2022’s Best States for Beekeeping

Beekeeper with bees

Gardens across the U.S. are buzzing with hobbyist and professional beekeepers. 

But the location of your colony can sweeten or sour your beekeeping journey. 

To mark National Pollinator Week beginning June 20, Lawn Love ranked 2022’s Best States for Beekeeping.

We looked at several metrics, such as total honey production, number of active bee colonies, beekeepers’ salaries, and honey suppliers. We also considered colony losses and whether the state protects honeybees from harmful neonics.

Use our rankings and in-depth analysis to get a taste of some of the sweetest states for beekeeping in the nation.

In this article

State rankings 

See how each state fared in our ranking:

Results in depth

Golden Cali nectar

Home to 1,600 species of native bees, California brings home the gold for also being the leading player in the (non-native) honeybee industry. The Golden State scored sweet points in every metric, earning first place in the Establishments and Support ranks. 

Bees are swarming across Cali, thanks to the state’s suitable climate, thriving agricultural industry, and high level of biodiversity. Around 2 million beehives make their way to Cali each year through migratory beekeeping to help with food production. 

Agriculture isn’t always friendly to our winged friends, but this state has introduced policies to protect them from harmful neonics. 

California is so dedicated to saving bees that they have legally classified bees as fish in order to extend endangered species protections to our bee-loved flying invertebrates.

(Honey)combing through the Midwest

Worker bees must work extra hard in North Dakota (No. 3), which yielded more than 28,000 pounds of honey in 2021 — the most of any state. 

This comes as no surprise, considering the state is buzzing with active apiaries. Honeybees thrive on the grasslands’ wildflower nectar every spring and summer, before migrating to warmer climates in the fall and winter. 

No other region comes close to the Flickertail State’s production levels, but several other Midwest states fared well, including Ohio (No. 6) and Michigan (No. 7), both of which stood out for their abundant honey suppliers and farmers markets selling honey.

Unfortunately, the Midwest isn’t always the best — these states fail to meet the call to save the bees. Each state above was stung for lack of protective legislation, while Nebraska (No. 40) fell all the way to the bottom, failing to impress in any category. 

Buzzing balances along the Atlantic

Sticky East Coast states take up nearly half of the top 10 Best States for Beekeeping spots, with various perks for commercial and sideliner beekeepers. 

New York (No. 2) brings home the bronze overall, with a boost from bee-friendly legislation and the highest average beekeeper salary. Florida (No. 4) impressed in the rankings with abundant honey production and minimal yearly colony loss. 

Virginia (No. 9) and North Carolina (No. 10) trail just a few steps behind, thanks to high marks in Support, Establishments, and Earning Potential. North Carolina has the most beekeeping associations in the nation, while Old Dominion boasts the highest price per pound of honey.

Dry and quiet in the desert

You’d expect Utah (No. 39) — nicknamed “The Beehive State” — to be a bit more bee-friendly. Unfortunately, Utah has some of the highest average rates of colony loss, losing an average of more than 70% of its honeybee population between 2020 and 2021.

Utah and Arizona (No. 38) disappoint with unimpressive scores across the board. While native desert bees might thrive there, the desert isn’t an ideal spot for starting a hive of honeybees, which require long bloom times in order for pollination to be effective. 

Expert take

You’ve probably heard “save the bees,” but what are we saving them from, and how much danger are they in exactly? We reached out to some experts to find out.

Read what they had to say, and learn about taking the first steps toward building a hive of your own below.

  1. What’s your single best tip for beginner beekeepers?
  1. What are the three best alternatives to natural hives that beekeepers can build themselves or buy?
  1. What are two ways the average homeowner can give a hand to pollinators like bees?
  1. What are three benefits of having bees buzzing around your backyard? 
  1. What is one common misconception about bees?
  1. There’s conflicting information online about the decline of the bee population in recent years. What’s the truth, and how concerned should we be about bees dying
  1. What is the best way for states to minimize the impact of climate change on apiculture?
Dr. Margaret J. Couvillon
Assistant Prof. of Pollinator Biology & Ecology
Priyadarshini Chakrabarti Basu, Ph.D.
Priyadarshini Chakrabarti Basu, Ph.D. – Vice Chair, Early Career Professionals Committee, Entomological Society of America, Secretary and Treasurer, American Association of Professional Apiculturists, Assistant Professor
Avry Pribadi
Professor
Rachel Mallinger
Assistant Professor
Dr. Margaret J. Couvillon
Assistant Prof. of Pollinator Biology & Ecology
Department of Entomology, Virginia Tech

What’s your single best tip for beginner beekeepers

Join your local beekeepers association – it’ll provide a wealth of hands-on learning and continuing education opportunities. There’s a learning curve to beekeeping, and it’ll help to have someone experienced oversee the early stages of your beekeeping.

