SACRAMENTO — It’s almond blossom time in California. Not only does this season bring beautiful flowers to the state, but it also brings bees. Lots of bees.
“It’s really important that we protect bees,” said Louie Mendoza, Agricultural Commissioner in Northern California’s Butte County. “Bees are so important to the farmers in our state and for producing foods we love – like almonds.”
Protecting bees continues to be the focus of California laws to prevent bees from being accidentally sprayed with pesticides as they work to pollinate California’s fruit, nut and vegetable crops.
California has the most stringent pesticide laws and regulations in the world and its system of county agriculture commissioners plays a huge role. The job of ag commissioners, like Mendoza, is to monitor pesticide applications to ensure they’re safe – not just to protect people and the environment, but to protect bees too.
“At this very minute, there are probably 2.5 million beehives in almond orchards throughout the state,” said Mendoza adding that in February and March, these hives will be picked up and moved from one orchard or field to another as California crops begin to bloom. “Keeping track of and protecting all these bees is a massive job.”
But now, a new integrated internet-based system known as BeeWhere is showing ag commissioners exactly where hives are located so they can be more effective at keeping bees from being accidentally sprayed.
“BeeWhere’s GIS mapping technology protects my bees and the millions of other bees out there pollinating California crops by letting pesticide applicators know they’re there,” says Buzz Landon, of Buzz’s Bees in Richvale, CA.
Here’s how BeeWhere works:
All beekeepers with pollinators working in the state of California are required to register with the County Ag Commissioner’s office and to report relocation of beehives within 72 hours of when they are moved.
Beekeepers can visit county ag commissioners’ offices and register in person. But even better, BeeWhere now allows them to use their computer, laptop or mobile phone to register and then ‘drop a pin’ at the very site where their hives are placed in orchards located anywhere in the state.
“Computer technology available through BeeWhere makes it so much easier and faster for me to provide information on the exact location of my beehives,” said Landon. “Most importantly, BeeWhere provides my contact information to pesticide applicators so they can notify me if they plan to spray near my beehives. That way, we can stop the application or move the bees so they’re not affected.”
On the other side of the equation, BeeWhere has been integrated to work with another California internet-based system called Cal Ag Permits, which is used whenever an applicator plans to spray a pesticide in California. If BeeWhere indicates there are beehives within a one-mile radius of a planned application of a pesticide toxic to bees, the applicator will automatically be alerted and provided with contact information for the beekeepers who own those hives.
“Almond farmers are taking every possible precaution to protect bees and one way to do that is make sure the beekeepers we hire register with BeeWhere,” said Derek Sohnrey, an almond farmer in Nelson, CA. “We also need to make sure pesticide applicators are checking in with Beewhere before they spray. BeeWhere keeps everyone aware and informed so we can avoid accidents and mistakes that may harm bees.”
“But the system won’t work if beekeepers don’t use it,” stresses Landon. “That means all beekeepers need to register through BeeWhere. This includes beekeepers who live here in California as well as the thousands of beekeepers who bring beehives from out of state into California during almond bloom.”
Landon notes that information about the location of beehives is only available to ag commissioners. This is important because beehive theft and vandalism is a problem.
“BeeWhere makes sure our information is kept confidential and used only to prevent harm to bees,” he says.
“Everyone needs to do their part.” said Mendoza. “That means – beekeepers, pesticide applicators and farmers must all BeeWhere.”
A number of outreach and education programs are underway to help make sure beekeepers, farmers and pest control businesses know about BeeWhere. More information is available at www.beewherecalifornia.com and on the website of the California State Beekeepers Association here.
–California State Beekeepers Association
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