North Dakota Honey Bees

North Dakota honey bees are ‘buzzy’ playing a big role

By Maiya Fleck

MANDAN, N.D. (KFYR) – For 18 consecutive years, North Dakota has ranked first in the nation for honey production, according to the USDA.

Though they are small in size, bees play a big role in food production, but populations are at risk.

These busy bees play a larger role than some might think. Honey bees are a vital part of our lives, and without them, the North Dakota economy, food production, and commercial goods would suffer.

Beekeeper Jess Gifford works with a colony of people for his company “Who’s Your Honey” in Mandan. Gifford said he’s passionate about doing his part to keep this country well-fed.

“I was told the other day a cantaloupe needs to be pollinated 14 times. So that means 14 visits to each flower just to produce,” said Gifford.

The USDA says honey bees alone pollinate 80 percent of flowering plants like sunflowers and 130 different types of fruits and vegetables.

April Johnson, an extension pollinator technician at NDSU, said bee populations nationwide have been dwindling for multiple reasons including colony collapse disorder, varroa mite infestations and habitat loss. Moving bees around the country can impact their immune systems and diet changes.

The decline of hives is always a worry for beekeepers like Gifford. He moves his bees to Louisiana and California during the winter months.

“These viruses have been so detrimental to us. We used to take the bees, 50 years ago, we would just leave them here and wrap them in insulation,” said Gifford.

He said the bees also boost the North Dakota economy by bringing beekeepers to the state.

“Two and a half million hives roughly go to California, but here there are eight hundred and some thousand hives, we are told by the state. They come here for the honey production and pollination, and we need the honey,” said Gifford.

Bees at ‘Who’s Your Honey’ in Mandan(KFYR-TV)

Beekeepers like Gifford have adapted and after two bad years, he feels 2023 is going to be a good year for production.

After the bees do their work on the prairie, he brings them back to the shop to collect honey and wax.

He uses the bees for honey, beeswax, pollen and also as pollinators in California.

North Dakota beekeepers produced 28.3 million pounds of honey in 2021, according to the USDA. There are many nationwide efforts for people to preserve bee populations like

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