U.S. Honey Crops and Markets archive
U.S Honey Crops and Markets - October 2014
The news of average or better than average honey crops in the big honey-producing states of North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana and Minnesota should raise the national honey crop predictions. Better honey crops in South Dakota alone could raise the national honey crop by as much as 10 million pounds. This increase, as well as average or good crops in the other three major honey-production states mentioned above should raise the 2014 U.S. honey crop from last year’s 150 million pounds to perhaps as high as 175 million pounds this year. That is quite a change from our prediction last month that the total crop would be about the same. Excellent moisture conditions created what many farmers and beekeepers called a “clover year” in the Upper Midwest.
Although cool, rainy conditions at times hurt honey production in parts of the West Central and East Central areas, the overall effect is that this added moisture allowed clover and alfalfa to bloom much longer than normal. Commercial migratory beekeepers brought strong colonies back from California and they were able to take full advantage of lush clover and alfalfa growth in the Midwest.
Although the Florida honey crop will again be down and the California honey crop will be dismal, both of these states did not have great honey crops in 2013, so their poor production will not affect 2014 honey crop estimates to any great degree. Honey crop reports from the rest of the Southeast and Southwest have been mixed due to either earlier erratic weather or later dry conditions. The Northeast and the Mideast should both have better honey crops due to good moisture conditions throughout the honey flow season. Honey production in the Intermountain states is also thought to be better this season, despite some locations having either mild or severe droughts.
Honey prices and demand for honey have remained excellent over most of the country, although some reporters were worried that news of better honey crops would hurt the wholesale market.
NORTHEAST—While some of our reporters said their areas had ideal honey flow conditions, others complained of too much rainy weather at the wrong time. The continuation of intermittent rains through August kept things very green and also allowed honey flows to last longer in the case of clover, alfalfa, buckwheat and various wildflowers. Beekeepers were also hoping that the extra moisture would mean longer goldenrod and aster flows. New crop honey is selling very well at both the wholesale and retail levels. A number of farmer’s markets and roadside stands were selling honey, as well as various fall festivals.
MIDEAST—Honey flow reports have been mixed. A number of reporters felt their honey crops were better this season, while others said that a combination of weak colonies and erratic weather combined to hurt their total honey yields. Intermittent rains kept the countryside green and extended flows from clover, thistle, wildflowers and sourwood. Some beekeepers in Virginia and Tennessee told us that their sourwood flow was their best flow this season. They were quite pleased since sourwood honey sells significantly above other varietal honeys.
Those beekeepers complaining about weak hives said that they had a high winter loss to replace and then a number of new queens were superseded, which further delayed their colony buildup. Since ground moisture conditions have remained good, beekeepers were hoping for better than average fall flows from late clover, goldenrod, aster, wingstem and assorted autumn wildflowers.
Beekeepers are finishing their extracting for the season, but have been busy selling their new crop honey at local farmer’s markets, roadside stands, fairs and festivals. Demand is excellent and most reporters felt that they would have no trouble selling their new crop honey for a good price.
Colonies should go into winter in better shape than they have for several years. Varroa mite numbers are down, as well as small hive beetle numbers.
SOUTHEAST—Florida honey crops were down, mainly due to poorer than expected flows from orange, gallberry, tupelo and wildflowers earlier in the season. Later flows from palmetto, cabbage palm, and melaleuca have been better. Unfortunately, these later honeys are darker and do not sell as high as orange and gallberry. However, beekeepers are happy to have the honey to sell since the market remains very strong for all grades of honey. Bees had been working crepe myrtle and kudzu, but by mid-September Brazilian pepper, goldenrod and aster flows should get underway.
Elsewhere in the Southeast beekeepers are predicting normal to slightly better than normal total honey crops from wildflowers and clover. At times, rainy weather was a problem for both the bees and beekeepers. Due to good ground moisture, bees continue to work late summer and fall wildflowers. Earlier in the summer, some beekeepers received average to good flows from cotton and soybeans. Fall flows will include Spanish needle, smartweed, goldenrod and aster.
