CCD was first identified in 2006, and by the end of that year the number of producing colonies had fallen barely 1%. In 2007, beekeepers had increased their colonies by more than 2%, ending the year with more than in 2005 – the last year prior to the CCD outbreak. So this year’s 6% decline – see the USDA’s just released 2008 Honey Report – isn’t very alarming. If honeybees really were threatened with extinction, as some of the more shrill coverage suggests, we would have seen severe declines in 2006 and 2007. For some perspective, I’ve summarized USDA data going back to 2005 in the table below.
|Year||Production (millions)||Producing Colonies||Yield|
|2005||174 lb (79 kg)||2.41 million||72.4 lb (32.8 kg)|
|2006||155 lb (70 kg)||2.39 million||64.7 lb (29.3 kg)|
|2007||148 lb (67 kg)||2.44 million||60.8 lb (27.6 kg)|
|2008||161 lb (73 kg)||2.30 million||69.9 lb (31.7 kg)|
As long as CCD is still afflicting honeybee colonies (it is), and as long as we don’t know why (we don’t), then it’s a concern. But it’s no more worrying than the other difficulties facing bees and their keepers (disease, pests, weather, and so forth).
Fewer honeybees but more honey in 2008
The latest Honey Report paints a good news – bad news picture of 2008. While the number of producing honeybee colonies fell by 6% to 2.3 million, honey production rose 8% to 161 million pounds (73 million kg). Why did honey production increase when the number colonies fell? Because the honeybees were much more productive – yield per colony soared by 15% to 69.9 lb (31.7 kg).
Honey prices up, inventories down
Honey inventory has been falling for years, and 2008 was no exception. Producer honey stocks fell by 4% to 50.4 million pounds (22.9 million kg). If you make mead and buy honey, like I do, then you already know that honey prices surged last year. Now the USDA has put a number on it: The “all honey” price rose 31% to $1.41/lb. I don’t know what will happen to honey prices, but I’ll be keeping my eye on them. And publishing updated price reports as the year unfolds – watch for them.
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