A surge in California almond production, the largest crop requiring pollination from honeybees, is causing the price of hives to skyrocket leaving a shortage of honeybees for farmers in the state.

Ever-increasing numbers of almond crops, combined with falling bee numbers because of mite infestations and wildfires, have resulted in beekeepers barely keeping up with demand.

According to the Almond Board of California, the state’s profitable nut industry has a 2004 estimated value of US$1.42bn, an increase of 18% from 2003 but is now facing concern about a rise in costs because of the bee shortage. Roughly 80% of the world’s almonds come from California.