Honey continues to sell very well in the Southeast at both the wholesale and retail levels. Prices are up.
SOUTHWEST—Major flows were winding down for the season. Reporters indicated that bees were still working late summer wildflowers in addition to irrigated crops such as cotton, alfalfa, cantaloupes and melons. Fall nectar sources include goldenrod, aster, Spanish needles and smartweed. Flow reports are mixed, but most beekeepers felt their crops would be about average or below average due to erratic spring and summer weather varying from bone dry to torrential downpours. Some locations reported fair flows from clover, alfalfa and soybeans earlier in the season.
EAST CENTRAL—Summer honey crops were much improved over parts of Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin. However, in Ohio the spring honey crops were said to be better than later crops due to erratic weather. Bees were making honey from clovers, alfalfa, knapweed, basswood, trefoil, loosestrife, mint and assorted wildflowers. Ground moisture has remained good, so plants have bloomed longer than normal in some cases. Prospects are also good for later fall flows from goldenrod, aster, loosestrife, Spanish needles, and smartweed. Some second-cutting alfalfa may also be available. Beekeepers are hoping for a late frost so that their colonies will be able to take full advantage of fall flows. Many beekeepers were extracting and bottling honey in anticipation of a busy sales season at roadside stands, festivals and fairs this fall. Demand and pricing remain excellent at both the wholesale and retail levels.
WEST CENTRAL—Many of our reporters were indicating good to excellent honey crops as the season progressed into September. Cool, rainy spring and early summer conditions allowed clovers, alfalfa, knapweed, sunflowers and wildflowers to bloom for an extended period of time. In some locations the rainy, cool weather hit during the clover, alfalfa and basswood flows and this actually hurt some honey crops since bees were not able to forage. Overall, the Dakotas and Minnesota will have improved honey crops this year and since all three of these states are huge honey producers, this will definitely boost the national honey crop total as well. Many of our reporters were calling this a “clover year” since yellow and white sweet clover were so abundant in the fields due to plentiful rain. Soybeans were also yielding nectar and will add to crop totals. With continued intermittent rains, beekeepers were hoping that second-cutting alfalfa, sunflowers, buckwheat, knapweed, goldenrod, aster and loosestrife would help provide some late summer or fall surplus honey, as well as good overwintering stores.
Some beekeepers who had to replace a lot of colonies this spring said that ...
U.S Honey Crops and Markets - September 2014
The “great unknown” in regard to this year’s honey crop remained just that as we went to press for the September issue. As we mentioned last month, this major unknown factor for determining the 2014 honey crop was the Upper Midwestern states of North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota, as well as the honey crop in the important Intermountain honey-producing state of Montana. These four states alone produced nearly half the total U.S. honey crop in 2013. The potential for good to excellent honey production in these states rested on the weather in mid to late summer. Spring and early summer weather was generally described as cool and wet. However, this weather had fostered excellent clover and alfalfa growth in these states, but warm temperatures were now needed to spur nectar production and bee foraging. Further delaying honey crop estimates in these states is the fact that the season was late in getting underway due to cool weather and then regular rainfall has kept pastures and fields greener much later into the summer than normal.
Although honey crops have been fair to good in the Northeast and Mideast, honey production is said to be average or below average for some states in the Southeast and Southwest. And, of course, the West Coast remains in the news as being in another very severe drought.
So, the U.S. honey crop will again total around 150 million pounds (give or take 10 million pounds), which has been described as the “new normal honey crop” in the United States. Losses of colonies and pasture land across country over the last 10 years have combined to reduce yearly honey production from its previous normal of around 200 million pounds. In addition, some commercial honey producers have now become full-time pollinators as the demand and payments for almond pollination have grown over the last few years.
The effects of shorter U.S. honey crops on the wholesale and retail markets as our population grows are obvious—prices and demand for U.S. honey will continue to remain strong. However, changes in our Chinese honey-dumping tariffs could alter this strong market overnight, so it is imperative that we continue to extoll the virtues of locally produced U.S. honey.
