Almonds in the USA

If you have ever eaten an almond, the chances are that it was grown in America’s Golden State – California. More than 80 percent of the world’s almonds come from California, where over 100,000 jobs are related to the almond industry. But did you know that almonds couldn’t grow without pollination from honey bees? That’s why about 1.6 million colonies of honey bees are placed in California’s almond orchards at the beginning of every bloom period – to pollinate the almond crop.

A bee hive frame with the queen in the centre in an almond grove in Shafter, California.

The Challenge

Samuel Ghilarducci was born in 1981, the same year his father planted the family’s first almond orchard. Samuel, who is now in charge of the orchard, says bees are vital for a good crop. “They are such an important part of the almond industry. In fact, without the bees we wouldn’t have an industry,” he says. But in recent years, the Varroa destructor – a parasitic mite – has been attacking honey bees, and threatening the almond harvest. “If you have a Varroa infestation, you are 100 percent guaranteed to lose your colony,” adds bee specialist Dick Rogers.

An almond grove in bloom near Bakersfield in California, USA.

The Solution

Dick says he is working day-in and day-out to defeat the Varroa destructor. “To develop a treatment for mites is quite a tricky undertaking because you want it to be effective on the mites, but not harm the bees,” says Dick, who is testing both biological and synthetic pesticides for beekeepers. “We’re developing new varroacide compounds to control Varroa mites because beekeepers need more tools in their tool box.”

Miles and Sofia Leon eating a beehive cake made with almond flour and marsipan at the De Coeur Bakeshop, Bakersfield, Claifornia.