Alberta 2008 Beekeepers' Survey Results

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Purpose | Methodology | Highlights | Honey production | Acknowledgements
Purpose of Survey

To address some of the data gaps and information needs of the beekeeping industry in Alberta, each year the Statistics and Data Development (SADD) Branch conducts a survey of beekeepers in the province. In particular, the survey is used to assist in the generation of provincial and regional estimates for selected honey variables (e.g. colony numbers, yield, production, etc.). Information captured from the survey includes data on colony numbers, yield, production and prices, and constitutes the basis for the estimates. These are used with information from other sources, to derive the provincial and regional estimates. Furthermore, estimates generated at both provincial and regional levels, along with the survey results, are shared with survey participants, industry and other stakeholders.

This report focuses on the results of the Alberta 2008 Beekeepers’ Survey and the related estimates generated.


The Alberta Beekeepers’ Survey, which is provincial in scope, collects data from producers through a non-probability survey. In March 2009, survey questionnaires were mailed out to 411 beekeepers across the province. The questionnaires specifically asked survey participants to provide, at their earliest convenience, information on colony numbers, production, yield, bee purchases, prices (expected/actual), carry-over stocks and selected management practices, for their related beekeeping operation in 2008.

Survey participants were made aware that participation was voluntary. Also, they were assured that all individual responses would be kept confidential under both the Statistics Act of Canada, and the Alberta Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy (FOIP) Act, by which the SADD Branch is governed and operates. In return for their participation, survey respondents who were interested, were given the Branch’s publication highlighting the results of the 2008 Beekeepers’ Survey, the related provincial and regional estimates developed, and selected historical honey statistics. As of October 2009, a total of 201 questionnaires were received of which 190 were usable and formed the basis for the Alberta 2008 honey production estimates.

Survey responses received were reviewed for data completeness, validated and entered into an electronic database. The data was then subjected to some computerized analyses, the results of which were rolled up into group summaries, to preserve the confidentiality of data provided by individual survey respondents. In turn, the group summaries, in conjunction with input from industry and Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development (ARD) subject area/provincial specialists, were used to develop provincial and regional estimates on the number of producers, colonies, yield and production.

It should be noted that the derived estimates are subject to error. Some of the possible causes of error include data coding, data entry, editing and tabulation. Nonetheless, we believe that the statistics published in this report are reliable estimates for Alberta.

Highlights of the Alberta 2006/2007 Paired Beekeeping Surveys

The following survey highlights are based on the responses of 112 producers in Alberta who participated in both the 2007 and 2008 Alberta Beekeepers’ Surveys. For more detailed information, please refer to Table 1.

Paired Sample Highlights:

  • In 2008, producers bought less queen packages/nucs than in 2007. Purchases decreased approximately four per cent, with the average producer buying 117 packages/nucs, compared to 122 in 2007. Three per cent of the packages/nucs were purchased locally, while 97 per cent were imported.
  • In 2008, the distribution of imported packages was as follows: New Zealand (99 per cent), British Columbia (one per cent) and Australia (0.4 per cent). Imports of packages from New Zealand increased, while imports from Australia and British Columbia decreased.
  • Producers sourced 89 per cent of their nuc purchases from British Columbia, with the balance being sourced from Alberta (seven per cent) and Saskatchewan (five per cent). Imports of nucs from British Columbia went up, while imports from Saskatchewan went down. The average nuc price in British Columbia was $104.82 (down 0.2 per cent), while in Saskatchewan it was $120.00 (down 20 per cent).
  • Purchases of individual queens declined nine per cent in 2008, with producers purchasing 184 queens on average, compared to 201 in 2007. Hawaii continues to be the primary source of imports, accounting for 91 per cent of the total, while other US States were second with six per cent and British Columbia third, with one per cent.
  • Average queen prices in 2008 ranged from $17.83 to $27.47, depending upon the source of purchase. Average prices were lowest in Australia at $17.83 per queen, followed by Saskatchewan at $18.67, then Hawaii at $19.07 per queen. Average prices were highest in the other category at $27.47 per queen.
  • In 2008, the percentage deathloss for queens purchased in packages and nucs was six per cent, compared to four per cent in 2007. The average deathloss of purchased individual queens was 20 per cent in 2008, compared to 22 per cent a year ago.
  • On June 30, 2008, there was less honey in inventory than a year earlier. Producers on average had 10,685 pounds in stock, down 15 per cent from 12,596 pounds in 2007.
  • Alberta continues to be the preferred location for producers to over-winter their bees, with 98 per cent of the over-wintering activity occurring in the province in 2008. Less than two per cent of over-wintering was done in British Columbia.
  • “Outdoor” over-wintering is still the preferred practice in Alberta, accounting for 62 per cent of total colonies over-wintered in 2008, compared to 61 per cent in 2007.
  • The average beekeeper had about 19 years of beekeeping experience. Years of experience in over-wintering “outdoor” and “indoor” colonies were lower, approximately 16 years, for both.
  • Producer prices received in 2007 for honey were higher than expected for both retail and wholesale. The average price realized for wholesale honey was $100.15 per cwt, slightly higher than the expected price of $100.14 per cwt. The realized price for retail honey was $233.37 per cwt, $1.56 higher than the expected price of $231.81 per cwt. The 2008 expected prices for honey are $151.59 per cwt wholesale, and $269.71 per cwt retail.

