Twelve bee hives were destroyed by someone driving through an almond orchard north of Manteca along Lovelace Road over the weekend.
Deputies with the San Joaquin County Sherriff’s Office were left with a few clues. Not only was part of the vehicle’s fender found but so was a license plate.
The vandalism is the latest in a string of similar incidents that have destroyed hives in the South County including Ripon. Hives in another orchard not far from the Lovelace incident were also vandalized,
“Most of the blooms have set,” bee broker Paula Juarez said of the almond orchards the bees were brought in from throughout the West, Midwest and South to pollinate.
Almonds are the county’s No.1 crop. They rely exclusively on bees for pollination.
Not only can the loss of bees reduce blooms that means fewer almonds from trees when harvest rolls around, but it costs the beekeepers in terms of lost honey, lost larvae for the next generation of bees as well as actual damage to the hive itself. The destruction of a typical hive translates into a $3,000 in initial losses. But since the almond bloom season is the first stop on a national circuit where bee hives are transported to where they are needed to pollinate other crops, the beekeeper will incur loss of revenue from leasing or renting their hives to other farmers as the year unfolds.
Making matters worse, flooding has destroyed more than 200 hives in almond orchards elsewhere in San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties.
The California almond pollination season is the biggest mobilization of bee hives in the world. It brings hives from the majority of states in the Lower 48 to California. Almonds are also the first crop to get pollinated by bees each year.
There are roughly 80,000 bees per hive. Typically farmers need about two hives per acre. There are a handful of bee brokers in the Central Valley that bring beekeepers from as far away as Texas and Montana to almond growers who need the bees. Juarez along with her partner and mother Charleen Carroll places bees from Manteca to as far south as Fresno.
In California, there are 890,000 acres of nut bearing almond orchards including 40,000 acres in the South San Joaquin Irrigation District. It is a $5.33 billion statewide crop with San Joaquin County’s share coming in at $433 million. Most of that is from orchards around Manteca, Ripon, and Escalon.
About 560 billion bees are used in the 40,000 acres of almond orchards surrounding Manteca, Ripon, and Escalon.
Commercial box hives pollinate $15 billion worth of crops in the United States.
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