A third speaker on the honey bee panel was Bret Adee of Adee Honey Farms in Bruce, S.D. He completed college with an accounting degree in 1984 and joined the family’s beekeeping business to crunch numbers. Two years later, he decided accounting was “boring” and moved to the “fun job” - beekeeping.

Today, the third-generation beekeeper is one of the nation’s largest keepers of bees with hives in California, Utah, Washington, North and South Dakota, Minnesota, Texas, Mississippi, and Colorado.

Adee is concerned about the total number of hives nationally for crop pollination. While USDA reports about 2.6 million colonies in the U.S., Adee says the figure is only accurate when bees are the healthiest during the summer - not during the almond pollination.

For beekeepers, 20 percent of colonies are lost during the summer, plus a 30 percent loss during overwintering - about 50 percent total. About two hives per acre are used to pollinate California’s 840,000 acres of bearing almonds. That pencils out to about 1.6 million needed colonies – about the same number of the available commercial colonies.

“The (colony) buffer is zero,” Adee said.

So while current colony supply just barely meets current almond pollination demand, another 100,000 acres of non-bearing almond trees will enter commercial production within a decade. This need for more bees is a great concern to the apiculture and almond industries.