North Dakota Bee Colonies Increase under Honeybee Program

Aug 29, 2014 02:51 PM EDT | Jordan Ecarma

North Dakota, the leader of honey production in the U.S., has a rising number of bee colonies thanks to more beekeepers and an initiative to keep better track of honeybees.

As the area becomes more accepting of boxlike colonies, 221 beekeepers have registered 510,000 colonies in 2014, the Associated Press reported. Last year, 205 beekeepers registered 482,500 colonies.

Additionally, more than 12,200 hive locations have been registered, compared with 11,000 in 2013.

State and beekeeping industry officials say that North Dakota has more beekeepers this year and that a greater effort has been made to monitor the number of colonies through registration.

Last year, the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture warned states to develop a way to combat colony collapse disorder, which is when honeybees desert their colonies to die.

"The Pollinator Plan was developed in response to a growing need for a balanced public policy that mitigates risk to honeybees, while minimizing the impact of that mitigation on production agriculture to prevent unintended consequences," Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring said of North Dakota's plan, as quoted by the AP.

The eight-page honeybee plan is built on information from beekeepers, crop consultants, farmers and others affected by the honey industry. The first state in the U.S. to create such a plan, North Dakota has been working to resolve differences between beekeepers and landowners to better protect honeybees.

In June, President Obama established a task force to protect pollinators including the honeybee, signing a memorandum to all federal agencies "to broadly advance honeybee and other pollinator health and habitat." 

Neonicotinoid pesticides, parasites and climate change have all been named as possible factors for colony collapse disorder, along with the high fructose corn syrup that is frequently part of the bee's diet. Commercial beekeepers first began noticing abandoned hives in 2006.

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