Bees worth a billion $ in Michigan

Importance of honey bees to Michigan agriculture

Zachary Huang, MSU

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The Western honey bee Apis mellifera plays a crucial role for US agriculture because it provides pollination for a large number of crops.  The value of agricultural crops dependent on honey bee pollination was estimated to be $14.6 billion per year in the U.S. (Morse and Calderone, 2000).  Last time (6 years ago?) I did some adding up and I estimated the value of honey bees to Michigan crops was about $460 million per year. I thought I needed to redo it again. So I used the most recent production data published in Oct 9, 2009 (Kleweno, 2009) to do the calculations. What did I find out? Michigan’s fruit and vegetable industry produces over two billion dollars per year and nearly 50% of that value is due entirely to honey bee pollination (Table 1). This is more than 100 times the value of honey alone, which was $7.4 million in 2008.

How do you read the table? Column one are the crops by their name. Column 2 are the honey bee dependent factor. So if a crop produces nothing without honey bees, then it is 100% dependent on honey bees, and it would be entered as 1 in the table.  Other crops only increase their yield slightly.  For soybean, it is only a 10% increase after honey bee pollination, so it is 0.1 in the table.  Column are are the total production in thousand of dollars, and column 4 are the adjusted values, the total values of production factored with the honey bee dependence factor (column 2).  So the last column are the values of production due to the pollination of honey bees.  This undoubtedly is an underestimate since many crops are too small to be included in the official statistics.

Take home message: honey bees are almost worth 1 billion dollars per year in Michigan! Table 1. About 50% of the Michigan fruit and vegetable industry depend on honey bees (2008 data).?? Some crops do not need honey bees for production (e.g. cabbage, carrots, celery, and onions), but the production of their seeds are dependent on honey bees.

Crop BD& Value ($1,000) Adjusted Value ($1,000)%
Apple 90 380,815 342,734
Asparagus 90 18,516 16,664
Blueberry 100 130,555 130,555
Cabbage* 30 443,520 133,056
Carrots 100 17,668 17,668
Celery 100 14,705 14,705
Cherries(Sweet + Tart) 90 78,189 70,370
Cucumbers(Fresh + Pickled) 90 55,719 50,147
Dry bean 10 129,060 12,906
Onions 100 14,117 14,117
Peach 60 26,794 16,076
Peppers 80^ 41,602 33,282
Pumpkin 90 15,283 13,755
Soybean 10 714,784 71,478
Squash 90 12,144 10,930
Strawberry 40 5,846 2,338
Tomatoes$ (Fresh + Processed) 80^ 34,668 27,734
Total 2,133,985 978,516


&BD: Honey bee dependence factor: the percentage of seed/fruit production that is due to honey bee pollination (based on Gordon and Davis, 2003).

%Adjusted value was calculated as a product of total production value and the honey bee dependence factor BD.

*Cabbage value was not given and calculated based on a production of 672 ton @ 30 cents per lb.

^BD for peppers and tomatoes were not available in literature and assumed to be 0.8.

$Data for processed tomato was missing for 2008, so value for 2007 ($10,098,000) was used.

Author: Zachary Huang

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