Mar 29, 2024 - Business

Report: U.S. bee farms are buzzing

Bees at the entrance of their hive on a farm in Ashton, Maryland on August 2022.

Bees at the entrance of their hive on a farm in Ashton, Maryland on August 2022. Photo: Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Images

There could be a record number of bee farms in the U.S. right now, according to a new analysis from the Washington Post.

Why it matters: Unusually high hive losses in the early 2000s ignited fears that the domesticated western honey bee, an integral part of the world's food system, was headed for widespread population collapse from pesticide, climate change and invasive mites.

  • But recent data from the Department of Agriculture suggests that domesticated honey bees colonies are making a comeback.

By the numbers: A 2022 census by the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service suggests more than 1 million honey bee colonies have popped up around the U.S. since 2007, making them the fastest-growing type of livestock in the country, the Post reports.

  • In Texas alone, bee keeping operations have grown from 1,284 in 2007 to 8,939 in 2022.

Yes, but: Inflation might be making bee populations look artificially high. The census measures operations that produce at least $1,000 of products per year — so high honey prices could nudge some hobbyists into the count.

  • Recent research also suggests that despite recent increases in honey bee population, honey yields in the U.S. have been decreasing since the 1990s because of changing climates and decreased soil productivity.
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