My “unprediction” lands close to the mark
Last May, I was trying to make sense of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) and the effect it might have on honey prices. I started with the annual honey report for 2006 published by the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistical Service. I combined that with what I knew about CCD, like the 25% loss of honeybee colonies, and a little optimism. That led me to a number, there were too many variables to call it a “prediction,” that I thought would be closest to US honey production in 2007. My number was -2.6%, which doesn’t sound all that great, but compared to the talk of honeybee extinction, followed by mankind’s demise three years later, it was positively giddy. The 2007 honey report just came out, and the actual number was -4%. Not a bad “unprediction,” if I do say so myself! Here’s what the rest of the report said:
Honey production down slightly in 2007
Honey production fell in the United States by 4% to 148 million pounds (about 67 million kg), honey stocks held by producers fell 13% to 52.5 million pounds(24 million kg), and the number of producing colonies rose 2% to 2.44 million. A higher number of colonies and lower production imply a lower yield per colony: 60.8 pounds (27.6 kg) compared to 64.7 pounds (29.4 kg) in 2006.
Number of honeybee colonies stable for two years
I’ve been wondering, since last May, if we’d see a large decline in managed honeybee colonies. The NASS report’s answer is very encouraging: After falling 1% in 2006 to 2.39 million, they rose 2% in 2007 to 2.44 million colonies. It’s as though CCD didn’t happen at all! It did happen, of course, and may still be happening right now. But if, in the teeth of CCD, the number of producing colonies remains stable for two years, then I think there’s reason for optimism. Beekeepers might be frantic, and under financial stress, and growers might be panicky, but I think the beekeeping industry is proving to be very resilient. I’m becoming increasingly confident that growers will have uninterrupted access to pollination services and meadmakers, like you and I, will have access to honey at good prices. We may even find that CCD fades away, just like virtually-identical die offs of the past, without us ever discovering the cause.
Update 3/9/2009: Honeybees hang in there for another year
The 2008 Honey Report indicated that managed colonies in the US fell by only 6%. Honey production and per colony yield rose. It’s looking more and more like Colony Collapse Disorder is not a catastrophe.
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