Last summer, honey bee hives pollinating orchards in SoCal, from Fresno to Bakersfield, took a hard hit. Eric Mussen, an apiculturist with the UC Cooperative Extension and specialist with the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, points to tank mixing formulas as the culprit behind what he estimates at over 80,0000 colonies lost. According to Mussen, chemicals often not thought to be harmful to bees can turn deadly when mixed.
Which is why last month’s California Almond Board’s report detailing best practices for protecting honey bees advised almond growers not to use any tank mixing formulas during bloom. Mussen says the report includes sound information and recommendations, but it won’t mean much for the bees’ survival if not implemented by the broader agricultural community, not just almond growers.
“This message has to reach and impact individuals like pest control advisors, who decide what chemicals will be used and in what manner, if this effort is to prove effective,” Mussen says.
Valeri Strachan-Severson oversees some 11,000 hives at Strachan Apiaries. This year, the hives she put on sunflowers near corn crops came back weak.
“I believe the GMO corn affected those colonies, so I’m doubtful I’ll do summer pollination in the future,” she says.
While Strachan-Severson believes cooperation between apiarists and growers is a step in the right direction, she says there must be an increased emphasis on protecting honey bees prior to bloom and more attention paid to how pesticides are regulated on nearby orchards.
“It is getting more difficult to keep the bees alive,” she says. “And I don’t have answers.”
Learn more about the plight of honey bees, and keepers like Strachan-Severson, in Allison Joy’s November feature, “As the Bees Go.” Sign up for our newsletter, and we’ll let you know when it’s available online.
Doug Thomas stops his white pickup along the elevated dirt road that carves through the acres of newly planted rice stalks in Wheatland, Calif.
In this scene, replete with a myriad of migratory birds lazily grazing in the green fields, change is soon to come. The landscape, Thomas says, will be transformed into an oasis for waterfowl and shorebirds that will find a man-made wetlands to call home on their annual migration this fall.
Despite living near some of the most productive farmland on earth, many Sacramentans are unable to find produce that’s both fresh and affordable in their own neighborhoods.
Code for America works with cities around the country, using open-source software to improve the scalability and reach of government services. Starting next year, Code for America fellows will work with the Sacramento Area Council of Governments and the city of West Sacramento using technology to tackle issues related to health care and food access in the city.
If you’re one of those motorists who describe the whole DMV experience as slow, torturous and/or dystopian, consider the cow.