This past spring, I was lucky enough to get an assignment from The Weather Channel to shoot a story about the rise in bee theft up in Bakersfield, California (approximately 2 hours north of Los Angeles).
Unbeknownst to me, each spring, one of the largest honeybee pollination events in the entire world occurs in Bakersfield as millions of bees are used to pollinate the thousands upon thousands of acres of almond trees in the Central Valley. If a bloom on an almond tree does not get pollinated, you don’t get an almond. To make that pollination more efficient and effective, farmers rent beehives to place in their groves.
I’ll let a quote from the accompanying article on Weather.com sum it up better:
“In the California Central Valley, farmers have planted 800,000 acres of almond orchards. Every year, beekeepers bring millions of beehives from across the country to pollinate the almond trees. But with the bees come bee thieves…
It may be a surprise to some, but most of the money in commercial beekeeping doesn’t come from honey production – it comes from pollination rental fees. The bees collect pollen and nectar, the plants become pollinated, the farmers get better yields and the beekeepers get paid. While different crops rely on bees for pollination in different ways, one plant requires lots of bees: the almond tree. Together, expanding almond orchards and a lack of bees have helped make beekeeping a profitable profession – and attracted thieves.”
Having transitioned into a full-time video job, it was refreshing for me to get back to still photography and have the entire day to work on a photo story. The writer and I focused on one beekeeper — Joe Romance — and his business of providing bees to the almond farmers in Bakersfield. We watched as they branded their bee boxes (the only real way to mark the hives as yours) and followed Romance into the fields where his employees worked with the hives.
With healthy fear of angry swarms of bees, I was definitely a bit nervous at first about shooting this assignment. However, I was surprised when I drove home that evening without a single sting on me.
Now that the embargo/exclusivity period is over for these photos, I wanted to share a few here on the blog: