Six Things You Should Know About a Honey Bee's Annual Road Trip

Every winter, a handful of honey bees across the United States pack their bags in search of warmer weather. Those who opt-out of taking the trip take a cue from the chill in the air and spend the winter huddled in their hives.

Bee in a Truck

  1. From mid-October through mid-February, commercial beekeepers must take their honey bees to a warm climate if they will be using the bees to pollinate early-season blooms.

    Bee Migration Map

    Bee Migration Map Key

  2. Commercially managed honey bees are big business in the United States, about $485 million in 2016. As their primary use has shifted from making honey to pollination services, these bees follow a migratory pattern according to what’s in bloom for crops that benefit from or require insect pollination.

    Almond Blooms

  3. California’s almond blooms are the most massive stop on the commercial honey bee traffic pattern, and mark the greatest pollination event in the world with more than 1.6 million commercial honey bee hives, or 60 to 75 percent of all U.S. commercial hives.

    Bee Pollination Fact

  4. Almonds, sunflowers, canola, grapes, apples, sweet cherries, watermelons, dried prunes, cultivated blueberries and avocados account for 96 percent of all U.S. pollination fees.

    Major Honey Bee Pollinated Crops Map

  5. Other than California, top honey bee destinations for pollination are Washington, North Dakota, South Dakota, Florida, Texas, Wisconsin, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Michigan.

    Pollinating Flowers in the Wild

  6. 65 to 80 percent of commercial hives spend part of the summer in North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana and Minnesota feeding on the alfalfa, clover, sunflowers and canola. honey bees support the cultivation of approximately 90-130 crops.