Williamson, Kendra May (2016-12). An Empirically- and Theoretically-based Model of the Market for Pollination Services. Master's Thesis. | Thesis individual record

Motivated by increasing threats to pollinator health and the resultant impacts on pollination fees, this thesis models the market for pollination and honey production using the most complete economic model of the joint honey-pollination market developed to date. It incorporates realistic biological population dynamics, multiple crops that bloom both simultaneously and sequentially, and the transportation of bees across several states during the year. The model is used to investigate the market reaction to and economic impact of changes in winter and summer survival rates and number of hives demanded on almonds. The model is first tested using a scaled-down representation of the system, then calibrated using the best available data and personal communications with professional beekeepers.

The model predicts that an increase in the quantity of honey bee hives required on almonds causes a rise in pollination prices for early-blooming crops and a decline in prices for pollination of late-blooming crops and for honey. This corroborates hypotheses that increased demand for bees on almonds is pushing the extensive margin outward, driving pollination prices for that crop upward. When simulating changes in survival rates, the model generally predicts a rise in almond and late-season pollination fees and a fall in pollination fees for early-blooming crops other than almonds. Winter or summer colony survival rates less than 93% of the base scenario resulted in an inability of the model to reach equilibrium on a 30-year simulation, suggesting that low survival rates may cause a structural change in the market that goes beyond the scope of this model.

Finally, the model predicts that if, relative to the year 2012, 35% more bees per acre were needed on almonds to achieve the same level of pollination, this would result in a societal cost of around $100 million, borne almost entirely by crop growers. Additionally, a simulation of either winter or summer survival rates dropping to approximately 93% of 2012 levels predicts some benefit to beekeepers but an overall societal cost between $50 and $75 million.

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