Bee Colony Pollination rental prices, eastern US with comparison to

Bee Colony Pollination rental prices, eastern US with comparison to

Bee Colony Pollination rental prices, eastern US with comparison to west coast Dewey M. Caron, Emeritus Professor Univ of Delaware, Affiliate Professo...

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Bee Colony Pollination rental prices, eastern US with comparison to west coast Dewey M. Caron, Emeritus Professor Univ of Delaware, Affiliate Professor Oregon State University, Corvallis OR. A mail survey was sent to 75 beekeepers identified by MAAREC (Mid-Atlantic Apiculture Research and Extension Consortium)as involved in pollination colony rental in 4 of the 6 state region of MAAREC. A total of 19 valid responses (25% return) were tallied and compared to 7 such surveys obtained in a pilot survey the previous year (2008). The 8 Commercial (> 300 colonies) operations (11,366 colonies) responding averaged 1420 colonies & the 11 semi-commercial beekeeping operations averaged 101 colonies (all managed minimum of 50 colonies). Table 1 summarizes the responses from both the 2008 pilot survey and the 2009 survey; it provides number of beekeepers who rented colonies for each of 12 commodities, total colony rentals reported, number colonies/ac rented by crop (range), and the pollinating fee (weighted average and range) for each crop.

Table 1: Crop Pollination in MAAREC Region (PA, DE, NJ, MD, VA, WV), 2008-9 SUMMARY of 2008-09: Number Indiv, Num Col, rented,#Col/ac (range) & pollinating fees (ave & range) + % change by crop

