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Do more bees imply higher fees? Honey bee colony strength as a determinant of almond pollination fees

Brittney K. Goodrich

Food Policy, 2019, vol. 83, issue C, 150-160

Abstract: Markets for pollination services have been growing in importance all over the world as pollinator populations and habitats have decreased over the last few decades (Potts et al., 2010; González-Varo et al., 2013). An early econometric analysis of pollination markets noted that honey bee colony strength in the California almond pollination market is highly variable and as such has an influence on pollination fees (Cheung, 1973). More recent economic analyses of pollination services markets have ignored the influence of colony strength on the supply and demand for pollination services. This paper provides the first econometric investigation of delivered colony strength as a determinant of almond pollination fees. I analyze the California State Beekeeper’s Association pollination fee survey responses for years 2008–2016, a total of 263 beekeeper-reported observations. I find that providing weak colonies for almond pollination results in lower fees collected by the beekeeper. By implication, beekeepers who experience high winter mortality rates likely also receive lower per-colony almond pollination fees due to low delivered colony strength. I estimate that a 10 percentage point increase in a beekeeper’s winter mortality rate leads to an average decrease of 16% in total revenues from almond pollination, a substantial overall loss given that almond pollination is a primary source of U.S. commercial beekeepers’ revenues. Additionally, I estimate that when colony strength is accounted for, payments from the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honey bees and Farm-Raised Fish Program in 2016 would have compensated many beekeepers for less than half of their total revenue losses in almond pollination from the corresponding 10 percentage point increase in winter mortality rates. This compensation rate is likely much lower than previously thought. This research highlights the need for additional research on the total economic impact of threats to the health of honey bee colonies, especially given the rise in recent policies enacted globally with the goal of improving honey bee health and assisting beekeeping operations.

Keywords: Honey bees; Colony strength; Almonds; Pollination services; Disaster relief (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: Q12 Q18 Q57 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2019
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