The Beekeeping Business
Most of us do not think of honey bees as livestock. We tend to imagine them buzzing around flowers in the wild, minding their own business until we occasionally get in the way of their stingers. However, for the majority of honey bee colonies in the United States, thinking of them as livestock is the best characterization.
Beekeepers, also known as apiarists, utilize the natural population dynamics of honey bee colonies to produce honey and provide pollination services. Beekeepers move their colonies all over the country, tracking forage to cut down on supplemental feeding costs and provide colonies with pest and disease treatments when necessary.
The more than 20,000 beekeepers in the US differ in how they operate, but a typical migratory pattern might go as follows: The beekeeping year begins in January waiting for almonds to bloom in California. Once almond bloom is over, the beekeeper moves colonies up through the Pacific Northwest pollinating apples and other spring-blooming crops. In May, the beekeeper takes the colonies to North Dakota to produce honey from clover, canola, and sunflowers.
As honey production slows in the fall, the beekeeper returns to California to await almond pollination in January, and the cycle begins all over again.