The next seven days are known as National Pollinator Week — a time to celebrate the bees and the people who make wonderful products possible, including our Almondmilks. Did you know, according to the Almond Board of California, that 90 U.S. crops are pollinated by commercial honey bees annually? So, pretty much, bees may have had a hand (wing?) in making many of the foods you enjoy on the reg. That’s right: our tastebuds owe a big, fat thank you to these wonderfully buzzy creatures.
In fact, almond trees are 100% bee-pollinated, so you can imagine how important these pollinators are to us (and hopefully you, too). We like to think of them as the sous chefs of Califia Farms.
In our supply chain, another big player in the pollination process is the Gardiner family — a trio of third-generation farmers who run the family-owned Gardiner Farms, from which we source much of our almond supply. We’re proud to partner with the Gardiners, especially because of their intense — and admirable — love of the land they keep. They live on their land with their bee population, so the bees are guaranteed a happy home with plenty of activity. From the soil floor, to the beekeeping, to the almond processing, the Gardiner family runs a vertically-integrated operation.
Every year, the Gardiners take the bees on a national tour, stopping in various states to let the bees pollinate other crops. And once they get back to the Central Valley of California, they cross-pollinate five varieties of almonds: Nonpareil, Monterey, Butte, Padre, and Fritz. (Side note: Did you know there are over 30 varieties of almonds? Truth.) The Gardiners planted these five almond varieties not only for their unique flavors and attributes, but also to avoid monoculture, since the trees they grow on all pollinate at different times. (It’s kind of like having three flavors of Almondmilk in your fridge but only drinking one — you’ll be fresh out of stock quickly!) In order to pollinate, bees need to get pollen from two different varietals to create one almond. Nuts, right?
Let’s break down the full timeline of bee pollination:
December – January: The bees rest in Tejon, California. This is a dormant period with very little activity and minimal feeding, when queen bees slow down to lay some eggs. The bees start to build up the hive, and hives are placed near blooming wildflowers to support them.
February – March: Bees make their way to the almond groves to kick off the year, where almonds are their first major food source. There’s no honey extraction during almond feeding, as this helps the colonies get stronger after hibernation. (When bees wake up from hibernation, they’re very sleepy and hungry, naturally.) The colony grows so quickly that they outgrow their hives and hives are split in two; the bee population generally grows between 10-20% during this time.
March – May: The bees pollinate orange blossom and some pomegranate in the foothills of California, which has perfect access to wildflower blooms. This is when honey extraction begins.
May – September: Bees go on a tour of the country to chase pollen and help pollinate various crops. In North Dakota, they feast on wild clover — the Gardiners avoid placing bees near canola (a GMO crop) — and, in Maine, they pollinate delicious blueberries.
November – December: The hibernating bees are stored in safe, temperature-controlled shelter in North Dakota and Maine before returning to California for the start of the next pollination season. Then they begin all over again!
Who knew, right? The secret life of bees is pretty freaking fascinating. We hope you now have the scoop on the importance of pollinators and bees — now, go out and celebrate National Pollinators Week your way. If your life has been made better by them, drop us a line on Twitter @CalifiaFarms. We’d love to hear how they’ve impacted your life!