What are two ways the average homeowner can give a hand to pollinators like bees?

Any homeowner can help make the world more wildlife friendly, including for bees. Firstly, delay the mowing of your lawn. Even a small trip left unmowed can confer benefits. The unmowed portion will grow wildflowers like clover and dandelions, which provide important food for bees. Additionally, even a mow delay will allow early-season insects the opportunity to lay their eggs, which ensures that the population in the next year will survive. Secondly, avoid the use of pesticides, including herbicides, in your yard. We know that these chemicals can have harmful lethal and sublethal effects on insect pollinators.

What are three benefits of having bees buzzing around your backyard? 

Bees buzzing in your backyard means that they are attracted there, either for forage or nesting habitat, which means you are providing them with a benefit. Secondly, bees are important pollinators for wildflowers and crops, so we want to keep them around and healthy. Bees and other insects are then of course the food for insectivorous animals like birds, so their benefit gets carried up the food chain.

What is one common misconception about bees?

People often think that honey bees collect honey from flowers, but they actually collect nectar and make that into honey. The honey then serves as food and food stores for adult bees.

There’s conflicting information online about the decline of the bee population in recent years. What’s the truth, and how concerned should we be about bees dying

 

One big source of confusion is that when people hear bees, they think about honey bees, when in actuality, there are thousands (approx 20,000+) species of native, or wild, bees. Honey bees are managed and often kept in beehives in an apiary that is tended by a beekeeper. Wild bees occur naturally and nest in ground cavities or hollow stems or even in drilled out holes in wood. 

 

The story of our wild bees is indeed a worrisome one. Insect populations, including bees, are declining in numbers and species richness. For example, we’ve seen a huge loss in the native bee diversity in the last few decades. This is worrisome because native bees have evolved alongside native vegetation and provide crucial ecological benefits to these plants. Additionally, the disappearance, or extinction, of a species that used to live in a particular area is bellweather to additional, future consequences of the impact of humans on the planet. Honey bees, or species within the genus Apis, are a slightly different story. I don’t think they will go extinct, but it has become harder and much less profitable to keep bees. In the United States, for example, we’ve seen a 60% decrease in the number of managed hives from its peak just after WWII to now. This decrease occurs even as our reliance on their pollination services increases. Even though beekeepers are accustomed to facing challenges to healthy hive management, the past few decades has provided unprecedented challenges. In consequence, the number of honey bee hives is declining in the USA and parts of Europe, increasing in some parts of the world, but overall not quickly enough to keep pace with our need for them. In summary, much of our wildlife is challenged by human activity. Bees, both managed and wild, face stressors from lack of forage, pesticides, pests, and pathogens. Their health and well being directly impacts our food security, so we should do what we can to help these beneficial insects.

What is the best way for states to minimize the impact of climate change on apiculture?

Any climate positive action will ultimately help bees. We need to reduce our carbon emissions and change how we grow and even eat our food. Many of the stressors to wildlife, including bees, will not disappear in our increasingly global world, so we need to be smarter about our impact on the climate.

Priyadarshini Chakrabarti Basu, Ph.D.
Priyadarshini Chakrabarti Basu, Ph.D. – Vice Chair, Early Career Professionals Committee, Entomological Society of America, Secretary and Treasurer, American Association of Professional Apiculturists, Assistant Professor
Pollinator Health and Apiculture, Oregon State University

What’s your single best tip for beginner beekeepers?

Be open to failing, repeating and learning. Beekeeping is a very satisfying hobby and a very rewarding profession. It takes a lot of patience and hard work to keep our colonies healthy and overwinter successfully. My suggestion would be to learn from experienced beekeepers and stay up-to-date with current research and beekeeping practices. Often local beekeeping clubs hold monthly meetings where they discuss various management strategies which can be very helpful for beginner beekeepers.

