AP Microeconomics - One of the *buzziest* trade markets ever studied.

AP Microeconomics - One of the *buzziest* trade markets ever studied.

A note from the author: This is part of a blog series written as assessments for my Microeconomics class – we are provided articles/excerpts and prompts to respond to periodically. Below is the second installment, regarding trade as modeled by honeybees.:

If you happen to wind up somewhere on the west coast during almond season, you’re probably going to see a strange sight – truckloads of bees driving down the highway. Every year, millions of bees are shipped from the southeastern US to the orchards in California to perform one function: pollinate the trees.

Photo by MELISSA LYTTLE

It seems patently impractical: thousands of trucks have to be loaded with tens of thousands of beehives, the trucks have to be driven across most of the US (in under 3 days), and then the hives must bee dropped off and placed around the California orchards – all for a few almonds. This cycle of bee shipments happens every year, and is a fantastic model for the power of comparative advantage, and the lengths people will go to find effective trade options.

California is, surprisingly, not a great place to breed bees. The weather just isn’t hot or humid enough, and due to the increasing rate of bee die off due to a variety of factors, industrial bee production isn’t really practical anywhere outside of the deep south, where the muggy summers are perfect for hives. This means, simply, that the southern states have a comparative (and probably absolute) advantage in bee production, but lack an advantage (or an ability) to put their production potential to good use, so they trade with the Californians. Everyone benefits, despite the huge costs – the benefits of the exchange outweigh the complications it introduces.

To that end, an entire industry around bee trading has popped up over the past decade, facilitating the exchanges. Brokers match beekeepers with growers and arrange the lease of hives, along with shipping and labor for loading & unloading hives. This is an example of an optimized supply chain that has become more efficient with time – people can trade without spending as much and faster, but the middleman also benefits. Finally, the consumer is also a beneficiary in this bee-tastic economic microcosm. Without the bees to pollinate the crops, consumers would face much higher prices for a range of items due to a shortage of them.

Urstadt and King, Bryant and Noel. "Episode 756: The Bees Go To California." Audio blog post. Planet Money. NPR, 2017, Web, 2017
Ziggy Ziegelmueller

Justin Ziegelmueller

Aspiring Architect

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