Project Apis m. (PAm) is looking for almond cooperators this fall to further demonstrate the potential for bee forage in almond orchards as a pre- or postbloom food resource. The organization provides growers with technical assistance and seed mix sources that are adapted to their particular orchard characteristics and growing region.

PAm is a nonprofit research group funded by growers and beekeepers to enhance the health of honey bees and improve crop production potential.

Seed mixes are ideally planted in time to take advantage of fall rains for germination. PAm is partnering with groups such as The Xerces Society’s Pollinator Conservation Resource Center to develop seed mixes favorable to bee pasture under different growing conditions.

Christi Heintz, who manages pollination research for the almond industry and PAm, says almond growers have a long history of supporting habitat for beneficial insects within their orchards, and this work on honey bee forage is a natural extension of that commitment. Providing bees with good nutrition through diverse food resources, including forage as a supplemental food source before and after almond bloom, can strengthen the overall health of these important beneficial insects.

Ultimately, providing forage in and around orchards can also reduce pollination costs for growers through reduced hive rental fees, and also provide potential advantages in the orchard such as improved soil nutrition and water infiltration, or reduced runoff and/or erosion.

Growers interested in participating with Project Apis m. can email Meg Ribotto at PAm. Ongoing field trials initiated in fall 2011 aim to develop strategies for providing supplemental food resources for honey bees before and after almond bloom in California through planted bee pasture. The trials are funded by a Specialty Crops Grant through the California State Beekeepers Association (CSBA) and managed by PAm.

These ongoing trials are looking at the potential for planting native and nonnative flowering plants such as mustards, legumes and regional wildflower mixes either as cover crops or between trees in the interior of orchards, or outside orchards along perimeters or margins, or access roads and waterways.

Demonstration plots last year throughout California almond-growing regions in Glenn, Colusa, Stanislaus and Kern Counties illustrated some of the potential benefits and suggested practices for planting honey bee forage near almond trees.

This is a summary of an article that was published in Western Farm Press, Sept. 1, 2012, page 14, and online Aug 16.