NORTHEAST—Continued regular rainfall throughout the summer allowed some honey plants to bloom for a longer than normal amount of time. These better flows, however, must be tempered with the huge winter colony losses that had to be recouped, as well as the cool spring, which held back early build-up in many cases. As this was written in late July, bees were continuing to work white Dutch clover, buckwheat, alfalfa and assorted wildflowers. Reporters were also hoping to obtain better than average late summer and fall flows from goldenrod, aster, Japanese bamboo and loosestrife. Earlier in the season some beekeepers reported swarming problems, while others said that their new queens were superseding within the first month of introduction.
MIDEAST—As we indicated last month, a number of beekeepers who had their colonies up to normal strength in time for spring and summer flows have made good honey crops this season. However, since winter losses were so high, quite a few beekeepers are still in a rebuilding mode, so will not make a lot of honey. Fair to good honey flows have come from tulip-poplar, sumac, wildflowers, thistle, assorted berries, clover, vetch, persimmon, gallberry and clover. In addition, the sourwood flow has started in the mountains, but this flow was still in progress. Since regular rains continued throughout July, plants have stayed greener and bloomed longer. If good ground moisture persists into late summer and fall, beekeepers may also obtain some fall honey from goldenrod, asters, loosestrife and knapweed. Beekeepers were in the process of extracting their spring honey crops and expect to have no trouble at all in selling this honey since demand remains excellent, especially for locally produced honey.
SOUTHEAST—Periods of heavy rain, alternating with hot, humid weather continued into July. Spring honey flows were down in some states due to earlier freezes or cool, rainy conditions during the flower-blooming period. However, this was not the case in Mississippi where spring and early summer honey flows were reported to be near average or better than average due to continued good soil moisture conditions. Honey flows mentioned in Alabama and Georgia included crepe myrtle, privet hedge, clover, sumac, basswood and chestnut. A spring cold snap hurt the normally good flows from blackberry and tulip-poplar. Chinese tallow flows along the Florida and Georgia coasts were fair, but at times rainy conditions prevented foraging or washed nectar out of the flowers. Earlier spring flows in Florida from orange, gallberry, palmetto and tupelo were spotty and the overall crops were below normal. However, beekeepers were still hopeful that continued regular rains would help later mangrove, melaleuca and Brazilian pepper flows in Florida.
As the summer progressed, more beekeepers were reporting increased problems with varroa mites and small hive beetles. Also, beekeepers continue to report problems with queen longevity. Honey extracting is continuing with well over half the crop now extracted. Honey demand remains quite strong at both the wholesale and retail levels. However, honey supplies are expected to remain below average due to continued predictions of another below normal crop in the Southeast.
SOUTHWEST—Honey crops reported thus far have been fair to good over much of Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas and Oklahoma. At times periods of rainy weather held back normal bee foraging. On the other hand, very hot weather was also hard on bees and plants. Dry weather in Arizona and New Mexico limited continued bee foraging to irrigated crops and scattered desert plants that were still blooming. Honey flows mentioned included brush, wildflowers, clover, alfalfa, privet and Chinese tallow along the Gulf Coast. Beekeepers in parts of Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas and Oklahoma anticipate that honey flows will last longer this season due to late rains in July. Demand for honey continues to be very good at both the wholesale and retail levels. Prices are also expected to remain high due to the continued shortage of locally produced honey.
EAST CENTRAL—Some of the best spring flow reports came from the southern parts of this area where temperatures were warmer and rainy conditions did not inhibit foraging as much. After a very long, harsh winter, many beekeepers are in a rebuilding mode, so will not make as much honey as they normally would when they have more and stronger colonies coming into spring. Earlier in the season, some growers had to scramble to find adequate numbers of colonies for pollination of their fruit and berry crops since winter colony losses were so heavy.
