In the past few years, Baribeau, who owns Baribeau Honey Co. in Stratford, has transported his colonies to the California almond orchards.
Farmers there will pay for his bees to pollinate the almond trees.
Baribeau needs to make the trip to pump up his bottom line because honey production in South Dakota is down.
"We wouldn't be in business if it weren't for the almond groves," he said.
Honey production is affected by many factors, including the weather, but Baribeau said the biggest reason for the decline has been reduced habitat for bees.
More and more land is being plowed for corn and soybean production. That means less pastureland and Conservation Reserve Program land available for bees.
The industrious insects need clover and wildflowers for nectar and pollen. Alfalfa, also a food source for bees, is also being replaced by row crops. Without adequate food, the bees cannot make honey.
Baribeau said that 10 years ago he could extract enough honey from honeycombs to fill 500 drums, each holding 650 pounds.
Now the bees produce about 200 drums a year.
Production is also down because of an eight-year drought in Texas, he said.
He trucks his bees to Texas after the bees pollinate the almond orchards.
Baribeau has about 1,500 bee colonies.
Third in nation
South Dakota ranks third in the nation in honey production — behind only North Dakota at No. 1, and California.
In 2010, 15.64 million pounds of honey were produced in South Dakota, down 12 percent from 2009.
Bob Reiners, South Dakota state apiarist, said that statewide statistics for 2011 are not available, but he expects a continued decline.
"Reports are that northeast South Dakota did not have a good production year and West River was very poor," he said.
Mark Mammen, executive vice president of the Sioux Bee Honey plant in Sioux City, Iowa, said honey production in his area is essentially the same as last year and down substantially from 2008. Sue Bee's Sioux City plant took in 6.5 million pounds of honey from South Dakota producers in 2008. In 2009 that number dropped to 4 million. In 2010, it dropped to 3.4 million and is expected to stay at that level in 2011, he said.
The plant in Sioux City draws primarily from south central and southeast South Dakota.