Leading Honey-Producing States In The US

By Amber Pariona on June 7 2020 in Economics

A beekeeper harvests honey.
A beekeeper harvests honey.
  • North Dakota is the largest honey producers in the US with 38 million pounds.
  • South Dakota ranked fourth in the nation in terms of honey production in 2018. But the production is less then half it was 5 years ago.
  • Montana honey production has more than doubled in the last 40 years to be the second largest producer of honey

What Is Honey?

Honey is a thick, golden-colored, natural, sweet substance that is created by bees when they collect plant pollen and nectar. The nectar is combined with an enzyme produced by honey bees and stored in a honeycomb cell. The moisture within the cell is reduced, concentrating the product. It has the sweetness of granulated sugar, from monosaccharides fructose and glucose, and a distinct flavor. Honey prevents the growth of many microorganisms and therefore, does not spoil. In fact, some researchers have even found thousand-year-old, still edible honey. The use of honey by humans dates back to at least 8,000 years ago.

The Production Of Honey

Beekeepers harvest honey from the honeycomb once the bees have covered the cells in wax. This honey may then be packaged and sold in its raw form or heated and filtered. The honey available for purchase comes in several presentations including liquid, comb (the comb can also be eaten), and cut comb (liquid honey with pieces of comb inside). 

The Leading Honey-Producing States In The US

In 2018, the US was the 5th leading honey producer in the world with 69,104 tons produced. Within this country, some states produce significantly more than others.

1.  North Dakota

North Dakota is the top honey-producing state in the country. In 2018, this state reported a total of 38.2 million pounds of honey. This equates to a value of more than $71 million. The state, in 2010, had approximately 246 registered beekeepers, although that number has been growing each year. Each beekeeper manages between 1,000 and 1,500 bee colonies on average. The average yield of each colony is roughly 78 pounds. As of 2016, the price of honey was at $1.73 per pound, which is a slight decrease from 2015 at $1.80 per pound. Some beekeepers move their bees to warmer locations during the winter because they would not be able to survive the cold temperatures of North Dakota. This move also allows them to produce and harvest honey year-round.

2.  Montana

In the last 40 years, the state's honey production has more than doubled, with Montana recently becoming the nation's second-leading honey producer. It ranks as the 10th most valuable crop with a harvest of over $31 million. The honey industry is really about pollinating other crops. A beekeeping operation in Montana can have as many as 30,000 hives, that bring in more than $6 million a year in pollination fees alone not including honey produced. 

3.  California

The California honey industry is thriving mostly due to pollinating services. Many bee farmers from North Dakota and Montana move their hives to California in the winter to help with the almond pollination. In the last 3 years, honey production in California has risen by more than 30%. 

4.  South Dakota

South Dakota, which produced 12 million pounds of honey in 2018. This quantity of honey is worth over $23 million. This state is home to approximately 185 registered beekeepers, who manage around 280,000 bee colonies (excluding those found in the wild). The majority of the honey produced in South Dakota is an alfalfa-sweet clover blend (the flavor of honey changes depending on which plant the bees have access to). The beekeepers and agricultural workers of this state often collaborate to ensure crop pollination. Generally, there is no charge for this as the activity is mutually beneficial to both parties. A study conducted by Cornell University determined that honeybee pollination in South Dakota brings $10.7 billion of value to the crops.

5. Florida

Florida is the fifth leading honey-producing state in the US. In 2014, beekeepers here produced around 14.7 million pounds of honey. This amount has a value of $27 million. As in South Dakota, beekeepers and agricultural workers collaborate on pollination services, which add approximately $65 million in value to Florida crops. The honey produced here often comes from a variety of fruit trees, a common agricultural crop in Florida.

The chart published below offers a closer look at the leading honey-producing states in the US.

Leading Honey Producing States In The US

RankUS StateHoney production in 2018 (in 1,000 pounds)
1North Dakota38,160
2Montana14,720
3California13,735
4South Dakota11,985
5Florida11,535
6Texas9,048
7Minnesota7,259
8Michigan4,048
9Louisiana3,735
10Idaho2976

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