The value of the California almond industry is currently estimated at $6 billion. Almond growers heavily rely on the application of fungicides at bloom to prevent brown rot blossom blight caused by Monilinia laxa, which can severely reduce yields. Almond nut set is also almost completely dependent on successful pollination by rented honey bee colonies. However, beekeepers have been reporting annual losses of up to 45%. Among several underlying causes is exposure to agrochemicals that potentially includes synthetic fungicides. Reducing the amount of conventional fungicides by utilizing honey bees as delivery agents for biological control of brown rot (via competition) has the potential to reduce the use of conventional fungicides leading to a safer environment for honey bees as well as other pollinators. This will ensure there are enough colonies available to secure the future pollination of the growing almond acreage and likely stabilize the colony rental prices. Use of honey bees to deliver biocontrol agents could possibly reduce water use and costs associated with fungicide sprays. This delivery method may also improve coverage of flowers over fungicides applied by conventional air-blast sprayers leading to an improved fruit set. Additionally, many other California crops requiring pollination (apples, avocados, cherries, melons, plums, pumpkins, sunflowers, squash, etc.) are likely to also benefit from this project as the proposed concept can have broad application beyond almonds.

Presenter: Dr. Elina Niño, University of California-Davis

Elina L. Niño is an Assistant Specialist in Cooperative Extension in Apiculture, UC ANR UCCE located in the Department of Entomology and Nematology at UC Davis. Through her extension activities, Dr. Niño works to support beekeepers and the beekeeping industry. She serves as the research liaison on the CSBA Board and as a member of the Bee Taskforce for the Almond Board of California. Her lab also offers a variety of beekeeping courses and educational opportunities for beekeepers, future beekeepers, other agricultural professionals and the public. Most recently, her lab has implemented the first California Master Beekeeper Program. Dr. Niño’s research interests encompass basic and applied approaches to understanding and improving honey bee health and particularly honey bee queen health. Ongoing research projects include understanding queen mating and reproductive processes, testing novel biopesticides for efficacy against varroa mites, and evaluating orchard management practices with a goal of improving honey bee health. If you would like to learn more about the E. L. Niño Bee Lab you can visit