Honey Bees Impact Arkansas

Honey Bees in Arkansas from Miranda Reynolds on Vimeo.


by Miranda Reynolds
Delta Digital News Service

JONESBORO – Honey bees in Arkansas create endless benefits for agriculture and give economic opportunities for businesses.

The bee industry involves many different avenues for businesses to take advantage of:

  • Cultivating honey
  • Provide pollination services for farms
  • Raising bees to sell
  • Raising queen bees for people wanting to start their own beehives

David Coy with Coy’s Honey Farm grew up around honey bees from the age of 2.

“All of my life I’ve been around honey bees. A lot of people think of beekeeping as a hobby, but it’s a business for us,” Coy said.

Coy’s business revolves around family. His dad introduced him and his brother to beekeeping and they have created a business from it. The family owns 10,000 hives at their farm north of Jonesboro.

Providing pollination services allows the family business to assist farmers. They pollinate close to 1,000 acres of watermelons in portions of Northeast Arkansas.

The honey farm produces anywhere from 500,000 to 700,000 pounds of honey in Arkansas. However, the production of honey per hive continues to decrease and Coy sees the trend continuing.

According to Steve Culp with Northeast Arkansas Beekeepers Association, 4,000-5,000 commercial beekeepers reside in Craighead County.

The loss of bee habitat in the Delta region impacts the honey bees. Farm chemicals spreading to areas of wildlife impact the honey bees. Coy says only one type of crop in a single area also impacts bees.

“Bees need a variety of plants to gather nectar and pollen from to maintain their health,” Coy said.

Kim Pittcock, associate professor of horticulture at Arkansas State University, said there must be a preservation of bees.

“We need to preserve the diversity that we’ve got in all of the plants that we have to help the bees. It’s a mutual hand-in-hand relationship with it. We need to maintain part of their habitat to use them to continue to help us work and to continue their populations,” she said.

Pittcock noted certain crops must have pollinators to remain yielding.

“Some crops could not be pollinated at all without some insect of some sort, and bees are the biggest and most natural pollinator due to the structure and the type pollen that needs to be transported,” she said.

The Coy’s business tries to adjust to supply and demand. In California, the almond industry drives the beekeeping industry on a commercial level. Coy’s Honey Farm sends bees to California in February to provide pollination services for almond orchards.

“We try to have income from several different areas that the bees can give us income from so that we’re not totally reliant on bee production,” Coy said.

With the changing of the bees’ environment, Coy hopes to remain in the beekeeping industry for many years to come.

“I hope to continue to be a beekeeper. I hope to maintain the opportunity for my children, too, if that’s what they want to do,” he said.

A honey bee pollinates plants that makeup of one-third of humanity’s everyday diet. The reality is, without bees, humans will not have food.