Magnolias are not the only trees in full flower now in the Santa Clara Valley — the almonds, too are coated with white blossoms.
California is the largest almond producer in the world, harvesting 80% of the world’s crop over almost 1 million acres. Almond production is almost entirely dependent on the services of about 2 million hives of honeybees, trucked into the orchards just as the trees reach peak flowering.
Almonds are just one of the many crops that honeybees pollinate, as they are moved from farm to farm to perform their service. Although almond varieties that are self-fertile (thus, not requiring pollinator services) have been developed, the yield is far less than bee-pollinated varieties, and the nuts are harder-shelled and less nutritious.
Apples, cherries, blueberries, avocados, oranges, melons of all sorts, cucumbers — all are heavily dependent on bee pollination. All told, it has been estimated that honeybees alone add about $29 billion value to the U.S. farm economy.
We know that honeybees are suffering declines due to pesticides, neonicotinoids, mites, and for perhaps a host of other reasons that lead to the “colony collapse disorder” in honeybee hives. It’s hard to imagine what our diets would be like without the services of this small insect that is so crucial to our crop production.