As honey bees gather pollen and nectar for their survival, they pollinate crops such as apples, cranberries, melons and broccoli. Some crops, including blueberries and cherries are 90 percent dependent on honey bee pollination; one crop, almonds, depends entirely on the honey bee for pollination at bloom time. For many others, crop yield and quality would be greatly reduced without honey bee pollination. In fact, a 1999 Cornell University study documented that the contribution made by managed honey bees hired by U.S. crop growers to pollinate crops amounted to just over $14.6 billion.
Cornell entomology professors, Drs. Roger Morse and Nicholas Calderone have reported the results of their study in the March issue of Bee Culture magazine. Morse and Calderone calculated the value of 51 individual fruit, nut, vegetable and field crops that depend to some degree on pollination by managed honey bees in the U.S. Using USDA crop production figures, grower surveys and data from their 1989 study, they estimated the total annual value of increased agricultural production attributable to honey bee pollination at $14.6 billion. In comparison, the total value attributable to honey bee pollination in 1989 was $9.3 billion (a 36.3 percent increase). Approximately 20 percent of that increase is due to inflation; the rest is because of increased demand for pollinated foods from an increasing U.S. population.
Each year American farmers and growers continue to feed more people using less land. They produce an abundance of food that is nutritious and safe. Honey bees are very much a part of this modern agricultural success story. It's estimated that there are over 2.9 million colonies in the U.S. today, two-thirds of which travel the country each year pollinating crops and producing honey and beeswax. Nearly one million colonies are used each year in California just to pollinate the state's almond crop! The $14.6 billion contribution made by managed honey bees comes in the form of increased yields and superior quality crops for growers and American consumers -- a healthy beekeeping industry is invaluable to a healthy U. S. agricultural economy.
The Cornell study was supported by the National Honey Board. For more information contact Mary Ann Johnson at 415-268-5421 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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