What are the three best alternatives to natural hives that beekeepers can build themselves or buy?

Langstroth, horizontal top bar, and Warré​​​​​​​ hives are some alternate options while Langstroth is definitely the most popular.

What are two ways the average homeowner can give a hand to pollinators like bees?

Create a diverse forage habitat with staggered blooms so that something or the other is constantly blooming especially during times of pollen and nectar scarcity (for example peak summer). You can also support a local beekeeper, start your own hive, install a bee hotel or simply leave enough nesting habitat in your backyard for ground nesting solitary bee species.

What are three benefits of having bees buzzing around your backyard

Plant pollination is crucial. Supporting a diverse group of bee species can help support diverse plant species. In addition keeping a hive can also be your source of honey and wax. Bees are fascinating insects to study and teach kids and watching bees can be very relaxing.

What is one common misconception about bees?

I think one very common misconception is that all bees sting, whereas male bees cannot sting.

There’s conflicting information online about the decline of the bee population in recent years. What’s the truth, and how concerned should we be about bees dying?

Bee Informed Partnership publishes annual survey of honey bee colony losses in the U.S. and their results detail colony declines in the U.S. There are also reports of declining native bee populations. However, I am very hopeful about the future because in the U.S. and globally, there are now large collaborative networks of stakeholders, bee researchers, policy makers and concerned citizens who are working together to help save all bee species.

What is the best way for states to minimize the impact of climate change on apiculture?

I think working together with all groups – researchers, stakeholders, policymakers – and basing decisions on research findings would be a great first approach to this.

Avry Pribadi
Professor
University of Georgia

What’s your single best tip for beginner beekeepers?

The first thing is learning about their biology as social insects that live, interact, and depend on each other as one colony.

What are the three best alternatives to natural hives that beekeepers can build themselves or buy?

  • Logs that are hollowed out in the middle (prefer dry and smoky).
  • In some tropical countries, they use bamboo to trap and keep the bees.
  • Logs that are originally selected from the palmae family, such as coconut.

What are two ways the average homeowner can give a hand to pollinators like bees?

  •  The easiest things are reducing pesticide and planting some native flowers or vegetation (avoids homogeneity and prefers heterogeneity).
  • Provide bees “settlements”, like small hollows of wood in your backyards.

 

What are three benefits of having bees buzzing around your backyard? 

  • Pollinate many flowers and produce food that might be useful for your native animals, such as birds.
  • Provide “free” pollination services for your plants, such as fruits.
  • Make sure the food chain balance by providing basic needs for all animals.

What is one common misconception about bees?

  • They are pests.
  • They harm insects.
  • They are only producing honey.
  • They love to sting anyone.

 

There’s conflicting information online about the decline of the bee population in recent years. What’s the truth, and how concerned should we be about bees dying

Yes, it is true. In my area the change of landscape from native, origin, and heterogeneous vegetation to more homogeneous vegetation for pulp and paper industries raw material led the bees to totally vanish from the area. We should be concerned about this matter. Nowadays, we do not feel the negative effect of bees dying, but we do not know what is going to happen in the future if all the pollinators, like bees, are gone.   

What is the best way for states to minimize the impact of climate change on apiculture?

  • Reduce the utilization of pesticide, even in controlling Varroa.
  • Prevent landscape changes dramatically.
  • Provide native flowers and vegetation.
  • Provide more natural hives.
  • Do not destroy the honey bees colonies that you think do not have good character in producing honey. They may bring some good genetics that other honey bees colonies do not have.  
  • Provide water sources for honey bees, particularly during hot weather.
  • Do not take all the honeycombs when you harvest the honey and prepare the colonies for winter.
Rachel Mallinger
Assistant Professor
Department of Entomology and Nematology, University of Florida

What’s your single best tip for beginner beekeepers?

My advice for the average person concerned about pollinators is to plant flowering plants, minimize chemical use in the yard and around the home, and support conservation efforts at the local, state, and national level. Honey bees are important crop pollinators, but they are not native to the United States. They can in fact have negative effects on our native pollinators when deployed in certain contexts and not managed well, and keeping them healthy requires an enormous amount of work. So while I support commercial beekeepers who provide honey bees for our crops, hobby beekeeping is not a solution for pollinator declines.

