2023’s Best States for Beekeeping

Beekeeper with bees

Where can the location of your colony sweeten or sour your beekeeping journey?

To mark World Bee Day on May 20, Lawn Love ranked 2023’s Best States for Beekeeping.

We compared 39 of the 50 states (with available data) based on four categories. We looked at honey production, colony loss, and apiculture classes, among 15 total metrics.

Buzz through our ranking below to see the best states for beekeepers. To learn how we ranked the states, see our methodology.

In this article

State rankings + infographic

See how each state fared in our ranking:

Infographic showing the Best States for Beekeeping, a ranking based on honey production, colony loss, apiculture classes, and more

Top 5 close up

Check out the slideshow below for highlights on each of our top five states.

A woman drives a red convertible down the road toward the Hollywood Sign in Los Angeles
No. 1: California | Overall score: 55.61

Output: 2
Earning Potential: 14
Distribution: 1
Support: 1

Photo credit: Daniel Semenov | Pexels | Pexels License
The Statue of Liberty stands before the skyline of New York City.
No. 2: New York | Overall score: 48.06

Output: 9
Earning Potential: 3
Distribution: 2
Support: 2

Photo credit: Pierre Blaché | Pexels | Pexels License
A statue depicting a pioneer family stands in a large grass field in front of the North Dakota State Capitol building in Bismarck.
No. 3: North Dakota | Overall score: 40.98

Output: 1
Earning Potential: 4
Distribution: 35
Support: 36

Photo credit: Ken Lund | Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0
Trees line up before the Texas Capitol building on a clear blue day.
No. 4: Texas | Overall score: 36.89

Output: 3
Earning Potential: 19
Distribution: 6
Support: 16

Photo credit: Chmorich | Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 4.0
The Ohio Capitol building stands in downtown Columbus.
No. 5: Ohio | Overall score: 35.75

Output: 11
Earning Potential: 33
Distribution: 3
Support: 5

Photo credit: Larry Syverson | Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Key Insights

The gist

Some of the nation’s most populous states — California (No. 1), New York (No. 2), and Texas (No. 4) — buzz to the top of our ranking among apicultural epicenters like North Dakota (No. 3). North Dakota produced 31,200 pounds of honey in 2022 — nearly three times the amount produced by California. 

Utah (No. 37) may be The Beehive State, but that nickname is irrelevant when it comes to discussing the state’s beekeeping industry. Utah disappoints with high total annual colony loss, low beekeeper salaries, and a lack of bee-friendly legislation, landing alongside Arizona (No. 38) and Wyoming in last place. These three states fall behind with low scores across the board. 

Standout stats

  • California cultivation: The Golden State brings home the gold medal overall and in Distribution and Support. California offers the highest number of apiculture classes and establishments. California also boasts healthy bees with the lowest average annual colony loss in our ranking.
  • Flickertail hives: Swarming to third place is North Dakota with the largest overall honey Output. The Flickertail State impresses with the biggest total honey production and the most honey-producing colonies, 520 — 215 more than the next state, California
  • Sweet salaries: Beekeepers have the biggest opportunity to pollinate their savings accounts in Illinois (No. 10), which takes the top spot in Earning Potential. New York (No. 2) pays the highest average annual beekeeping salary, followed by Illinois and Colorado (No. 17). 
  • Colony conservation: Neonics are commonly used across lawns, gardens, and farms and have devastating impacts on bee populations. To help save the bees, New York (No. 2), New Jersey (No. 22), Vermont (No. 23), and Maine (No. 30) have each passed legislation limiting the use of neonics.
  • Buzzworthy sales: There are many opportunities to sell honey in states like New York (No. 2) and Ohio (No. 5). New York leads the way in honey suppliers, while The Buckeye State takes second place. Ohio boasts the most farmers markets, followed by New York.
  • Nectar network: It’s easy for beekeepers to connect in North Carolina (No. 8), thanks to the many beekeepers associations. Tennessee (No. 18) and Kentucky (No. 29) take second and third places, respectively. 
  • Handling honeybees: For aspiring beekeepers, Ohio (No. 5) offers the second-largest number of apiculture classes, while Washington (No. 12), West Virginia (No. 33), and Mississippi (No. 27) all tie for third place.

