Alberta 2017 Beekeepers' Survey Results

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 Purpose of Survey | Methodology | Highlights of the Alberta 2016/2017 paired beekeeping surveys | Honey production in Alberta | 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) Section of Alberta Agriculture and Forestry (AF) conducts a survey of beekeepers in the province. The survey results along with information from other sources are used in the development of provincial and regional estimates for selected honey variables such as colony numbers, yield, production and prices. These estimates, along with the survey results are shared with survey participants, industry, Statistics Canada and other stakeholders.

This report focuses on the results of the Alberta 2017 Beekeepers’ Survey and the related estimates developed.


The Alberta Beekeepers’ Survey, which is provincial in scope, collects data from producers through a non-probability survey. In February 2018, survey questionnaires were mailed out to 1,400 beekeepers across the province. The questionnaire 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 2017.

Participants were made aware that participation in the survey was voluntary. They were also 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 Section is governed and operates. In return for their participation, respondents who were interested in the survey results would receive the resulting publication highlighting the results of the 2017 Beekeepers’ survey. As of October 5, 2018, a total of 781 questionnaires were received, of which 760 were usable and formed the basis in developing the Alberta 2017 honey production estimates.

Survey responses received were reviewed for data completeness, validated and entered into an electronic database. The data was then subjected to computerized analyses, the results of which were rolled up into group summaries to preserve the confidentiality of data provided by individual respondents. In turn, the group summaries, in conjunction with input from industry, the provincial apiculturist and other Alberta Agriculture and Forestry (AF) staff, 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 could be 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 2016/2017 Paired Beekeeping Surveys

The following survey highlights are based on the responses of 381 producers who participated in both the 2016 and 2017 Alberta Beekeepers’ Surveys (See Table 1).

Paired Sample Highlights:

  • In 2017, beekeepers purchased less packages/nucs than in 2016. Purchases decreased 37.2 per cent, with the average beekeeper buying 24 packages/nucs, compared to 38 in 2016. The majority of packages/nucs purchased in 2017 were imported (95.97 per cent), with the remainder purchased locally (4.03 per cent).
  • The distribution of imported packages was as follows: New Zealand (98.54 per cent), other not specified (1.02 per cent), and Australia (0.44 per cent). Compared to 2016, imports of packages from New Zealand decreased, while those from other sources not specified and Australia increased.
  • In 2017, beekeepers sourced 72.05 per cent of their nuc purchases from British Columbia, 24.75 per cent from Alberta, and the remaining 3.20 per cent from other Canadian provinces. The number of nucs purchased from British Columbia decreased compared to the previous year, while purchases in Alberta increased. The average nuc price in Alberta was $230.17, while in British Columbia it was $224.43.
  • Individual queen purchases decreased 21.5 per cent in 2017, with producers purchasing 162 queens on average, compared to 207 in 2016. Practically all of the queen purchases were from outside of the province (99.57 per cent). Hawaii continues to be the primary source of imports, accounting for 60.98 per cent of the total, while other US States were second with 32.45 per cent and New Zealand was third, with 4.05 per cent.
  • Average queen prices in 2017 ranged from $28.87 to $50.00, depending upon the source of purchase. The price per queen was lowest for Chile at $28.87, followed by British Columbia at $31.90 and Australia at $34.69, respectively. The price per queen for Hawaii was $35.47 and $36.88 for other United States.
  • In 2017, the percentage deathloss for queens purchased in packages and nucs rose to 11.23 per cent up, from 9.65 per cent in 2016. For individual queens, the comparable percentage was down to 4.44 per cent, from 8.07 per cent in 2016.
  • On June 30, 2017, there was less honey in inventory than a year earlier. Producers on average had 2,079 pounds in stock, down 60.2 per cent from 5,217 pounds in 2016.
  • Alberta continues to be the preferred location for the over-wintering of bees. In 2017, 94.53 per cent of over-wintering activity (indoor/outdoor) occurred in the province, with the rest carried out in British Columbia.
  • “Outdoor” over-wintering remains the favored practice, accounting for 78.87 per cent of the total colonies over-wintered in 2017.
  • In 2017, the average beekeeper reported 10.25 years of beekeeping experience. Years of experience in over-wintering “outdoor” was lower at 8.60 years, while for “indoor” it was 15.00 years.
  • Producer prices received in 2016 were lower than expected for retail and wholesale. The average price realized for wholesale honey was $124.41 per cwt, practically identical to the expected price of $124.43 per cwt. However, the average realized price for retail honey was $354.40 per cwt, $34.65 lower than the expected price of $389.05 per cwt. The 2017 expected prices for honey are $157.97 per cwt wholesale, and $358.58 per cwt retail.

