Created By: Maryland Agricultural Resource Council
Beekeeping is a vital national interest. Worldwide, 87 of the leading 115 food crops depend on animals for pollination, accounting for 35 percent of global food production, according to the U.S. government. That’s more than one in three bites consumed.
Beekeepers come in all sizes ranging from the backyard enthusiast who manages only a few hives to the commercial beekeepers who manage up to 50,000 colonies. Beekeeping is an industry that supplies products such as honey, bees wax, and venom as well as one that sells pollination services, an essential component to agricultural production.
The USDA estimated in 2012, the gross revenue generated from employing managed bees for pollination services in 2012 totaled $655.6 million. Farmers pay the beekeepers to bring their hives to their fields and orchards. They pay because the results are indisputable. Honey bee pollination alone adds more than $15 billion in value to agricultural crops each year. For example, honeybees increase almond yields from an estimated 40 lbs/acre to an average of 2,400 lbs/acre
The U.S. produces 85% of the world’s almond crop. During winter, more than half of all bees kept in the U.S. are transported to California to boost yields in the spring. It takes two hives to pollinate an acre of almond trees. In 2005, farmers paid beekeepers $157 per hive for pollination services. During peak pollination season, a healthy, mature bee colony can fetch more than $200
Most of the honeybee thefts are centered in major beekeeping locations. In the U.S. California has more registered commercial beekeepers than any other state, followed by Texas, Florida, North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana. These six states account for 63% of all private beekeeping entities in the U.S. according to the USDA. Authorities believe that some of the thefts arise from beekeepers that need hives to fulfill their contracts with farmers. Others are stealing for the honey - and discarding the bees. But small scale and backyard beekeepers are not immune from the epidemic.
Beekeeping is not inexpensive. The purchase all of the equipment necessary for the enterprise, including protective clothing, tools, and hive box can total between $300-$500. That doesn’t include the bees. A starter colony of bees can cost upwards of $175. The loss of a hive to natural causes, is unfortunate, but normal in the field of beekeeping. Theft, on the other hand, is not.
This point of interest is part of the tour: Maryland Agricultural Resource Council Trail Blazer