NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

No More Bee-Pocalypse

July 13, 2015

The media has warned us of a "beepocalypse" posing a "threat to our food supply." By 2013, NPR declared that bee declines may cause "a crisis point for crops," and the cover of Time magazine foretold of a "world without bees." This spring, beekeepers reported losing 42.1 percent of their colonies over the last year. 

In response, the Obama administration announced the creation of a pollinator-health task force to develop a "federal strategy" to promote honeybees and other pollinators. Last month the task force unveiled its long-awaited plan that aims to reduce honeybee-colony losses to "sustainable" levels and create 7 million acres of pollinator-friendly habitat at a cost of $82 million. 

But there are more honeybee colonies in the United States today than there were in 2006. 

  • In fact, according to data released in March by the Department of Agriculture, U.S. honeybee-colony numbers are now at a 20-year high.
  • And those colonies are producing plenty of honey. U.S. honey production is also at a 10-year high.
  • Commercial beekeepers have adapted to higher winter honeybee losses by actively rebuilding their colonies. This is often done by splitting healthy colonies into multiple hives and purchasing new queen bees to rebuild the lost hives. By doing so, beekeepers are maintaining healthy and productive colonies — all part of a robust and extensive market for pollination services.

What about beekeepers themselves? Rebuilding lost colonies takes extra work, but so far most beekeepers seem adept at doing so. Rucker and Thurman find that the prices for new queen bees have remained stable, even with increased demand. Pollination fees, the fees beekeepers charge farmers to provide pollination services, have increased for only a few crops. 

With U.S. honeybee colonies now at a 20-year high, you have to wonder: Is our national pollination strategy a solution in search of a crisis? 

Source: Shawn Regan, "Bee-pocalypse Now?" Property and Environment Research Center, June 5, 2015.


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