Cooler weather or rainy conditions hurt some of the earlier flows from black locust, wildflowers, and clover. On the other hand, some of our reporters said they had enough hot weather at the right time to provide some nice honey crops from clover and alfalfa. Flows were late in Wisconsin, Michigan and parts of northern Ohio due to the cool, rainy weather. However, ...
U.S Honey Crops and Markets - August 2014
Honey crops reported thus far in the Southeast, Southwest and West have not been encouraging due to either erratic weather earlier in the season or later dry, hot weather. The Mideast and the Northeast have actually had some of the best early honey crop reports, but colony numbers may still be down due to very heavy winter colony losses. The East Central, West Central and Intermountain areas were still big question marks, partly due to the lateness of the season. Some of the states in these three areas are traditionally very large honey producers. Although the harsh winter and cool spring in the East Central and West Central areas got bees off to a slow start, once honey flows began, colonies were able to make up for lost time. Both the clovers and alfalfa bloomed later than normal and this gave colonies a little extra time to build up. In addition, ground moisture in a number of these Midwestern states remained plentiful well into summer due heavier than normal rains in June. This allowed honey plants such as clover and alfalfa to bloom longer than normal.
Bee health reports have generally been encouraging. Varroa and small hive beetle numbers have been low, but later summer and early fall is often when these two pests become problematical for bees and beekeepers.
Demand for honey at both the wholesale and retail levels remains strong and packer inventories of domestic honey are quite low. Honey prices are expected hold their own or even increase as new crop honey starts coming onto the market.
NORTHEAST—After getting off to a slow start due to heavy winter losses and cool spring weather, beekeepers were more optimistic about the remainder of the honey production season. Bee populations exploded in June and some beekeepers were worried about swarming problems. Others were quickly adding supers in an effort to keep up with fast-growing colonies. Beekeepers have reported fair to good flows from black locust, honeysuckle, sumac, brambles and clover. Plentiful moisture is expected to keep honey plants blooming longer into the late summer, which should help surplus honey crops. Earlier spring pollination work went well with the exception of a few cold spells which slowed bee flight temporarily.
Honey supplies are very low in the Northeast and beekeepers are anxious to resupply their regular customers who have been asking to buy honey. The market is expected to remain quite strong for honey sales at both the wholesale and retail levels.
MIDEAST—Early spring honey flows were at times held back by cool, wet weather. This was the case in Kentucky, for example, where black locust flows were shut down in many parts of the state. However, later in the spring beekeepers along the Atlantic Seaboard reported fair to excellent honey flows from black locust, sumac, clover, honeysuckle, thistle, persimmon, privet, tulip poplar, tupelo, huckleberry and brambles. Ground moisture and temperatures remain optimal, so beekeepers are hoping for continued good flows in July and August. One factor that may lower total honey crops is if beekeepers were not able to recoup their colony losses from the severe winter. Beekeepers were beginning to extract and bottle this year’s first honey. They anticipated that the honey would sell quickly because of the strong market.
SOUTHEAST—Florida honey crop reports were mixed, but can generally be classified as below normal due to poor earlier flows from orange, gallberry and tupelo. Later palmetto, wildflower and cabbage palm flows were better in parts of Florida and Georgia. Bees were still working tallow along the Gulf Coast and crop reports were good. In Georgia, bees also obtained flows from blackberry, wildflowers and clover. In Mississippi, beekeepers report flows from privet hedge, clover and wildflowers. Reporters from Alabama have mentioned fair to good flows from privet hedge, sumac, clover, mimosa, cotton and magnolia. In some cases heavy rains ruined flows and caused localized flooding in the Southeast. Colonies have generally been in good health this season, but as we went to press, some beekeepers were reporting increased small hive beetle activity.
New crop honey is being sold about as quickly as it is put into the barrel or bottle. Demand remains very strong for most types of the honey with the lighter honeys being offered the highest prices per pound.
