Revised May 2020.
In the United States there are anywhere from 115,000 to 125,000 beekeepers. According to USDA reports, 2.67 million honey-producing colonies in 2017 generated 1.47 million pounds of raw honey. According to the National Honey Board, per capita consumption of honey in the United States is approximately 1.51 pounds per year.
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 2017 the annual income from direct honeybee pollination to U.S. agriculture was estimated at $435 million, far exceeding the value of wax and honey sales (Honey). Almond trees, for example, are entirely dependent on honeybees for pollination, leading to an increased need for bees in states like California where almond production is popular.
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.
The average price for domestically produced honey has recently declined, down 11 percent during 2019 to $1.97, rising consistently until reaching $2.21 in 2018. (Honey)
Free, downloadable Enterprise budget for beekeeping from Iowa State University.
Honey Final Estimates 2013-2017, 2017 Census of Agriculture, National Ag Statistical Service (NASS), USDA. 2019.
Honey, NASS, USDA, 2019
Global Agricultural Trade System (GATS), Foreign Ag Service (FAS), USDA.
National Honey Report, Ag Marketing Service, USDA, 2020.