Bees Told to Buzz Off from Clementine Orchards


One of my favourite winter fruits is the clementine – it’s small and sweet, easy to peel, packs a punch with the vitamin C and it typically doesn’t have any pesky seeds.

Wait a minute! The only reason it doesn’t have seeds is because the orchard keeper has kept bees from pollinating the fruit. A seedless clementine – or any other variety of mandarin citrus such as a tangerine – attracts such a premium that growers in California want legislation to force beekeepers to move away or reduce hive density. The beekeepers would prefer the farmers netted their orchards instead. Neither side seems willing to budge.

The other reason bees are a pain for clementine growers is that they like to be able to spray their crops for pests and they’re not allowed to if there are bees nearby. As an environmentalist, I’m not so keen on pesticides and don’t think that’s such a bad thing.

The only reason that growers want seedless fruit is because consumers prefer it but if seeded varieties were the norm, then I believe consumer attitudes would soon adjust.

I like seedless clementines as much as the next person, but I’ll put up with the seeds if it keeps the bees happy, and not just because I like honey. Bees are an essential part of our eco-system and most agriculture (with the exception of clementines, bees are unambiguously welcomed by most farmers). Without bees we would lose a huge variety of wildlife and an estimated one third of our food crops.

If ornery clementine growers were the only problem bees had to contend with it wouldn’t really matter. Yet the fact is that the humble honey bee is under severe threat on both sides of the Atlantic and we could have less than a decade to save them. So they need all the help they can get and if that means seeds in my clementines then so be it.

If you are in California, you could consider writing to your local lawmakers and outlining your concerns – it’s the California Department of Food and Agriculture that is making the decision. Also see 5 ways to help stop Colony Collapse Disorder to take further action.