Honey Production in Alberta

In 2017, there were 1,420 beekeepers in Alberta, down 2.3 per cent from 2016 (see tables 3 and 4), and the second highest number since 1987 (1,480 beekeepers). The growth in the number of beekeepers is largely due to an increase in the number of hobby beekeepers. Colony numbers rose for the fourth consecutive year setting a new record of 317,000 colonies, up 2.6 per cent from the 2016. Preliminary statistics indicate that while Alberta accounts for a relatively small percentage (12.9 per cent) of the nation’s total beekeepers, it accounted for 43.2 per cent of the honey producing colonies in Canada.

Alberta produced more honey in 2017 than was previously forecasted. Final estimates show total production at 40.6 million pounds, compared to the preliminary fall 2017 forecast of 39.8 million pounds. Even so, the final 2017 production was 1.0 per cent higher than the 2016 production of 40.2 million pounds.

Preliminary estimates by Statistics Canada peg total Canadian honey production in 2017 at 92.1 million pounds, 2.6 per cent lower than the 94.6 million pounds in 2016. Based on the preliminary estimates, Alberta accounted for 43.2 per cent of the nation’s honey production in 2017.

In 2017, honey production was down across all regions in Alberta with the exception of the Peace and South regions (see tables 2 and 4). The decrease in production in most regions was attributed to several factors including poor queens, the presence of varroa mites, starvation, and weak colonies in the fall of 2016, coupled with bad weather in the early spring of 2017. At 13.7 million pounds, the North West region produced the highest amount of honey and accounted for 33.7 per cent of the total provincial production of 40.6 million pounds. The Peace region was second with 13.2 million pounds, (or 32.5 per cent), followed by the South region with 5.4 million pounds (or 13.3 per cent). The Central region had the lowest production with 3.7 million pounds (or 9.0 per cent), followed by the North East region at 4.7 million pounds (or 11.5 per cent). It cannot be over emphasized that honey production on a regional basis is directly tied to colony numbers and yield per colony, hence, explaining the variation among regions.

The Alberta Beekeepers’ Survey also included questions regarding the pollination of crops. Based on the survey results (which did not include all beekeepers involved in pollination activities), 24,288 colonies were rented for pollination in 2017, with an average rental charge of $160.25 per colony (Note: this rental charge is a blend of rental fees for blueberry and canola fields. Rental fees for blueberry fields are lower compared to those for canola fields).


The Statistics and Data Development Section of Alberta Agriculture and Forestry (AF) gratefully acknowledge and thank the many producers who participated in the Alberta 2017 Beekeepers’ survey. Without their participation, this report would not have been possible.

This report is also available on the Internet at:
Alberta Beekeepers Survey Results

To obtain additional copies of the report and further information regarding the survey or survey results, please do not hesitate to contact:

John Paul Emunu
Livestock Statistician
Alberta Agriculture and Forestry
Economics and Competitiveness Branch
Statistics and Data Development Section
#300, 7000-113 Street
Edmonton, Alberta
T6H 5T6
Phone: 780-427-4243
Fax : 780-427-5220


Other Documents in the Series

  Alberta 2017 Beekeepers' Survey Results - Current Document
Alberta Beekeepers Survey Results
Alberta 2016 Beekeepers' Survey Results
Alberta 2015 Beekeepers' Survey Results
Alberta 2014 Beekeepers' Survey Results
Alberta 2013 Beekeepers' Survey Results
Alberta 2012 Beekeepers' Survey Results
Alberta 2011 Beekeepers' Survey Results
Alberta 2010 Beekeepers' Survey Results
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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 November 29, 2018.
Last Reviewed/Revised on December 5, 2018.