I came accross this article and still haven't been able to find the USDA survey release associated with it.
The number of honey-producing bee
colonies in the U.S. rose 7.4 percent last year
and honey production was up 20 percent,
the Department of Agriculture said.
About 2.684 million colonies were reported
by beekeepers with five or more hives in
2010, the USDA said Friday in a report.
Honey production rose to 65.5 pounds per
colony, up 12 percent from 2009, with
overall output at 176 million pounds. The
average price at the private and retail levels
was $1.603 a pound, an all-time high and up
8.8 percent from the previous record last
year, the USDA said.
If this is the full story this is very good news. I would like to find the full survey to see if it mentions the size of colonies. Beekeepers could be maintaining more hives that are smaller colonies by splitting colonies into two hives as population rises in the summer. Also honey prices have dramatically increased in the last few years, so it is possible that more beekeepers are focusing more on honey production than just making their money on pollination. Bee colonies were still being flown in from Australia last year for pollination, which tells me along with continued high pollination rates that farmers are still struggling to get bees for pollination.
Hopefully we are turning the corner or at least things are getting less worse. But with many surveys like this the devil is in the details. While colonies may be improving and honey production is ramping up, pollination could still be in peril. I would like to get the full story.