Helping Bees with Cover Crops Helps Orchards

Keeping Pollinating Bees in Almond Orchards

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

California Ag Today recently spoke with Billy Synk, director of pollination programs with project Apis M, a group whose goal is to fund and direct research for the health of honey bees. Synk discussed bees and cover crops in almond orchards.

“They have a preference for the almonds bloom,” he explained.

Almond blossoms have 25 percent protein. The structure of the flower is also a lot more open, making it easier to get into than other flowers.

“UC Davis has done research on bloom competition. It really is not a valid concern as much as you want to keep bees on a specific crop or in a specific area. So if you’re able to provide that alternative flowers right underneath the trees, you’re just going to keep them from wandering off,” Synk said.

Cover crops are planted around almond orchards to stimulate honeybees. One of these mixes is called PAm mustard mix.

“That master mix has canola, three different species of mustard, and then daikon radishes,” he said. “The white daikon radish is not just for the honeybees; it benefits the soil as well. Its long taproot breaks up compacted soil and provides much needed organic matter when it decomposes.”

Project Apis m. Helps Almond Growers Empower Bees

Project Apis m. Helps Almond Growers Empower Bees

With Free Flowering Forage

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Deputy Editor


Christi Heintz, executive director for Project Apis m. (PAm), elaborated on the message she presented at the annual Almond Conference last month in Sacramento, “Our purpose at the Almond Industry Conference was to meet growers and talk to them about planting additional forage before and after almond pollination. These are times of dearth when honey bees are not getting the nutrition they need and beekeepers have to feed tremendous amounts of sugar syrup or high-fructose corn syrup to keep the bees alive,” Heintz said.

Project Apis m.Established as a non-profit organization in 2006, PAm has the goal of funding and directing research to enhance the health and vitality of honey bee colonies while improving crop production. Heintz explained PAm.—named after Apis mellifera, the scientific name for the European honey bee—offers farmers free mustard mix for pre-almond bloom or clover mix for post-almond bloom to extend the season of nutrition availability for bees when they are most vulnerable. The increase in forage also benefits bees by providing additional natural and more diverse sources of nutrition resulting in better pollination and increased crop yields.

Heintz wants more growers to take part in the program. She reemphasized, “Honey bees love almonds, but we worry about those times just before and just after bloom. If you can get something going before bloom, you’ll get bee colonies that want to go out and forage for pollen, and they will be in great shape for almond pollination,”Heintz said.

Heintz enthusiastically urges growers to get involved by contacting PAm at and ask about forage seed mix to plant for honeybees. Growers can also go to the Project Apis m. website and to their web page For the Almond Grower.

Heintz has managed research, including pollination research since 1979, and has focused on honey bees since 2006. She also manages the Environmental Sustainability Program and production research for the Almond Board of California.