For further information regarding the survey or survey results, please do not hesitate to contact:

John Paul Emunu
Livestock Statistician
Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development
Economics and Competitiveness Division
Statistics and Data Development Branch
Phone: 780-427-4243; Fax 780-427-5220

Honey Production in Alberta

The estimated number of beekeepers in Alberta decreased in 2008. There were approximately 15 per cent fewer beekeepers in the province at 620, compared to 726 in 2007 (see tables 2, 3 and 4). Along with the decline in beekeeper numbers in 2008, colony numbers also fell from 2007 levels. There were 226,000 colonies in the province, or a decline of nearly five per cent, from the 2007 total of 237,000 colonies. Interestingly, preliminary statistics indicate that while Alberta has 10 per cent of the nation’s total beekeepers, it accounted for greater than 40 per cent of the honey producing colonies in Canada.

Alberta produced more honey in 2008 than was previously estimated. Final estimates show total production at 26.0 million pounds, compared to the preliminary fall estimate of 21.6 million pounds. However, despite this adjustment, production was down nearly 10 per cent from 28.9 million pounds in 2007. Relatively poor weather conditions along with bee disease helped contribute to the production decline. The average yield per colony fell about six per cent to 115 pounds, compared to 122 pounds in 2007.

Preliminary estimates by Statistics Canada peg total Canadian honey production in 2008 at 62.0 million pounds, compared to 69.4 million pounds a year earlier. Based on the initial estimates, Alberta accounts for nearly 35 per cent of the nation’s honey production.

Regionally in Alberta, honey production was the highest in the North West region in 2008 (see Tables 2 and 4). This region produced 8.7 million pounds of honey, or nearly 34 per cent of the total provincial production of 26.0 million pounds. The Peace region was second with roughly 8.6 million pounds, (or 33 per cent), followed by the North East with approximately 4.1 million pounds (or 16 per cent). The Central region had the lowest production with 1.3 million pounds (or five per cent), followed by the South with 3.3 million pounds (or 13 per cent). It cannot be over emphasized that estimated honey production on a regional basis is directly tied to colony numbers and yield, hence, explaining the variation among regions. It is also worth mentioning that although the South had the largest number of colonies, these colonies are mainly used for hybrid canola pollination. Such activity reduces the yield per colony, and consequently production.

Just to note, the Alberta Beekeepers’ Survey had included some questions regarding the pollination of crops. Based upon the survey results (which do not include all beekeepers involved in pollination activities), 36,834 colonies were rented for pollination in 2008, with an average rental charge of $131.56 per colony. For some producers, this was one strategy employed to diversify their incomes.


The Statistics and Data Development Branch of Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development (ARD) gratefully acknowledge and thank the many producers who participated in the Alberta 2008 Beekeepers’ survey. Without their participation, this report would not have been possible.

As well, the Branch wishes to acknowledge several staff members of ARD, including Reynold Jaipaul, Gail Atkinson, Guangzhi Liu, Nabi Chaudhary, John Paul Emunu, Roy Larsen, Melodie Mynzak, and Medhat Nasr for their contributions to this report.

To obtain additional copies, please contact:

Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development
Economics and Competitiveness Division
Statistics and Data Development Branch
#302, 7000-113 Street
Edmonton, Alberta
T6H 5T6
Phone: 780-427-4011

For a complete copy of the report with the tables, please download the attached pdf file.
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For more information about the content of this document, contact John Paul Emunu.
This document is maintained by Rita Splawinski.
This information published to the web on December 21, 2009.
Last Reviewed/Revised on April 15, 2014.