Bees are feeling the effects of the water shortage in California. The drought has impacted bees by destroying wildflowers, which are the animal’s main source of food. Bees forage on plants such as wildflowers that bloom in winter only if there is water available. Ann Beekman, whose family owns an apiary, says that the shortage of water affects the natural plant growth that bees need. Gene Brandi, a beekeeper who owns Gene Brandi Apiaries, said that bees do better during years when there are either normal or above normal amounts of rain. Brandi continues by saying that rain means more flowers and more nectar later for honey. The lack of water and wildflowers will impact honeybees while they are already under a great amount of stress. The animals have been dying in record numbers and the loss will increase food prices as well as make less food available.
Bee colonies will be getting a protein supplement and sugar syrup to make up for the lack of flowers. Brandi says that bees need nutrition and if nature does not provide it, then they will have to. The nutrition the beekeepers are providing is not enough for bees and is causing a health problem. Eric Mussen, an Extensive Apiculturist with the University of California Davis, says that the problem is that the supplemental feeds, which are the best the company can create, do not have the right amount of nutrients that can come from a good mixture of pollen. Mussen also says that the supplement causes the bees to become malnourished.
Bees will not be the only thing impacted by the drought because bee apiaries are also affected. The prices for bees have increased from $150 per hive to $200. An industry insider for apiaries said that the combination of the lack of water, a large amount of almond trees and less bees have caused a three-train wreck for growers. The combination has caused bee rental prices to increase. Tom Orvis a member of the Stanislaus County Farm Bureau, said that since water delivery is not guaranteed, farmers do not want their trees to pollinate and are canceling their bee contracts. Bradi says that he believes more beekeepers will be looking for destinations out of state for the summer season because of the dismal outlook.
Brandi also says that in addition to people such as his brother who has been leaving the state for 30 years, there will be other people who would not usually leave California but might leave it this summer in search of green pastures. Orin Johnson, owner of Johnson Apiaries and a beekeeper, said that during a regular year, they lose at least 30 percent of their hives, which they have to replace. Johnson also says the percentage is during a good year and that it can increase during a bad year.
The drought had impacted the food source of bees in California by stalling the growth of plants. Bees will produce less honey because the flowers required for pollination are not available. Beekeepers are giving bees food to keep them alive to make up for the lack of plants. Aviaries are also feeling the burn of the drought by having to pay more for hives and forcing some beekeepers to leave the state during the summer months. The honey from the hives also suffers. Brandi says that the outlook for a good honey crop for this year is not good so far. He also says that they hope for a March or April miracle, which is when the state has normal rainfall in the spring. Brandi says that they did make honey in 2011 but aside from the honey that is made in the summer in the valley from the cotton fields and the alfalfa they have not had a good honey crop since 2010.
By Jordan Bonte