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 Professor of Pollinator Biology & Ecology
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
Avry Pribadi
Professor
Rachel Mallinger
Assistant Professor
Andony Melathopoulos
Assistant Professor Pollinator Health Extension
Robyn Underwood
Extension Educator
Meghan Milbrath, MPH, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Department of Entomology, Coordinator, Michigan Pollinator Initiative
Sheriden Hansen
Extension Assistant Professor
Philip Halliwell, Ph.D.
NREL, Research Scientist
Wendy Mather, S.S.W.
Manager, California Master Beekeeper Program
Krispn Given
Honey Bee Breeder and Researcher
Brandon Hopkins
Assistant Research Professor
Dr. Margaret J. Couvillon
Assistant Professor of Pollinator Biology & Ecology
Virginia Tech, Department of Entomology

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 to 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 bees.

1. 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.

2. Secondly, avoid the use of pesticides, including herbicides, in your yard. We know these chemicals can have harmful lethal and sublethal effects on insect pollinators.

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

1. 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.

2. Secondly, bees are important pollinators for wildflowers and crops, so we want to keep them around and healthy.

3. 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 (approximately 20,000+) of 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 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 a bellwether 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 have provided unprecedented challenges. As a 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 impact 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.
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?

1. Create a diverse forage habitat with staggered blooms so that something is constantly blooming, especially during times of pollen and nectar scarcity (for example, peak summer).

2. 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?

1. Plant pollination is crucial. Supporting a diverse group of bee species can help support diverse plant species.

2. In addition, keeping a hive can also be your source of honey and wax.

3. Bees are fascinating insects to study and teach kids about, 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 an 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, policymakers, and concerned citizens who are working together to help save all bee species.

 

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?

1. Logs that are hollowed out in the middle (prefer dry and smoky).

2. In some tropical countries, they use bamboo to trap and keep the bees.

3. 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?

1. The easiest things are reducing pesticides and planting some native flowers or vegetation (bees avoid homogeneity and prefer heterogeneity).

2. Provide bees “settlements” like small hollows of wood in your backyards.

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

1. They pollinate many flowers and produce food that might be useful for your native animals, such as birds.

2. They provide “free” pollination services for your plants, such as fruits.

3. They make sure the food chain is balanced by providing basic needs for all animals.

What is one common misconception about bees?

1. They are pests.

2. They harm insects.

3. They only produce honey.

4. 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 the 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?

1. Reduce the utilization of pesticides, even in controlling Varroa.

2. Prevent dramatic landscape changes.

3. Provide native flowers and vegetation.

4. Provide more natural hives.

5. Do not destroy the honey bee colonies that you think do not have good character in producing honey. They may bring some good genetics that other honey bee colonies do not have.

6. Provide water sources for honey bees, particularly during hot weather.

7. Do not take all the honeycombs when you harvest the honey and prepare the colonies for winter.

Rachel Mallinger
Assistant Professor
University of Florida, Department of Entomology and Nematology

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 levels.

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 are:

1. Keep them well-fed, including natural sources of nectar and pollen, as well as artificial feeds.

2. 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 a 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 the 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.

Andony Melathopoulos
Assistant Professor Pollinator Health Extension
Oregon State University, Department of Horticulture

What’s your single best tip for beginner beekeepers?

Think it through. Beekeeping can be pretty complicated, and it won’t likely go well if you just mail-order bees and supplies on an impulse. Even before getting started, I’d suggest taking a beekeeping class with a local beekeeping club; you’ll get a better picture of what you are getting into.

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

For honey bees, I would recommend going with plain-Jane Langstroth equipment. You can buy these at all bee supply outlets, and plans are available online.

There are all sorts of less common hive bodies, but these can be hard to adapt to what is available from suppliers and to what you learn from many educational materials.

