Bees

By Ray Hansen, content specialist, AgMRC, Iowa State University, hansenr@iastate.edu.

Updated 2015

Overview

In the United States there are anywhere from 115,000 to 125,000 beekeepers. According to USDA reports, 2.6 million honey-producing colonies in 2013 generated 149 million pounds of raw honey, up 5% from 2012. According to the National Honey Board, per capita consumption of honey in the United States is approximately 1.3 pounds per year.

Marketing

The market for honey is currently very strong. Locally produced honey and specialty honey have increasingly strong markets. Premium prices can often be received for honey produced from the nectar of some trees such as tulip, sourwood, and basswood.

In 2013 the annual value of direct honeybee pollination to U.S. agriculture was estimated at over $19 billion, far exceeding the value of wax and honey sales.

Production

The bee-keeping industry is easily accessible; entry and exit from the industry is relatively easy.

The industry is segmented into three types of production: hobbyist, part-time and commercial. Hobby-sized operations are those with 25 colonies or less, hobbyists with less than 5 colonies are not included in the colonies reported by the USDA. Part-timers are those with 25 to 300 colonies, and commercial operations are those with over 300 colonies. Hobbyists and part-timers account for roughly 40 percent of the honey production, and 1,600 commercial beekeepers are responsible for the remaining 60 percent of production.

To add value to the raw honey market, many beekeepers also prepare and market (1) wax products, such as candles, cosmetics and crafts, and (2) specialty honey products, such as pollen as a food supplement for bees and humans, and propolis and bee venom, which are being researched for their health benefits. About 3.9 million pounds of beeswax worth about $7 million are produced annually as a byproduct of the honey harvest.

Prices

Honey prices have been rising and are expected to continue rising in the future. The average price for domestically produced honey in 2013 was $2.12 per pound, up 6 percent from $1.20 in 2012. (NHB)

Financials

Click here to see an example enterprise budget for beekeeping from Iowa State University.

Sources

American Beekeeping Federation.
Colonies of Bees and Honey Collected - Inventory, Number Sold, and Honey Collected: 2007 and 2002, 2007 Census of Agriculture, National Ag Statistical Service (NASS), USDA, 2009.
Honey, NASS, USDA.
Honey Bee Colony Collapse Disorder, Congressional Research Service, 2010.
Global Agricultural Trade System (GATS), Foreign Ag Service (FAS), USDA.
National Honey Board.
National Honey Report, Ag Marketing Service, USDA.
Sioux Honey Association.
American Honey Producers Association
National Honey Board
Iowa State University Leopold Center