Hi! Does anyone know where to look for the financial costs of losing +-30% of managed hives every year? I'm interested in how much the increase in hive losses is costing, nationally, on an annual basis.
You do understand that most beekeepers make up their losses each spring with nucs? It's just part of the natural beekeeping cycle. Some years it's more difficult to make these replacements than other years.
Sure, I understand that. But the losses used to be on the order of 10%, right? I'm not saying I want to be sensationalist about it, but I'd like to be able to quantify the current losses in terms of dollars.
Losses are worse now than per-varroa which impacted around 1990 but there has always been wide fluctuations from year to year based on many factors from poor honeyflow conditions to harsh winters to diseases or poisons. Currently a 3# replacement package would run around $80 but of course that "loss" is income to another beekeeper.
I'm not trying to be evasive Karessa but I think the term losses as relates to bee numbers is a really difficult concept for some to grasp. I have managed a commercial operation for the past 40 years and in each of those years we had to replenish numbers every spring. Some years it's more difficult than other years but we have always filled the boxes we wanted filled usually with our own and occassionally by purchasing bees from other producers. Bees naturally have the instinct to reproduce in the spring to early summer we simply harness this urge by splitting our hives to the extent that it's needed to get our winter losses replaced. It's the way of beekeeping.
Hey Jim, have you ever read Hazlitt's Economics in One Lesson? It just dawned on me that you might find his interpretation of the broken window fallacy an interesting counter point to the idea that one beekeeper's losses are made up by another's gains. The story goes roughly like this:
A kid breaks a shop window with a rock. The shopkeeper is understandably upset, but some of the townspeople remark that the event isn't all bad: the glazier will now benefit from selling a new window! From that perspective, the broken window is a benefit to the economy.
However, the shopkeeper must now spend the money he was saving for a new suit on the window. Now the suitmaker is out the value of the suit, the shopkeeper is out the money saved for the suit, and the town has one less window pane to sell. The loss to the economy is equal to the cost of the new window after all.
I think the same could be said for the idea that income lost by one beekeeper is gained by another. The economy is still out the dead bees.
I must sound like a total smart *ss, and I'm sorry for that if I do.
I think I'm not communicating very effectively. I'm not arguing that I think there is impending doom or unrecoverable losses. I just want to know how much it is costing us to mitigate the problems we are dealing with. I think knowing the scope of a problem like that is useful whether we're dealing with bees or with wear and tear on industrial equipment. When we quantify things we can put them in perspective. How much of our resources do we dedicate to finding solutions to problems? It depends on how much the problem costs us!
It's not really experiences or opinions I'm after. I'd like to see statistics, even if they can't be totally accurate.
No not at all Karessa. We have been both purchaser and seller of that proverbial window at various times in the past. I do think perhaps there is a monetary loss when your losses are particularly heavy and replacement hives are smaller and later than is ideal but it would be a real wild guess as to what that number might be on a given year as it would vary based on how late or early the honey flow was in a given year.
If it was to be useful at all, the quantification would have to compare the losses being sustained due to recently imported things like varroa and nosema cerenae to a kind of baseline, a long-term average of losses, even if the losses varied quite a bit year by year. That's why the +-30% for the last number of years is worth mentioning. It's measurably more than the baseline.
Some are suffering losses this year and some are doing quite well, the losses always make a better story (sensationalized a bit if you will) personally we have increased our numbers about 40% in the past 15 years and about 10% in the past year.
I can imagine it would be hard to quantify. You know those agricultural surveys we have to fill out for the government every year? Wonder if they could be mined for some data on a larger, more general scale. It seems like such a significant thing - what are the economic realities of the given situation - I just have a hard time believing someone hasn't thrown some spaghetti at that wall to see if it sticks?
One more thought Karessa, given the current bee shortage in the almonds this year there may well be a loss in Almond revenue to Almond growers if some growers are unable to get the bee numbers they require. Total beekeeper revenue may well be about the same though with higher prices, some will undoubtedly make more while many will come up short.
That's a good point. A more useful perspective would be the losses across the board, including bees, crops pollinated by bees, and I guess even honey could be relevant, because the higher prices honey producers are having to charge now is opening up the market for honey-like products?
Yeah, this would be a hard number to get at. But important.
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