It happens every year; package bee prices go up, $5, $10, or $15. Everyone complains, and rightfully so. Whispers spread around, “Are package sellers just trying to get rich quick?” Or is there more to it? Turns out there are a lot of pieces in this bee puzzle. Let me explain.
One reason bee package prices rarely if ever stay the same year-to-year, let alone reduce in price, is inflation. The inflation rate average from 1914-2018 is 3.27%. At current bee prices that equates to about $5-6 a package, so right there it is on pace to increase at minimum $5 per year. That’s not the only reason though.
Why did the cost increase more than just inflation? A big reason has to do with how the bees are doing in the lower 48. Bees are intertwined thought the contiguous states, and what happened 6 months ago can dictate bees today.
For example, the winter kill rate in the Midwest from an extremely cold winter can change how many packages are available in the spring. Or an unseasonably hot and dry summer can stunt hive growth during a common time of new brood production, also effecting packages. Why this matters is beekeeping enters a lull typically from September to end of December, either from lack of pollen in temperate climates to self imposed hibernation in colder climates. Hives need to be strong and healthy when entering this lull as there is a steady decline in population, coupled with a potential rise is disease, until an uptick starts in January.
Almost every package in Alaska, if not every, originated in the Almond orchards. Beekeepers descend onto California from all over the Lower 48 to pollinate these Almonds. As one of the first natural pollen sources available after a long dearth, the bee population within a hive explodes during and just after the bloom. If the hives brought into pollination are a low grade (volume of bees) or not enough hives are available, from a high winter kill for example, that will determine how much bees are available after pollination to shake into packages. The larger a beehive is, the more bees can be shaken into our packages. The more packages available, the less likely prices will increase to offset ever-increasing overhead costs.
Now, not all beekeepers shake packages. Some come for the pollination check, then sell a portion of their hives bursting at the seams to avoid hefty haul fees back to their home base. It is not uncommon for package producers to buy these hives after Almonds for bulk bees to meet their package demands.
Of course I am silly to say these are the only factors to increasing package costs. Unfortunately there are a massive volume of moving pieces involving many people. Beekeepers have to feed syrup and pollen supplements during dearths. Package producers have to purchase the actual package containers and queen cages. Constant pest and disease treatment throughout the year require treatments. Shipping and transportation cost, both for package producers and package sellers (us) can change. Just look at the constant adjustments airlines do to their prices. Anyone of those can be effected by countless reasons, all effecting the end result; your bee package.
Royal Alaskan Honey would love to supply low cost yet high quality bee packages to you. Unfortunately we do not have complete control over every aspect of the situation, but we try to do our best. Prices are adjusted as our cost is. I promise we are not getting rich quick off selling these packages.