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

1. Plant a diverse set of flowering plants in your garden. Look for local recommendations from an organization like Pollinator Partnerships that have local plant guides.

2. Support non-profits that restore working and natural lands to flowers (e.g., Project ApisM, Pollinator Partnership, and the Xerces Society).

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

1. Bees are cool. We have over 4,000 species in the US. Some are emerald green. Some fly when it’s cold. Some make nests in snail shells. Bees are the next butterfly in terms of wonderful visitors to your garden.

2. They are also the best pollinators of fruits and vegetables in your backyard. When you have a lot of bees, you will get a higher set of fruit on things like cherries, blueberries, squash, and tomatoes.

3. Moreover, these fruits and vegetables will be of higher quality as plants invest more resources into well-pollinated fruits and vegetables.

What is one common misconception about bees?

Bees are aggressive. People confuse yellow jackets with bees. They are not the same thing. All female bees have the ability to sting, but they don’t unless their nests are directly disturbed. Most of the 4,000 species of bees in the US are very reluctant to sting and basically won’t unless you squeeze them in your hand.

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?

Honey bee colony stocks are on the rise after hitting a low point about ten years ago. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t challenges in keeping honey bee colonies alive, and beekeepers have to spend a lot more money each year replacing lost colonies.

With wild bees, it’s a lot less clear. We have two species of bumble bees in the continental US that are listed under the Endangered Species Act. With other species, there is just not enough data on what is going on with these species.

People should be concerned about the lack of data and support initiatives to document wild bee biodiversity in their state.

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

It depends on the state. In the West, where we are experiencing prolonged drought in late summer, we recommend states support planting late-blooming (e.g., July and August) flowering plants that don’t require much water to sustain.

Robyn Underwood
Extension Educator
Penn State Extension, Apiculture

What’s your single best tip for beginner beekeepers?

Before you get your own bees, you should shadow a beekeeper for a season. Make sure you feel comfortable around bees, wearing all of the needed gear in the hot weather, and that you have time to devote to this endeavor (the bees don’t wait for you).

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

If you use standard Langstroth equipment (those standard white boxes), you will save yourself a lot of frustration.

This is, by far, the most common equipment, so you will be able to incorporate resources from other colonies when needed, purchase nucleus colonies to increase your colony numbers, and borrow equipment from a fellow beekeeper in a pinch.

Within this style of equipment, you can use boxes that fit ten frames, eight frames, or five frames, depending on your needs. It is quite versatile.

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

1. Plant flowers that produce abundant nectar and pollen.

2. Don’t use pesticides in your yard.

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

1. Bees are excellent pollinators.

2. They can help your garden produce abundant food for you or seeds for future plantings.

3. Also, watching them go from flower to flower can be really meditative.

What is one common misconception about bees?

It is a misconception that honey bees are “dying out.” It is really the native bees that are in decline and need our help. “Save the bees” is about those native bees, not honey bees. So, becoming a beekeeper is not the solution.

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?

It is true that beekeepers struggle to keep honey bee colonies alive, especially over the winter. However, proper nutrition and management of parasitic mites, among other things, greatly improve the odds of survival.

Beekeepers care for honey bees, so I don’t think we need to be concerned about them. Native bees, however, that live without human help are struggling.

Loss of habitat, including nesting sites and pollen and nectar plants specifically needed by these bees, is a major concern.

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

Honey bees are adaptable and resilient. So, the best thing we can do to mitigate the effects of climate change is to concentrate on habitat and flowering plants. We need to ensure that green spaces remain and are full of abundant resources for bees.

Meghan Milbrath, MPH, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Department of Entomology, Coordinator, Michigan Pollinator Initiative
Michigan State University

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

1. The best way that homeowners can give a hand to pollinators like bees is to reduce the amount of non-flowering lawn that they maintain.

2. They can add flowering plants to make their lawns more supportive, add flowering trees, and reduce the amount of their lawn property by adding pollinator gardens. You can find resources here.

