Last year an online pesticide notification tool known as BeeWhere was launched as a way to improve the system for heading off accidental colony exposures. The program has nearly hit its target of registering 1.5 million honeybee colonies in the state since July 2019, according to CDFA. The USDA estimate for colonies in California last year peaked at about 1.8 million, with many coming from outside the state.

Kern County tops the list, at 166,000 colonies, and Tulare, Fresno and Merced counties are close behind. More than 19,000 notifications, or “bee checks,” have been sent to applicators, growers and pest control advisors. These alerts notify when a colony is nearby and spraying should be postponed.

Of the bee checks, just 25% were run by farmers. This raised concerns among members of CDFA’s apiary advisory board during a meeting yesterday. Some worried that coordinating the phone app, web platform and email was too much of a technology leap for farmers.

Sandy Elles, executive director of the California Agricultural Commissioners and Sealers Association, however, said it could simply be a user error. 

“I fear that some growers and applicators may think that it's automated. It is not,” she said, explaining that users must sign up to be notified.

The coalition is looking into a software update to allow them to better track the metrics based on pesticide use reports. Others suggested making BeeWhere more accessible by integrating it into more widely used platforms like Agrian. For now, the answer is more outreach to growers.