(The Center Square) – Just in time for the June 20 start of National Pollinator Week, Washington has buzzed to a top 10 finish in Lawn Love’s rankings of the best states for beekeeping.
The online platform for finding, booking, and paying for a landscaping or lawncare provider ranked the Evergreen State at No. 8 in terms of bee-friendliness.
Lawn Love’s rankings are based on several metrics, including total honey production, number of active bee colonies, beekeepers’ salaries, and honey suppliers. Also considered were colony losses and whether a state protects honeybees from harmful synthetic insecticides.
Ten states plus the District of Columbia were excluded from the study due to a lack of available data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“We’re not surprised that Washington state ranked 8th overall in this year’s ‘Best States for Beekeeping’ study,” said Jason Medina, a data analyst who worked on the study, in an email to The Center Square. “It had the lowest total annual colony loss among the states between 2020 and 2021, boasts the 2nd highest average beekeeper salary in the nation, has the 5th highest number of apiculture employers, and only two other states offer more educational opportunities for beekeepers.”
Washington’s prodigious honey production is another factor in the state’s high ranking.
“But Washington is also important to the national and global beekeeping industries for a number of reasons,” he said. “First, it’s the 10th biggest honey producer in the nation.”
Medina went on to note the people of Washington understand the importance of bees, which play an essential role in pollinating fruits, vegetables, flowers, and agricultural crops.
“Bees are also important for the pollination of alfalfa, apricots, plums, peaches, canola, sunflowers and other flowers, vegetable seeds and cranberries in Washington,” according to Washivore.org, a website highlighting agriculture in the state. “Because Washington agriculture supports so many jobs across the state, the importance of bees to our state cannot be overstated.”
It’s a message Washington residents take seriously.
“Washingtonians also are deeply passionate about preserving the natural world, including the bee population,” Medina observed. “Washington State University’s Bee Program, for example, is the only research program in the U.S. using cryopreservation to ensure Caucasian honey bee survival.”
WSU’s Bee Program includes the Honey Bee Pollinator Research, Extension and Education Facility – a former Monsanto corn breeding center at Othello in Eastern Washington – that opened in March 2020 just before the shutdowns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Caucasian honey bee, Apis mellifera caucasia, is a subspecies of the western honey bee known for its gentleness and productivity.
“And just a few years ago, the state took steps to protect its beekeeper population from civil liability,” Medina pointed out. “So, it’s clear that Washington is committed not just to ensuring the survival of bees but also the survival of its beekeeping industry.”
In May 2019, Gov. Jay Inslee signed House Bill 1133 into law following its 96-0 passage in the House and 47-1 passage in the Senate. The law grants protection from civil liability to beekeepers who register with the state Department of Agriculture as beekeepers and abide by all city, town, or county ordinances regarding beekeeping.
While Medina had overall praise for the state of beekeeping in Washington, he did offer one stinging rebuke.
“For all the buzz the state has caused in public policy and research, however, it falls short in other protective measures like banning neonics, a type of pesticide that’s deadly to bees,” he said of the widely-used neurotoxic insecticides that have been implicated in the decline of bees. “We hope to see that change in the future, which likely will boost Washington’s already impressive rank in future editions of our study.”
The 10 best states for beekeeping:
- 1. California
- 2. New York
- 3. North Dakota
- 4. Florida
- 5. Texas
- 6. Ohio
- 7. Michigan
- 8. Washington
- 9. Virginia
- 10. North Carolina
The 10 worst states for beekeeping:
- 40. Nebraska
- 39. Utah
- 38. Arizona
- 37. Wyoming
- 36. Louisiana
- 35. Vermont
- 34. Kansas
- 33. Arkansas
- 32. Mississippi
- 31. Idaho