Western South Dakota's Only Ranch Station

Bee Colony Loss At Unsustainable Rate, Food Supplies Threatened

PIERRE, S.D. – For more than a decade, beekeepers in South Dakota and around the country have been fighting against historically high annual colony loss rates of more than 30%.

The continued loss of colonies has the potential to affect roughly 100 different agricultural crops across the country and could raise food prices while decreasing food availability, according to an article from the University of Florida Extension.

The state’s beekeepers brought in more than $18.6 million from the sale of honey from roughly 185,000 colonies in 2022, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. South Dakota ranked sixth in the nation in terms of honey production that year.

But declining numbers of bees, both domestic and wild, threatens yields on crops ranging from almonds and apples on the West Coast to cotton and cranberries in the East.

In 2022-23, the nation’s beekeepers experienced a 48.2% annual loss rate of managed honey bee colonies, a 9.2% increase from the 2021-22 season. However, 2020-21 reached a 50.8% colony loss rate, the highest annual loss rate on record, according to data gathered by the non-profit honey bee research group Bee Informed Partnership.

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