Postcard from Hughson

In California's Central Valley, almonds are big business--but they need more and more increasingly scarce bees to stay that way. Amid the blossoms, a buzz of worry

Anne Hamersky for Time

Beekeeper Orin Johnson checks on hives in an orchard. Two hives can pollinate one acre.

The white boxes parked in California's almond orchards this time of year are easy to spot. Stacked in sets of four or six, they squat between dead-straight rows of trees awash in blossoms. (A walk through an almond orchard in early March is not unlike a stroll past a department-store perfume counter.) From afar, the boxes look as if they might provide a weary farmer a place to sit or store his tools. But get close enough under the right conditions--dry, above 55°, no more than a light breeze--and you can hear and see one of the most vital relationships in...

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