Almonds are a nearly $3 billion industry here in the San Joaquin Valley—but without honeybees to pollinate the trees, there would be no harvest. By some estimates, as much as 90 percent of the country’s bees are trucked to California for the almond bloom.
In 2014, however, beekeepers nationwide reported that almost half of all honeybee colonies had collapsed. It was a terrifying time for growers. But one recent study is helping to untangle the mystery: It may relate to the mixing of insecticides and fungicides during almond bloom. And thanks to an industry partnership, the research already appears to be changing how the crop is managed.
In this interview, we speak with Reed Johnson, an entomologist at the Ohio State University and the senior author of the study, and Bob Curtis, a pollination consultant and the former Director of Agricultural Affairs for the Almond Board of California, about the implications of the study and what pesticide use data means for almond management practices.