Happy Bees, Healthy Trees : ) The bees here are as busy as ever. With multiple ponds offering accessible water, and a diverse variety of cultivated groves and native landscapes, it’s a great place to be a bee.
The most common and popular pollinator, the European Honeybee (Apis Millefera), has been aiding mankind with a variety of uses and products since the time of the ancient Egyptians and likely well before that. The domestication of the honeybee has led to a steady flow of sweet honey as well as a number of scientific advances from common salves treating things like topical burns, to successfully using bee venom to treat breast cancer.
Farmers, particularly those of commonly pollinated crops like apples and strawberries, are heavily reliant on bees for plant reproduction and therefore yields. The resulting dependency means that farmers use bees as an agricultural tool, kind of like livestock. They will even truck bees into their fields from far distances, just for short periods of time to pollinate their apple orchard or strawberry fields, at the exact right time, just as all the little white flowers buds begin to open and come into bloom. Many of these farmers have been hard hit as bee population declines have made commercial bees more expensive and in short supply. To give some figures, the California almond market currently brings in about $21 billion annually and needs around 1.9 million honeybees – that’s close to 75% of all commercial bees in the United States!
Healthy soils are crucial for wild bees because much like bumblebees, 70% of the 20,000 wild bees, borough, nest, and build their homes in the ground. This means that commercial farming practices like tilling, ploughing, spraying pesticides, and using chemical fertilizers negatively impact bees and their habitats. Things like ploughing destroys nesting sites, and runoff from rain and irrigation builds up chemicals in the soil that drain right into the homes of bumblebees and their wild bee cousins. Here at Ojai Olive Oil we endeavor to keep the soil intact, and to create new homes for all of the animals and insects we want to foster here. Building owl boxes in our main oak trees is part of that, as is keeping some safe boxes for resident bees. Here we also don’t move our bees around. They get to live out their lives in one place, not being shuttled around the country as pollinators for whatever is in season at the moment.
We’re quite happy about the symbiotic relationship we have with our buzzing buddies, and look forward to offering sanctuary to more hives in the future.