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The number of bee colonies has reached an all-time high

The number of bee colonies has reached an all-time high

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There’s now a record number of honeybees humming in the U.S—and for many farmers, hobbyist beekeepers, and almond-milk lovers, the news is sweeter than honey.

Nearly a million bee colonies have been formed in the past five years, according to 2022 Census of Agriculture data from the USDA, boosting the total number of colonies to an all-time high of 3.8 million.

The record high has arrived after nearly 20 years of collapsing colonies, where bees died from exposure to poisonous pesticides, stress from cross-country transit to pollinate crops, invasive pests, and changes to habitat. While new colonies have formed, the threat of their collapse is still a very relevant danger

State legislation that offers tax breaks to beekeepers and the country’s need for pollinators help explain the busier hives, but it’s not all good news: The domesticated, or managed, bees are also a looming threat to other natural pollinators vulnerable to extinction. 

It’s in the numbers: Bee colonies are on the rise

Even with record-breaking bee colony numbers, honey production only grew by 11% last year, according to the Census. 

The difference can be explained by taking a look at the way the Census gathers data. 

For its report on honey production, the Census includes operations with five or more hives. For its report on colony numbers, it includes every “farm” in the country, according to a Washington Post report, defined as any plot of land that sells at least $1,000 worth of agricultural products each year. The department’s definition of farm hasn’t changed since 1975. Inflation, which drives the price of most things up, including honey and hive supplies, has allowed even hobbyist beekeepers to qualify for the Census. 

Another factor is state legislation that offers tax breaks to beekeepers based on the idea that by caring for and raising bees, they help pollinate surrounding crops and farms. In Texas, the law qualifies people who own between five and 20 acres of land for tax breaks if they rear bees for five years. All 254 of its counties adopted the rules, the Post reported.

With more than 271,000 colonies, Texas now has the third-most colonies in the country, sitting behind California, with more than 1.3 million colonies, and Florida, which has about 318,900 colonies.

But not all of these beekeepers are producing honey at the scale measured by the Census, which could account for the lower reported growth in honey…

Click Here to Read the Full Original Article at Fortune | FORTUNE…

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