Seeds for bees program helps hive health

FRESNO, Calif.

Pretty flowers provide the pollen and protein bees need to survive. The bees are constantly foraging through Valley gardens.

Over the years massive bee deaths due to pesticides, mites and disease led to the formation of Project Apis m.

Los Banos beekeeper Gene Brandi said, "Project Apis m comes from Apis mellifera, which is the genus and species of the honey bee."

Brandi said beekeepers continue to report alarming losses in their hives. "We've probably had the worst winter loss as an industry nationwide that we've ever had. The official numbers are not yet out but I would anticipate those numbers might be around 40%."

The project provides free wildflower seeds for interested growers. Brandi said, "I don't know how many growers will take advantage of this but every little bit helps."

Honeybees from around the globe are brought in to pollinate Valley almond orchards every year but the blossom doesn't last long. Hive numbers decrease as the bees find it difficult to find other sources of protein, especially during dry years.

Project Apis m board chairman Gordon Wardell explained, "When the cherries, the plums and almonds are in bloom it's just wall to wall flowers but then when those flowers fade there's nothing there for the bees. It's a desert as far as the bees are concerned."

Wardell has planted test plots to see which wildflowers the bees seem to like best but if it's bright the bees are sure to land.

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