Author(s): Roger A Morse, Nicholas W Calderone
Based on a study of the figures published by the National Agricultural Statistics Service of the USDA, interviews with beekeepers, extensionists and researchers, we estimate that there were 2,500,000 colonies rented for pollination purposes in 1998. This is up from 2,035,000 in 1989, representing an 18.6 percent increase. Most of this increase is explained by two phenomena. One is the growth of the almond industry in California, which accounts for an additional 300,000 of these colonies. The other is the population of the United States, which has grown by approximately 10 percent in the last decade, accounting for a 10 percent increase in food production and at the same time a need for an additional 200,000 colonies of bees. Most of these colonies were rented for use on two crops and in some cases three. For all of United States agriculture, the marginal increase in the value attributable to honey bees - that is, the value of the increased yield and quality achieved through pollination by honey bees alone - was $9.3 billion in 1989 and is $14.6 billion today (a 36.3 percent increase). Between 20 and 25 percent of that increase is due to inflation. The rest is a result of an increased demand for pollinated food by an increasing population.