Sheriden Hansen
Extension Assistant Professor
Utah State University, Horticulture

What’s your single best tip for beginner beekeepers?

Take a beekeeping class, or a few, before you bring home bees. Beekeeping is a learning curve, and it takes some time and education effort to learn the terminology, the life cycle, and how to best care for bees.

If the class you take has a mentorship program associated with it, take advantage of it. Hands-on learning is best when it comes to beekeeping and will help you build skills as situations unfold and when the hive doesn’t look the same as it does in a textbook.

Plus, building a relationship with a mentor will give you resources and information to lean on later.

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

For native bees, you can build or purchase a bee hotel that houses cavity-nesting, solitary bees. Cavities can be made from bamboo or reeds or drilled into wood blocks.

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

1. Plant native and adapted plants that are well suited to your climate and to pollinators. Having nectar and pollen resources is an important part of supporting bees and helping to also build species diversity in your local area.

Choose plants that produce flowers that are easy for pollinators to gain access to (single petaled and ray flowers are easiest), and also select plants that bloom over the whole growing season (spring, summer, and fall).

Plant in groupings of 3–5 to give ample plants for pollinators to source pollen and nectar from. Often times a single plant isn’t as effective.

2. Leave bare soil accessible to pollinators. Not all bees live together in a hive. Native bees are mostly ground-nesting and need access to bare soil in order to dig the cavities they need to build their nest and lay eggs.

Native bees are excellent pollinators, and supporting their habitat is one of the best things you can do for them.

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

1. Increased pollination of your plants, your garden will be more abundant.

2. Increased genetic diversity in your garden, pollinators help diversify genetics as they pollinate.

3. Added interest – watching pollinators can be fascinating!

What is one common misconception about bees?

A common misconception about bees is that they all make honey. In fact, the majority of bees are solitary bees (they don’t congregate together like the European honey bee in a hive).

Solitary bees don’t make honey, but they consume nectar as a food source and collect pollen for their nests to support their brood as it hatches and develops.

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 should be concerned about our bees dying. Urbanization, climate change, and certain insecticides can have a negative impact on bee populations.

Doing your part to help protect them by planting a pollinator garden, providing habitat, and using integrated pest management practices to reduce insecticide usage in landscapes is always a positive and should be considered.

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

States can emphasize the importance of and allow for landscaping practices that support pollinators, such as promoting alternative landscapes that are water-wise, incorporating native and adapted plants, and being pollinator-friendly.

Legislation to protect areas where native bees nest in remote sites is also key to preserving the diversity of species and plant biodiversity.

Philip Halliwell, Ph.D.
NREL, Research Scientist
Colorado State University

What’s your single best tip for beginner beekeepers?

I no longer keep honey bees because they compete with other native pollinators for resources. However, getting familiar with your hives is essential. A lot of clues can be provided when you understand what your hive might be doing in any given season.

Also, look for and get acquainted with the native bees in your area. Many have nests in the ground or holes in stumps, hollow stems, or cracks in stone walls.

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

Hives or nests for native bees can be bought or made. While you won’t get honey out of these bees, you will be providing them with a great home in your garden.

Nesting boxes are commonly made of bamboo cane or other hollow tube-like materials or holes drilled into wood.

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

1. Grow out some sections of your lawn. Let the wildflowers, clover, and even dandelions spend a little more time on your lawn before mowing.

2. Of course, choose plants for your garden that pollinators love.

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

1. Bees and butterflies are beautiful.

2. They will pollinate the flowers in your garden, crops nearby, and local fruit trees.

3. They are a fundamental part of a healthy and vibrant backyard.

What is one common misconception about bees?

Not all bees sting. It’s rather uncommon for a bumble bee to sting, and the males do not even have stingers.

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?

There are many questions that still exist as to why we are seeing certain pollinator populations decline. The truth is it is likely a combination of many factors, such as pesticide use, habitat loss, and a changing climate impacting species ranges.

All of these impact each species in different ways and to varying degrees. Some species have been less resilient than others.

