Honey Industry Facts

Beekeepers and Honeybee Colonies

There are an estimated 115,000 – 125,000 beekeepers in the United States.1 The vast majority are hobbyists with less than 25 hives. Commercial beekeepers are those with 300 or more hives. The number of U.S. honey bee colonies producing honey in 2013 was 2.64 million (based on beekeepers who manage five or more colonies), up 4% from 2012.2 Many commercial beekeepers migrate their colonies during the year to provide pollination services to farmers and to reach the most abundant sources of nectar. Commercial beekeeping operations are frequently family businesses that are handed down from generation to generation.

12012 Industry Survey, Bee Culture Magazine

United States Honey Production Up 3 Percent for Operations with Five or More Colonies in 2016

United States honey production in 2016 from producers with five or more colonies totaled 162 million pounds, up 3 percent from 2015. There were 2.78 million colonies from which honey was harvested in 2016, up 4 percent from 2015. Yield of honey harvested per colony averaged 58.3 pounds, down 1 percent from the 58.9 pounds in 2015. Colonies which produced honey in more than one State were counted in each State where the honey was produced. Therefore, at the United States level yield per colony may be understated, but total production would not be impacted. Colonies were not included if honey was not harvested. Producer honey stocks were 41.3 million pounds on December 15, 2016, down 2 percent from a year earlier. Stocks held by producers exclude those held under the commodity loan program

Leading Production States

Honey is produced in every state. The following states are the top five honey producing states for 2016:2

State Pounds Produced Dollar Value of Production
North Dakota 37,830,000 $65,446,000
Montana 12,243,000 $21,425,000
South Dakota 19,880,000 $34,591,000
Florida 11,880,000 $23,404,000
California 10,750,000 $26,320,000

ISSN: 1949-1492.


Total U.S. consumption reached 410 million pounds in 2010 according to USDA's Economic Research Service. Based on National Honey Board assessment revenue from honey handled and imported during 2013, annual U.S. consumption is estimated at nearly 450 million pounds. The U.S. per capita consumption of honey is around 1.3 pounds per year. Honey is imported in order to meet total demand. In 2010, the share of imports in U.S. honey consumption was approximately 61 percent. (Source: USDA/ERS, Sugar and Sweetener Outlook, March 2011). With rising honey imports, the National Honey Board estimates that between 2/3 and 3/4 the honey consumed in the U.S. is now (2014) imported.

About half of the honey sold is through retail channels, with the rest being sold in bulk or for use in the foodservice industry. (Source: NHB Packer Tracking Survey)

Agriculture's Dependence

Millions of acres of U.S. fruit, vegetable, oilseed and legume seed crops depend on insect pollination, including honey bees. According to a Cornell University study, the increased production of 2010 agricultural crops as a result of honey bee pollination is valued at more than $19 billion.

Added Value

In addition to producing honey, honey bees produce beeswax and help pollinate agricultural crops, home gardens and wildlife habitat.
The USDA has estimated that 80 percent of insect crop pollination is accomplished by honey bees. Approximately one-third of the total human diet is derived directly or indirectly from insect-pollinated plants (fruits, legumes and vegetables).

Crop Dependence

The almond crop is entirely dependent on honey bee pollination. Without honey bees, there would be no almonds. More than 80 percent of the world's almonds are produced in California.3 To pollinate California's approximately 790,000 bearing acres of almonds4 requires more than a million colonies of honey bees.

3USDA/NASS, 2009 California Almond Acreage Report, April 30, 2010
42012 California Almond Acreage Report, cdfa

Numerous other crops are 90 percent dependent on honey bee pollination. Some of those crops include apples, avocados, blueberries, cherries, cranberries and sunflowers. Other crops such as cucumbers, kiwi fruit, melons and vegetables are also pollinated by honey bees.

Livestock Feed

The production of most beef and dairy products consumed in the United States is dependent on insect-pollinated legumes (alfalfa, clover, etc.). Although alfalfa hay does not require insect pollination, it is grown from seed that is entirely dependent on insect pollination. Honey bees are one of the pollinators used to pollinate alfalfa fields for seed production in California, a major source of U.S. alfalfa seed production.