What are the three best alternatives to natural hives that beekeepers can build themselves or buy?

It’s important to remember that honey bees are not native to North America; we don’t have any species of honey bees native to this continent! So “natural” hives don’t really exist here. The most important things you can do for your honey bees is keep them well fed, including natural sources of nectar and pollen as well as artificial feeds, and check for diseases and parasites like Varroa mites.

What are two ways the average homeowner can give a hand to pollinators like bees?

  1. Plant flowering plants, ideally native but some non-native plants are great nectar sources as well.
  2. Minimize chemical use in your yard and around your home.

What are three benefits of having bees buzzing around your backyard? 

  1. They can help pollinate any fruits or vegetables you may be growing. 
  2. They can help pollinate wild native plants in your yard or community. 
  3. Most are gentle, non-aggressive, and quite pretty! Some are metallic green or bright blue. They can be fun to watch as they visit flowers.

What is one common misconception about bees?

There are thousands of species of bees around the world, and honey bees make up only a very, very small fraction of these species. Most bees are actually solitary, meaning each female or mom bee has her own baby bees in a small nest with no queens or workers. One consequence of this is that when you see an individual bee in your yard, if it is indeed a solitary species like most species, it means there is no large colony nearby. These bees are also usually very gentle and do not sting unless directly bothered.

There’s conflicting information online about the decline of the bee population in recent years. What’s the truth, and how concerned should we be about bees dying

We need to distinguish between honey bee losses and losses of wild, native species. Beekeepers lose some number of colonies every year, and this has always been the case. Think about it as farming; some plants or livestock won’t make it in a given year. But some beekeepers report higher than typical losses, and certainly honey bees face increasing challenges with climate change, habitat loss, diseases, and pests. I think the bigger issue is decline of native, wild species. Some native, wild species are doing just fine, but others including some species of bumble bees and some species of specialist bees with narrow ranges are declining or feared to be already extinct.  

Methodology

We ranked 40 U.S. states from best to worst (1-40) for beekeeping based on their overall scores (out of 100 points), averaged across the weighted metrics listed below.

Ten states plus the District of Columbia were excluded from our sample due to lack of available data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Sources

Bee Culture, Bee Informed Partnership, Environment America, Indeed, LocalHarvest, National Honey Board, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and U.S. Department of Agriculture

Final thoughts: What’s all the buzz?

Pesticides, parasites, and pollination — oh my!

Bees have been under attack from a swarm of issues, ranging from colony collapse disorder to parasitic bee mites to impaired navigation and communication due to pesticide consumption. 

Honeybees are important, even if you don’t particularly like the taste of honey. Without pollinators, we wouldn’t have access to nearly a third of our nation’s food supply.

Thankfully, homeowners can help bees out without donning a bee suit. “Bee” a friendly neighbor by replacing your grass with clover, planting native plants, using organic pest control methods, and designing a bee-friendly landscape

Bee lovers can follow the bees by flying to these apitourism (bee tourism) hotspots: 

  • Seattle, Washington: The Fairmont Olympic Hotel hosts around 250,000 bees, attended to by the hotel’s executive chef. You can try the honey for yourself at the hotel’s restaurant in a series of unique cocktails and dishes. 
  • Tucson, Arizona: Get suited up for a buzzy encounter at Miraval Arizona Resort & Spa, where you can learn what it takes to be a beekeeper and get up close and personal with a hive of honeybees for a couple of hours. 
  • Asheville, North Carolina: This city hosts an annual Pollination Celebration, but they’re partying all year long in 2022 to honor their decade of distinction as “Bee City, USA.” Events include pollinator garden tours, honey tastings, and art contests. 
  • Ojai, California: Experience a day in the life of an apiarist, or beekeeper, at Ojai Valley Inn. You’ll be guided through the process of honey creation and hive maintenance, with a raw honey tasting event to wrap up the day.

Man photo credit: iStock

Sav Maive

Sav Maive is a writer and director based in San Antonio. Sav is a recent graduate from the University of Virginia and is a loving cat and plant mom.