"No Fly Zones" For Bees

March 26, 2008 9:56:47 PM PDT
Bees may be essential to pollinating many Valley crops especially almonds but they are unwanted in certain groves.This protective practice represents a net gain on one side but a net loss for the other. Beekeepers say citrus honey is their most lucrative product. But those who grow seedless mandarin oranges say bees can ruin a crop.

Like giant spiderwebs these fishing nets protect this seedless mandarin grove. The trees will soon blossom and the nets will keep the bees away. Growers say cross-pollinating bees from other citrus orchards can produce seeds in what's supposed to be seedless fruit drastically reducing their value. Beekeeper Steve Godlin thought the nets represented progress in a heated dispute with the industry. But seedless mandarin producers aren't giving in.

Steve Godlin, Exeter Beekeeper: "They did it to protect their investment. They did it to make money to protect their crop. They knew we weren't gonna budge. They were gonna do what they had to do but they aren't happy about it."

Growers want to establish limitations on where beehives can be placed in the south Valley Citrus Belt. Beekeepers believe nets are a viable option but growers say they're too costly.

"It looks expensive but it does look like a simple solution."

Just across the road from this W-Murcott Seedless Mandarin Grove you'll find beehives have been placed to pollinate cherry trees. The dispute has forced the state to form a local co-existence group. If beekeepers and growers don't reach an agreement by June State Ag Secretary A-G Kawamura will settle the issue for them.

A.G. Kawamura: "There's a great term called peaceful co-existence and I think all the different groups are trying to arrive at a place where they can co-exist side by side. They're both important industries to our state and we know they're working towards a solution."

But after three months the two sides have agreed to disagree.

"Both sides are just dug in. we don't want to agree to some sort of reductions of where we can put bees."

The next meeting is set for May 14th that may be the last chance for the group to reach a resolution. And if the decision's left up to secretary Kawamura legal action could follow whatever the decision may be.


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