2008 3 commercial (1692 col ave) & 4 semi-

2009 8 commercial (1420 col ave) & 11 semi-commercial

commercial (132 col ave) beekeepers CROP

# Indiv # Col




(101 col ave) beekeeping operations

Ave Fee range

2041 .2-1.6/ac $37.90 $35-60

Blackberry Blueberry 2



$59.70 $58-70

Cranberry Cherries



# indiv # Col

# col/ac

Ave fee fee range

% chg


1812 .33-2/ac

$38.90 $35-65 (2 $0)*







5794 .8-1.3/ac


$56-90 **











$40-70 (1 $0)*










+3.6% +15.7%



Cucumber 9




















.1.8-8/ac $62.70

$40-70 (1 $0)*



.16-.5/ac $58.30


$50.40 $26-65

Squash Strawberry 2 Watermelon




$64.30 $50-70



.3-.5/ac $67.80

$50-70 (1 $0)*


1-1.75/ac $55.40 $55-70



.8-1.2/ac $61.90




Almond (CA) 7tot




*If $0 fee charged =not computed into ave fee

19tot 21745


$75.80 $64.40

+5.4% +10.5%

$45-100 ave +9.5%

**$90 fee in Maine - in MAAREC region range =$56-70

The average pollinating fee (a weighted average of number of rentals at each rental fee) was $64.40 for the 2009 season. This was an increase of $15.10 from the more limited pilot study of the previous season. In the 19 returns, responding beekeepers indicated they were managing 12,477 colonies (pre-winter losses) for which they reported 21,745 rentals (1.7 rentals/col). These rentals generated approximately$1,413,674 gross pollination income. Winter losses were significant, averaging 31.7% with a range of 6 to 70%. These numbers are slightly higher than the national average of winter losses for 2008-2009 (29%) (VanEngelsdorp, et al 2010) but presumably spring splitting will enable the 19 beekeepers to recover colony numbers as was being done by pollinators in the west (Caron, et al, 2010). There were “rentals” in 5 commodities reported by semi-commercial beekeepers (2 for apple, 1 for cherries and 1 each in strawberry and pumpkin) for which no rental fee was paid – survey forms indicated colonies were placed in the crop for convenience or sales outlet availability. These 5 instances were not computed in the weighted average rental fee for these 4 commodities . Rentals in 4 additional commodities were tallied in 2009 for which no rental information was received in the previous season (blackberry, cranberry, squash and almond). In the case of the later, almonds, 3 eastern beekeepers reported renting colonies but the fee reported (range $45 to $100)and lack of information on col/acre would indicate other beekeepers with transportation were subsequently renting these colonies (2129 total) to the growers (presumably for a higher fee). Still almond rental income represented 11% of total rental income for the 19 beekeepers. The per cent increase in average rental price for 8 commodities for which numbers were gathered in both survey years is shown in the last column of Table 1. There were only 7 individuals participating in the initial (pilot) season and the 2009 pollination fee should be considered more representative of the pollination industry I the mid-Atlantic region. Increase in average rental prices were noted for all 8 commodities ranging from 2.6 to 14.5% (simple ave =9.5%) but this may not be an actual reflection of an increase, merely a larger pool of respondents. It is however similar to the increase (10.9%) reported by Burgett (2009) in his survey of pollination prices in the PNW (see below). There is a wide range in the number of colonies rented per growing area (expressed in col/ac). Some returned surveys did not indicate the acreage pollinated, just numbers of colonies. Not knowing the acreage might indicate a lack of communication between beekeeper and grower or it may simply reflect inadequate records at the time of completing the survey . The range of prices for pollination was quite broad both years and was consistent, whether commercial or semi-commercial beekeeper. Rental price differences per crop (in the major rental crops nearly 2 fold) may reflect past practices, level of competition, regional differences or uneven business skills of the beekeepers. Comparison to west coast This survey represents the first comprehensive survey of pollination prices in the eastern US. Two west coast surveys of pollination prices are the annual survey conducted by Mike Burgett in the PNW, which he has been

conducted continuously since 1987 (see Burgett 2009 for the most recent report and Burgett, et al 2010 for a summary of the total survey years) and a similar survey patterned after the PNW survey of California beekeepers conducted since 1994 (also reported in Burgett,et al 2010). The two surveys on different coasts with different beekeepers show a number of similarities. The number of colonies represented in the two surveys are highly disparate; this survey of eastern commercial/semi-commercial beekeepers includes management of only approximately 1/4th the average number of colonies by commercial beekeepers (ave 1420col) and only 1/10th of total pollination rentals compared to those of the PNW survey. Burgett reported that the average colony rental fee in 2009 for PNW pollinators was $89.90 (up 10.9% from the previous year) and that 71% of the annual gross income of the 13 commercial beekeepers (semicommercial beekeepers are NOT included in his surveys) filling the survey was obtained from pollination rentals. The 13 PNW individuals owned on average 5140 colonies and reported 1.8 rentals/colony on average in 2009; for the 17 past years it averaged 2.4. For California pollinators, all who rented to almonds, the average was 1.6 average number of colony rentals since 1996 (Burgett et al 2010). In this first report of eastern pollination rental prices, the average rental fee was $64.40. (see Table 2). For PNW beekeepers (Burgett 2009), CA almond rentals were the most common crop rental (40.3% of all rentals) and they accounted for 67.4% of all rental income in the 2009 survey. PNW tree fruit rentals (apples predominantly but also pears and sweet cherries) was the next most common rental crop (37% of total) but these rentals accounted for only 21% of income; taken together California almonds and PNW tree fruit accounted for 77.4% of all rentals and 88.2% of all pollination income, which illustrates the dominance and importance of these crops for a commercial PNW beekeeper. Interestingly if the almond crop was NOT available, the average

colony rental fee would have been $49.20. PNW respondents reported a gross pollination income of $10, 998,747; this was extrapolated to estimate the regions pollination value in rental income alone was $15 million.