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

Since climate change is driven by greenhouse gas emissions, reducing those is most important. Protecting and creating a habitat free from pesticides is essential for the health of bee populations.

Wendy Mather, S.S.W.
Manager, California Master Beekeeper Program
University of California, Davis

What’s your single best tip for beginner beekeepers?

Join your local bee club and check out the California Master Beekeeper Program website for science-based beekeeping and honey bee health information. Be a beekeeper, not a bee-‘haver’.

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

The most common are:

1. Langstroth

2. Long Langstroth

3. Top bar hives

The frames must be movable.

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

1. Participate in “No Mow May.”

2. Plant native flowers.

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

1. Pollination of trees, flowers, and vegetables

2. Fascinating to watch and listen to

3. Great lessons for kids about how hard they work and how focused they are on their tasks

What is one common misconception about bees?

All bees sting — false. Only worker bees (females) have a stinger. Drones do not. Bees will not bother you when they are busy foraging.

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?

The 4 Ps (pests, pathogens, pesticides, and poor nutrition) negatively impact honey bee health. As science-based beekeepers, IPM (integrated pest management) strategies help mitigate these issues. We can minimize exposure to pesticides through BeeWhere, ensure ample available nutrition through the Seeds for Bees program, and mitigate pests and pathogens. Science-based knowledge and skill are key. Bee Informed. Join the California Master Beekeeper Program.

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

Heal the soil, heal the bees. Quality nutrition begins with soil health — for bees and humans.

Krispn Given
Honey Bee Breeder and Researcher
Purdue University

What’s your single best tip for beginner beekeepers?

Start with two colonies and try to get a beekeeping mentor that lives near you. It’s a good idea to start with two hives; this way, if one colony is lost, one can easily split the surviving colony to replace the dead one. Make sure the location of your new beehives has abundant resources. Some locations will not have enough food and water to maintain the colonies’ survival.

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

1. It wasn’t until the second half of the 19th century, when Larenzo Langstroth introduced his hive with a movable frame to the world. It’s the most widely used beehive, globally revolutionizing “modern beekeeping” practices.

These hives allow beekeepers to easily manipulate frames for honey harvest and ease of inspection of their colonies for diseases.

2. Top bar hives offer an alternative to the common Langstroth hive. The colony will build combs horizontally in this scheme.

3. French Warre beehives are great for the beekeeper who simply wants to help bees and have a colony in the garden. These hives use bars instead of frames so the colony will produce feral or natural comb, just as they do in nature.

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

1. Reducing the use of pesticides would certainly be beneficial; any amount of reduction will help.

2. Create a flowering habitat that ensures flowering plants spring, summer, and fall. Be sure to plant a diverse group of native plants where you live.

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

Before I begin, I cannot imagine a world without honey bees. Honey bees are the supreme pollinator of crops due to the number of individuals in the nest. They also exhibit “flower fidelity,” meaning honey bees are flower constant. For example, if a foraging bee is working the spring blossoms of the apple, they will only work those flowers. You will not see them foraging on mutable plant species during the trip. Therefore, we have so many varietal honeys to choose from.

So much of our agricultural productivity is dependent on the European honey bee (Apis mellifera), like apples, oranges, and almonds, to name a few. When the honey bee suffers, so does agriculture, and so, potentially, some of the fruits and vegetables we enjoy eating.

The value of honey bee pollination alone is 15 billion. If you are a keeper of bees, you will get delicious honey you can share with friends and family.

What is one common misconception about bees?

They sting a lot. Honey bees do not want to sting while foraging for important colony resources like nectar, pollen, and even water. If stinging occurs, it’s usually due to an accident — for example, stepping on them while they are collecting nectar from the so-called Dutch clover in our lawn while barefoot, like I did when I was a kid. Indeed, if you are a beekeeper, you will get stung occasionally.

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?

Much attention has been generated due to the plight of our honey bee populations in recent years. The (Varroa destructor) mite is an external parasite that first made its way to the U.S. beekeepers’ hives in the early eighties — which is the single most important factor associated with overall colony decline today.

