Re: Pollination service rental rates
Harry, While I agree with your intent, it does not help with the information requested.
ajay, pollination pricing depends to a huge degree on the economic benefit to the grower (almond, apple, blueberry, etc), benefit to the beekeeper in terms of a honey crop, and how difficult it is to provide the bees. Almonds require pollination at a very early time of year, will not produce a crop without pollination, have a relatively high market value, do not provide a good food source for bees, and consume a huge amount of beekeeper resources to prepare and provide pollination services. For these reasons, almond pollination is based on frames of brood in the colony. A typical colony will be priced about $150 in almonds this year. Current demand looks to be in the range of 1,000,000+ colonies of bees moving into the almonds and staying a few weeks from roughly Feb 1st to Feb 28th. $150,000,000 per year for almond pollination is well into the range of big business. It is expected that almonds will require about 2 million colonies of bees yearly within the next 10 years.
The cost of a colony of bees as noted by Harry is in the range of $200 for hardware plus the value of the bees. Then there are associated costs such as trucks for transport, labor for maintaining the colonies, feed to build populations of bees out of season, etc.
Pollination here on the east coast is not such a developed business, but blueberry pollination is a common contract that typically brings in about $70 to $80 per colony. There are also a few beekeepers who do apple pollination for similar prices. Citrus is an interesting counter example. As a crop, citrus does not require pollination but just happens to be an excellent nectar source. For this reason, beekeepers will often move colonies into citrus in Florida just to gain access to the honey crop. These bees are then often transported up the east coast for pollination as the season progresses.
One huge factor affecting beekeepers is varroa mites which can decimate a colony of bees. We also have problems with Colony Collapse Disorder which can wipe out 3/4 of a beekeepers bees in a matter of days. This has wiped out several beekeepers over the last 10 years.
I've kept this on the simple side so other beekeepers can contribute detail and more accurate numbers.
DarJones - NW Alabama, 46 years, 24 colonies, sideliner, treatment free since 2005, 14 frame square Dadant broodnest