributed to a steep decline, and there was much concern about what to do. In 2009 after various conservation efforts they started to increase slightly to 355,000. Last year another increase resulted in a population of 410,000 colonies. (The peak was 620,000 in 1989.) Without honeybees to fertilize agricultural crops, there wouldn’t be all sorts of vegetables, nuts and fruits for human consumption. Almonds alone in California are a two billion dollar a year industry. Healthy almond crops there require about 1.5 million honey bees to pollinate the 550,000 acres of almond orchards. California is also the top honey producer in the nation, with 20,000,000 pounds per year.
“On the whole it looks like the bees are doing better. With a little luck, this may be one of our better years,” said Eric Mussen, a UC-Davis bee authority. (Source: SFgate.com) Threats to bees are parasitic mites, diseases, colony collapse disorder, habitat loss, pesticides, agricultural practices and global warming.
It isn’t just plants producing food for humans that bees fertilize, however. Many plants they pollinate produce food for wild animals such as bird and mammals also. So this value doesn’t register immediately on a cash register or business ledger, but it is just as important. In other words whole ecosytems are also supported by the activities of bees.
Astonishing Bee Facts
- A normal honeybee colony will make up to four million flights a year, where about 100 flowers are visited in each flight. (Source: FAO.org)
- In Northern Europe, it is estimated that 75 percent of all wild blooming plants depend upon insect pollination, and most of the flowers are pollinated by honeybees and bumblebees. (Source: FAO.org)
- Lack of bees for pollination can mean a loss for the farmer of maybe 75 percent of the crop. (Source: FAO.org)
Image Credit: Muhammad Mahdi Karim