Nationwide, beekeepers have lost about 30 percent of their honeybees over the past eight years from too many pesticides, disease and colony collapse disorder.
In California, beekeepers have an extra worry – bees can’t find enough food because of the drought.
“The perennial plants that we rely on for honey production after three years of drought have pretty dry roots at this point and we’ve not been able to produce even close to average honey crops any time in the past three years,” says Gene Brandi, a Los Banos beekeeper and Vice President of the American Beekeeper Federation.
Some beekeepers in California will receive disaster assistance for colony losses suffered from 2011 to 2013. The funding comes from the USDA’s Emergency Assistance Program for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-raised fish.
In California, 95-percent of the applicants were beekeepers.
“This program is a means for some of these folks to at least get a little bit of payment for their bee losses to try to keep them in business and hopefully they can stay in business," says Brandi. "A lot of beekeepers have already gone out of business because of the losses so we’re hoping that we don’t lose too many more.”
The USDA will provide California beekeepers an estimated $5 million for losses. The health of honeybees across the country affects California agriculture. 1.7 million bee colonies are needed just to pollinate the state’s almond crop.