Palm Beach Beekeepers
Truck 15 Million Bees to California
California's almond industry dominates the global market, commanding 80% of worlds demand for almonds. In recent years, the state has had a steady decline in the bee population due to drought, loss of habitat due to new development and uncontrolled fires, and colony collapse. Beekeepers across the country are answering the call from major growers by boarding up their beehives, and sending them to the Golden State.
More than 15-million bees from South Florida are being loaded up to cross country in time to pollinate the annual February flowering of the vast almond orchards throughout California. For those in the apiary biz, February is known as the “Super Bowl of Beekeeping,” as it is the largest pollination event in the entire world.
Local Palm Beach Gardens beekeepers, Al Salopek and Sierra Malnove are prepping 500 beehives, with a count of 30,000 bees per hive, to be shipped by semi-trailer trucks for the annual pollination of the state’s 1.6 million acres of almond trees. The Palm Beach bees will be making the 3-day trip to California and then spend the month of February foraging on the flowering almond trees. Importing bees aids the $7-billion almond industry in business.
“Bees have to be strong to travel 2,800 miles across the country,” said Al Salopek, former vice president of the Florida Beekeepers Association. “We’ve been sending our bees to California's Central Valley annually for the last five years. Here on the honey farm, we put in long hours to get our 500 hives travel ready, including prepping food for the bees, and attaching GPS trackers to the hives,” said Salopek. The importance of importing bees from Florida, Texas and other warm weather states is a key factor, as bees stay dormant during the cold winter months, and transporting them from northern states puts the bee colonies under great stress.
Almond trees need cross-pollination, and honeybees play an essential role in moving pollen from tree to tree, setting the crop. Almond trees start flowering in early February, and they only bloom for one month. In fact, every almond that is produced exists because a honeybee pollinated an almond blossom. It is estimated that 1 million tons of almonds are sold around the world annually. The soaring popularity of almonds is due, in part, to the rise of plant-based milks, cereal mixes, and packaged snacks.
Florida honeybees will arrive in late January. Salopek’s “Palm Beach Bees” will be buzzing into orchards along with another 30 billion bees sourced from around the country to begin working as vital pollinators in the almond orchards.