Table 2. 2009 Average pollination fees, east & west coasts PNW 13 commercial beekeeping operations EAST 19 semi & commercial Beekeeping Operations Crop No. Rentals Avg. Fee Fee +/-1 No rentals ave fee Fee +/-1 Pears 5,862 $51.40 +21.4% none Cherries 15,605 $51.50 +21.6% 95 $50.90 +11.5% Apples 23,858 $49.70 + 9.5% 1812 $38.90 +2.6% Berries2 2,844 $38.40 +26.9% 36 $48.30 -Blueberries 7,100 $42.50 +15.2% 5794 $67.80 +12% Cranberry 4295 $73.40 -Cucumber 4777 $58.90 +14.5% Melon& Watermelon 2094 $65.70 + 7.9% Veg. seed


Clover seed3 3,435 Squash & Pumpkin 2,636 Meadowfoam 1,336 Strawberry Almonds 49,318 122,310









$47.30 $47.30

+ 2.3% + 4.3%



+1.5% +10.9%

$67.80 $75.80 $64.40


$150.30 $89.80

507 none 206 2129 21,745


Table 3 compares by crop category, the importance of west and east coast pollination rental opportunities. On the west coast, almond and tree fruits each account for about 40% of the rentals but tree fruit rentals accounts for only 21% of rental income; almonds provide 67% of pollination income. On the east coast, 3 crops, cucurbits, blueberry and cranberry each account for 20% or more of rentals and each provide a similar rental income; as in the west, tree fruits (apple and cherries) don’t provide adequate income for the beekeeper in the east, providing only 5.3% of total income despite accounting for 8.8% of rentals. Table 3. 2009 Pollination rentals and income by crop type - 13 PNW commercial beekeepers (top) and 18 Commercial and Semi-commercial beekeepers in east. PNW Crop Tree Fruit Almonds All other Total

# Rentals 45,325 49,318 27,667 122,310

EAST Tree Fruit 1907 Blueberry 5794 Cranberry 4295 Cucurbits 7378 Almond 2129 All other fruit 242 Total 21,745

% of total rentals Rental Income % of total rental income 37.1% $2,290,447 20.8% 40.3% $7,410,980 67.4% 22.6% $1,297,320 11.8% $10,998,747

8.8% 26.6% 19.8% 33.9% 9.8% 1.1%

$ 75,584 $393,985 $315,990 $450,506 $161,451 $ 15,706 $1,413,674

5.3`% 27.9% 22.4% 31.9% 11.4% 0.1%

Among the eastern beekeepers, the percentage of estimated income was 42% honey, 54% pollination and 4% other for the 8 commercials responding to the survey while among semi-commercials it was 32.4% honey, 57.3% pollination and 10.3% other. In the western states it was 60-40% pollination vs honey for commercials and the opposite, 40-60% income from pollination vs honey. Burgett et al 2010 examine the information gathered over several seasons regarding rental income. They report that almonds have increased dramatically since 2004 and examining the data does not reveal an effect of CCD or recent heavy colony losses. Continuing this eastern survey is planned for the current year and perhaps a look at several season will help demonstrate how heavy losses and changing agricultural practices might be affecting the eastern beekeepers involved in pollination rental. References Cited

Burgett, Michael. 2009. Pacific Northwest Honey Bee Pollination Economics Survey 2009. Nat Honey Report

29(11):10-14. Burgett, Michael, Stan Daberkow, Randal Rucker and Walter Thurman. 2010. U.S. Pollination Markets: Recent Changes and Historical Perspective Amer Bee Jour. 150(1): 35-41. Caron, D. M., Michael Burgett, Randal Rucker, and Walter Thurman. 2010. Honey Bee Colony Mortality in the

Pacific Northwest: Winter 2008/2009. Amer Bee Jour. 150(3):265-269 Dennis vanEngelsdorp, Jerry Hayes Jr., Robyn M. Underwood, and Jeffery Pettis. 2010. A Survey of Honey Bee Colony Losses in the U.S., Fall 2008 to Spring 2009. Jour Apic Res. 49:7-14 MAAREC (Mid-Atlantic Apiculture Research and Extension Consortium) includes 6 State (DE, MD, NJ, PA, VA, WV) state beekeeper association, State regulatory officials, Research/extension professionals and USDA Beltsville). This data base lacks participation from VA and WV, although a few rentals in both states are included.