Research Mentor(s)

Troy Abel

Description

People love almonds and honey bees. The honey bee is the only agriculturally-reliable pollinator of almond trees. California produces the entire domestic supply of almonds, and ~80% of the international supply. In early spring, nearly all of the commercially-managed beehives in the nation travel by truck to California to pollinate the almond orchards. They remain for a mere few weeks and then move on to other areas to service other crops or to seek honey forage. Migratory beekeepers are the linchpin that keeps the wheels of this particular agricultural system in motion. Without the migratory beekeeping industry, California's multi-billion dollar almond crop would not exist. But, half of the honey bees needed for pollination come from out-of-state, and the cross-country transportation of the hives contributes to the agro-industrial carbon footprint. Unfortunately, too, the close quarters inherent in bee transport serve as a transfer mechanism for the ectoparasitic mite Varroa destructor, who is itself a vector for several honey bee pathogens (viral and fungal). Furthermore, California almonds are a thirsty crop, whose one million+ acres use between 8-11% of the state's agricultural waters. Recently, climate-influenced drought has compelled almond farmers to withdraw groundwater for irrigation. This has led to land subsidence and permanent damage to the aquifer's ability to recharge. Advertising campaigns by the California Almond Board have increased the demand for almonds, spurring economic growth and a rapid increase in the amount of almond orchard acreage. These successful marketing efforts have been congressionally-compelled and industry-funded. The result is that almond consumers support an agricultural management regime that is in ways both beneficial, and detrimental, to the ecology of honey bees and humans. Therefore, people who really *do* love almonds and honey bees should consider reducing their almond consumption and/or signaling a preference for self-pollinating almond varieties.

Document Type

Event

Start Date

15-5-2019 9:00 AM

End Date

15-5-2019 5:00 PM

Location

Carver Gym (Bellingham, Wash.)

Department

Environmental Studies

Genre/Form

student projects, posters

Type

Image

Keywords

agriculture, bees, almonds

Rights

Copying of this document in whole or in part is allowable only for scholarly purposes. It is understood, however, that any copying or publication of this document for commercial purposes, or for financial gain, shall not be allowed without the author’s written permission.

Language

English

Format

application/pdf

Share

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May 15th, 9:00 AM May 15th, 5:00 PM

Bees and Trees: The ecological ramifications of our "honey-nut" agriculture

Carver Gym (Bellingham, Wash.)

People love almonds and honey bees. The honey bee is the only agriculturally-reliable pollinator of almond trees. California produces the entire domestic supply of almonds, and ~80% of the international supply. In early spring, nearly all of the commercially-managed beehives in the nation travel by truck to California to pollinate the almond orchards. They remain for a mere few weeks and then move on to other areas to service other crops or to seek honey forage. Migratory beekeepers are the linchpin that keeps the wheels of this particular agricultural system in motion. Without the migratory beekeeping industry, California's multi-billion dollar almond crop would not exist. But, half of the honey bees needed for pollination come from out-of-state, and the cross-country transportation of the hives contributes to the agro-industrial carbon footprint. Unfortunately, too, the close quarters inherent in bee transport serve as a transfer mechanism for the ectoparasitic mite Varroa destructor, who is itself a vector for several honey bee pathogens (viral and fungal). Furthermore, California almonds are a thirsty crop, whose one million+ acres use between 8-11% of the state's agricultural waters. Recently, climate-influenced drought has compelled almond farmers to withdraw groundwater for irrigation. This has led to land subsidence and permanent damage to the aquifer's ability to recharge. Advertising campaigns by the California Almond Board have increased the demand for almonds, spurring economic growth and a rapid increase in the amount of almond orchard acreage. These successful marketing efforts have been congressionally-compelled and industry-funded. The result is that almond consumers support an agricultural management regime that is in ways both beneficial, and detrimental, to the ecology of honey bees and humans. Therefore, people who really *do* love almonds and honey bees should consider reducing their almond consumption and/or signaling a preference for self-pollinating almond varieties.

 

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