SOUTHWEST—Although erratic spring weather made for spotty early honey flows, once weather conditions began to stabilize, colonies were able to start producing surplus honey. Another problem in some Southwestern states was the higher than normal number of winter-killed colonies that had to be replaced. Numerous wildflowers, privet hedge, hairy vetch, horsemint, sumac, tallow, clover and alfalfa were all mentioned as providing significant honey flows in various parts of the Southwest. However, by June some reporters were indicating that dry conditions, as well as hot temperatures, were taking their toll on plants in some locations. On the other hand, some states had received sufficient rain to keep nectar flowing. Those beekeepers taking their colonies to the Gulf Coast for the Chinese tallow flow report two to three supers of honey being taken from most colonies for extraction.
Honey demand and prices remain very good. This area, like much of the country, continues to experience a shortage of locally produced honey. When new stocks are offered for sale, they are often sold quickly at a premium price. This is especially the case for varietal favorites produced by regional beekeepers.
EAST CENTRAL—This area remained about two to three weeks behind normal well into late spring and early summer. First of all, many beekeepers had a huge number of deadouts to replace, in addition to weak colonies to rebuild. At the same time, cooler than normal temperatures, often accompanied by rain showers, continued throughout the spring season forcing beekeepers to feed their colonies longer. The cool, wet weather often disrupted important build-up and surplus honey flows from fruit bloom, wild mustard, assorted wildflowers and black locust. Then, ...
U.S Honey Crops and Markets - July 2014
As this was written in early June, many of the main honey flows were either just starting or had not started yet in the Midwest and Northeast. White Dutch clover was just starting to bloom in many cases and quite a few of our northern reporters said they had not seen a lot of yellow sweet clover yet. Cool and/or wet conditions continued into mid-May and many beekeepers said both their colonies and the surrounding forage were running two to three weeks behind normal. Many beekeepers were still rushing to make up winter losses, which were significantly above the reported USDA bee loss survey national loss figure put a 23.2%--many were 50% or higher, according to our sources. Some of our reporters said they will make little or no honey this season since they will be rebuilding their beeyard colony numbers.
So why were the USDA national bee survey colony loss figures so much lower than those reported by many beekeepers in the Midwest and Northeast? Of course, the national figure takes into account beekeepers in the western and southern U.S. where winter losses were not nearly as bad. In addition, many of the larger migratory beekeepers overwinter in the South or California, so their bees did not have to endure the relentless cold winter.
Honey flows have been fair to good over much of the Southeastern United States, but erratic weather or dry conditions have hurt some of the major Southwestern U.S. honey flows. California early season honey crops were fair to good, but once the severe drought took hold, remaining non-irrigated plants dried up quickly.
Honey remains in very short supply around the country and the rest of the world, so offering prices at both the wholesale and retail levels are expected to remain strong throughout the rest of the year. Beekeepers in the Midwest and Northeast are hoping for a long summer with adequate rains so they can salvage some of their main honey crops from clover, alfalfa, soybeans and other sources. Intermountain state beekeepers are hoping that they will have enough ground moisture and/or irrigation water to produce good honey crops from clover and alfalfa.
NORTHEAST—Despite the return of warmer temperatures during the last half of May and early June, many colonies are still in a rebuilding mode and have not made appreciable honey crops from the early fruit tree and wildflower sources. Some beekeepers have declared this a rebuilding year after suffering devastating winter colony losses. Others are busily preparing for major flows from black locust, honeysuckle, sumac, clover and various wildflowers. Many of the traditional spring honey flows were late, but then they often came all at once catching beekeepers off guard. Fruit tree and berry crops also bloomed late and this gave beekeepers a little extra time to rebuild their colonies before needing to move them into orchards. As we reported earlier, some beekeepers were not able to purchase all the packages, nucs or queens that they wanted due to the heavy demand. Moisture conditions are still mostly adequate, but reporters in some locations said they could use some good showers to replenish ground moisture. By early June more seasonable temperatures had returned. Several reporters said that they are trying to produce some surplus honey, despite the late season, since local honey stocks were so depleted in the region.
