The Number of beekeepers is shown, divided by ten so it would be the same scale more or less as the other plots.  The return per hive (yield x price in 1974$) is expanded by a factor of ten to get all the lines on the same scale.  So, the left axis is Beekeepers (multiply times ten), returns per hive in constant 1974$ (divide by ten), and number of colonies: actual numbers. Click to enlarge.  Raw chart data

The first chart plots the per-hive average return to honey production in Alberta for each year since 1970, in constant 1974 dollars, along with number of beekeepers, and number of hives reported. 

This graph is quite interesting, in that it reveals a lot more about the effect of average total return per hive (defined here as price converted to 1974 dollars times average provincial yield for each year) than the price chart, where no consideration is made for the decline in the significant purchasing power of the money over time -- especially during the 1970s.  This new chart shows the combined effect of the good and bad crops and price along with hive numbers and colony numbers.

This chart is interesting inasmuch as it is 'stacked'.  The average annual return is taken as a constant, and is shown as a straight line across the top.  Each of the other parameters is plotted according to how it varies in relation to that return. The grey line is price (not smoothed), the red line is the number of hives, and the blue line is the number of beekeepers in Alberta.

This second chart is not quite as easy to understand, since, using the same empirical data that is shown in the other charts, we hold the return, smoothed back over three years1, as a constant, and plot the other parameters against it.  That way we see how both the number of beekeepers and the number of hives have varied, when honey return is not a factor.

Since that is really what we want to see, this view is very instructive.  It is very obvious in this view that 1987 was a watershed year, and that, given a constant return, the number of hives has declined since then, until pollination came onto the scene.  The effect of pollination is the bump in the red line on the right side that runs against the trend. Click for a closer view of the charts.

Note 1. The returns for each year, plus the two previous years was added, then divided by three to give a smoothed figure.  The reasoning was that most beekeepers get paid in the year following production, and that expansion decisions are based on what they have I the bank and what they can convince a banker to provide.  In most case, the effects of price or crop size lags by a year or two.

Some Observations: After 1987,

  • The number of Alberta beekeepers dropped precipitously and continued to drop, indicating very many fewer families were supported by beekeeping.
  • Real returns per hive recovered to the levels which had previously sustained growth, after 3 years
  • Hive numbers continued flat for 6 years, then slowly returned to 1987 levels.  At that time, pollination was beginning to grow as an option.
  • Growth continued even through the setbacks in 1999, 2000, and 2001.  At this time pollination was proving to be a secure business, and honey price was less important for that segment of the industry.