Bruce, SD | March 10, 2022 – Six Edmunds Central students and two teachers explored the field and orchards of Bakersfield, California. The educational trip was a kick off to a series of three Specialty Crop Block Grant funded field experiences made available through the USDA. The field experience series focuses on the remarkable impact that South Dakota’s bees have on our food supply. Specifically, Edmunds Central students are following the bees that are managed by Adee Honey Farms from the Roscoe location as they are staged for pollination of the almond bloom in the orchards of California. Later in March Edmunds Central students will be visiting the queening and colony formation site Adee Honey Farms runs in Woodville, Mississippi, and then will be returning to California in July to see the produce that results from the pollination. All of these field experiences will be used to develop curriculum for the Honey Production Education Institute to be held in Roscoe in August.
The almond pollination that runs from February into March involves so many bees from across the United States that it is often dubbed the “Super Bowl” of pollination. Since there are more than a million acres of almonds to pollinate with an ideal two hives per acre needed for adequate pollination, every available hive in the United States is currently in California. Nearly the entire nation’s 3 million hives are required for the almond pollination. To put our bees’ impact into perspective, Roscoe’s Adee Honey Farms site manages approximately 36,000 colonies of bees. Each colony contains at least 20,000 bees. Each bee pollinates enough blooms to produce approximately 20 almonds. That is 14 billion almonds!
After landing in Bakersfield on Thursday, we were guests at Bret and Connie Adee’s home for supper as we discussed the significance of what bees do for agriculture. On the following Friday and Saturday, Bret Adee gave a personal VIP tour of some of the producers and packers that work with crops Adee Honey Farms pollinates. We toured a diversity of locations consisting of everything from blueberry to orange orchards. One place we toured was Bejo Seeds, which utilizes Adee Honey bees to pollinate specific crosses of onions to produce seeds that will eventually be planted to develop into onion sets and then retail onions; few people ever think of the bees that make this possible. Additionally, Adee Honey bees are used to produce crosses for carrots, asparagus, broccoli, and cauliflower seeds. We also visited an almond orchard that contracts pollination with Adee Honey and a shelling facility that removes the husks and shells from almonds. In order to learn about how a bee colony functions, students donned bee suits to get inside the hives. Students were tasked with going through the hives frame by frame to see if they could identify the queen while Bret discussed what we were seeing on each frame. During the three days we were with Bret Adee, our group learned so much about so many crops from pollination to seeding to fruiting and harvesting. We were incredibly fortunate to learn from someone with such a vast knowledge of all agriculture topic relating to bees. This was truly a remarkable learning experience for our students.
**Story and photos provided by Spencer Cody; written for publication in the Ipswich Tribune**
It took an Adee Honey bee to make that onion possible. An employee of Bejo Seeds is showing Edmunds Central students a plot of onion varieties that will be crossed upon flowering. Bees are needed to cross varieties of onions in order to produce the onion sets that can be planted to produce a marketable onion. Since onions are difficult to pollinate and only specific crosses are desired to produce a specific variety, bees are placed in tents that cover only the onions that are to be crossed. It takes thousands of crosses of new varieties to bring a new or improved version of an onion variety to market.
A local almond producer (left) and Bret Adee (right) discuss how bees are needed to produce the almond crop with students. In this producer’s orchard, two different varieties of almonds are alternated every row to have compatible blooms for pollination. Since bees are only actively pollinating when it is 55 F or warmer, hives are placed around the orchard with direct sun exposure and have their lids painted black for increased sunlight absorption in order to maximize flight hours for bees during the week by increasing the temperature of the hives on cool winter days.
A local almond shelling employee talks to Edmunds Central students over a box of 2,200 lbs. of shelled almonds about how almonds are processed for shipping. The husks on almond shells are stripped from the shell and are used for cattle feed while the shells are ground up and are used for bedding. Usually, only the meat of an almond is shipped to American and European markets while Chinese and Indian markets prefer nuts with the shells remaining on them in order for shells to be manually removed in China or India to produce an almond with no scratches or chips.
Frame by frame Edmunds Central students dig through Adee Honey hives after donning bee suits in order to discuss how a bee colony functions with Bret Adee. Students were tasked with smoking and opening up hives and removing frames in order to identify the queen. These same hives were in the Roscoe area up until November of last year and will return in the spring.