Higher rental fee prices for honey bee hives are helping to offset an accelerated loss of bees due to a variety of ailments, a commercial beekeeper in southwest Idaho says.
Nick Noyes of The Honey Store in Fruitland tells the Idaho Business Review that crop growers are trying to help by creating conditions more conducive to bee survival.
"We had some pretty good years in the last couple of years, so it's difficult to preach too much doom and gloom," said Noyes.
Bee experts say a mysterious affliction called colony collapse disorder has been killing bees across the nation.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture said average losses of 33 percent of managed bees occurred every winter through 2011. However, that fell to 22 percent in 2012.
"We raise more bees to keep the same amount," said Scott Hamilton, a commercial beekeeper with S&W Honey in Nampa.
Walter Sheppard, the chairman of Washington State University's Department of Entomology, said that on average about one in four bees dies before its time in each colony. He said in some years, as much as half a hive will be destroyed by a combination of varroa mites, poor nutrition and the effects of certain pesticides.
"There is no single one cause for this malady known as colony collapse disorder," Sheppard said. "The bees seem to be able to deal with any of these one at a time, but when they encounter more than one, it's been real hard on them."
Oregon State University's 2011 Pacific Northwest Beekeeper Pollination survey, which includes Idaho, Oregon and Washington, found that the rental fee per hive per year has been growing since 1986.
The survey found that in 1986, the cost was below $20. It rose to about $40 in 2004, and to about $90 by 2011.
"Without good pollination prices and a good honey market, our industry would probably cease to exist," Hamilton said.