These parasitic mites originally came from the Asian honey bee (Apis ceranae). They feed on the fat body and hemolymph (bee blood) from the adult and pupal stage bees. They are much like a tick on your dog. Fortunately, the biology of honey bees makes it somewhat easy to replace lost colonies, but it’s costly to the beekeeper with the reduction in honey production.

The real problem is the health of the honey bees being compromised due to viruses being vectored from the mites while feeding on the bees. You can think of a honey bee colony as a superorganism containing upwards of 70 thousand individuals in the nest.

Here at Purdue, we are working on solutions to ameliorate honey bee health. We have an ongoing honey bee breeding program spanning over two decades where we have selected bees that can resist the varroa mites. We have selected for a strain of bees we call the IN Mite-biters that express behavioral resistance to the deadly mites by grooming them of their bodies and biting them. However, honey bee breeding is a process that requires constant selection to maintain the desired traits you want. For example, you can select for color and temperament. Here is a link to information on how we are trying to improve honey bee health with selective breeding.

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

Start by planting beneficial varietal flowering plants and trees. They could also start by allowing flowers to grow along major highways and railroads. Fortunately, this is already happening in many states. Trees like basswood and black locust are great examples. Of course, educating the public about the value honey bees have is an important factor.

Brandon Hopkins
Assistant Research Professor
Washington State University

What’s your single best tip for beginner beekeepers?

Join your local beekeeping club/organization. Beekeeping is very regionally specific and they will have experienced beekeepers who are eager to answer questions and help beginner beekeepers.

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

1. Bees will nest in almost any cavity if it is the right size. It is critical that the hive choice has removable frames, so the colony can be inspected for pests and disease.

2. Langstroth hives

3. Top bar hives

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

1. Plant lots of pollinator-friendly plants that have various bloom times from spring to fall. The late-blooming and early-blooming plants are the most important.

2. Be cautious with pesticide use. Read the label carefully and do not spray blooming flowers.

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

1. Pollination of your and your neighbors’ gardens.

2. Fun to watch and see the diversity of colors and sizes of different bees.

3. Warm feeling of being a good steward of the environment/ecosystem.

What is one common misconception about bees?

They are all mean, angry wasps. Bees are very different from wasps and rarely sting people.`

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?

“Bees” are dying. There are a few thousand species of native bees in the U.S., and they are suffering from the same challenges that have been well-identified to be causing colony losses of honey bee colonies. There are some broad categories that have major impacts on the losses of all bees — loss of habitat/forage, pest/pathogen pressure, and pesticides. Managed honey bees have the advantage of beekeepers caring for their colonies — going to great effort and expense to make up for losses each year and keep as many alive through the season as possible. But it is very difficult to be a beekeeper these days.

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

Manage lands to increase bee forage availability and allow beekeepers access to those lands.

Behind the ranking

First, we determined the factors (metrics) that are most relevant to rank the Best States for Beekeeping. We then assigned a weight to each factor based on its importance and grouped those factors into four categories: Output, Earning Potential, Distribution, and Support. The categories, factors, and their weights are listed in the table below.

For each of the 50 states, we then gathered data on each factor from the sources listed below the table. We eliminated 11 states lacking sufficient data in a single category, resulting in a final sample size of 39 states.

Finally, we calculated scores (out of 100 points) for each state to determine its rank in each factor, each category, and overall. A state’s Overall Score is the average of its scores across all factors and categories. The highest Overall Score ranked “Best” (No. 1) and the lowest “Worst” (No. 39).

Notes:

Sources

American Honey Producers Association, Bee Culture, Bee Informed Partnership, Environment America, Indeed, Local Harvest, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and U.S. Department of Agriculture

Final thoughts: What’s the buzz?

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 following these helpful tips:

Want to help save the bees? Hire a local Lawn Love pro to help turn your backyard into a buzzing, bee-autiful paradise.

Media resources

Main Photo Credit: iStock

Sav Maive

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