MIDEAST—Beekeepers were scrambling earlier in the season to rebuild weak colonies or repopulate deadouts before the major flows started. Winter losses were very heavy and a number of beekeepers had trouble securing all the bees or queens they needed on time due to heavy orders and cooler weather in some of the southern bee production states. Buildup flows came later than normal due to the cool spring. However, by May many fruit trees and wildflowers were in full bloom. A number of nectar sources were mentioned including berries, wildflowers, flowering trees, black locust, persimmon, honeysuckle, holly, raspberries, blueberries, sumac, tulip-poplar, tupelo gums and clover. Honey stocks remain very low in this area, but some beekeepers are worried about being able to produce much surplus honey due to weak colonies.
SOUTHEAST—Honey flows in April and May were fair to good from of number of spring flowers and tree bloom. In Florida beekeepers had made good crops from gallberry, palmetto, mangrove and tupelo, although the earlier orange flow was a disappointment. In Georgia bees had been working tulip-poplar, palmetto, blackberries, and clover. Earlier in the season, some commercial beekeepers had transported semi-loads of bees to northeastern states for blueberry and cranberry pollination. Beekeepers within Florida and parts of Georgia also pollinated cucumbers and watermelons. In Alabama, a late, cool spring caused bees to have a slow build up, but once warmer weather started, they had been making up for lost time with good flows reported from blackberries, privet hedge, clover, and assorted wildflowers. Stormy early spring weather in Mississippi had held up foraging, but once the weather calmed, good flows were reported from berries, privet hedge, yellow top, vetch, tulip-poplar and clover. In some cases, heavy swarming caused problems for beekeepers and weakened colonies.
Beekeepers were starting to remove surplus supers and were extracting honey. This area is very short on locally produced honey, so beekeepers know they will have no trouble selling this year’s crop at good prices at either the wholesale or retail levels.
SOUTHWEST—Flows were a bit slower than normal, but beekeepers were reporting better flow conditions in May. In Texas, beekeepers reported bees working yaupon, red clover, wildflowers, horsemint, privet hedge, tallow and brush. In Louisiana beekeepers mentioned tallow, wildflowers and clover as major sources for nectar. In Arkansas and Oklahoma bees were working wildflowers, vetch, blackberries, clover and alfalfa. Dry weather was slowing remaining flows in parts of Texas, Arizona and New Mexico from assorted wildflowers. Irrigated crops like alfalfa should still be able to produce fair to good flows. Swarming was mentioned as a problem by some of our reporters. Some beekeepers had begun to extract supers of honey. There is a shortage of honey in this area and demand is very strong for new crop honey.
EAST CENTRAL—As we indicated earlier, colony losses were quite high in this area, so package bee, nuc and queen demand was very strong. Unfortunately, many beekeepers were told by bee companies that they were booked solid until summertime. ...
U.S Honey Crops and Markets - June 2014
Since printing our May report, colonies and plants in the northern half of the country are responding favorably to more seasonal temperatures. Many trees and wildflowers have bloomed helping colonies to rebuild their strength after a very long, cold winter. Package bee, nuc and queen shortages were still mentioned as a problem, especially for the beekeepers interested in immediately rebuilding their apiaries before the main late spring and early summer honey flows began. Moisture conditions have continued to be rated as fair to good over the eastern half of the country, but become progressively drier as one travels west.
Honey flows in the South were coming into their height during April and May. In Florida, beekeepers reported better gallberry and palmetto flows after experiencing earlier disappointing yields from oranges. Meanwhile, the earlier cool spring had delayed the main flows in some of the southeastern and southwestern states. As this was written, southern beekeepers were reporting more swarming as brood nests expanded and spring flowers came into full bloom.
The demand for honey remains strong at both the wholesale and retail levels. Little of last year’s crop remains unsold. Prices are expected to remain strong throughout the coming months as beekeepers begin extracting and marketing their new-crop honey.
NORTHEAST—Terrible winter colony losses were common in this area, with many beekeepers registering up to 80% winter losses. Despite careful winter preparations, many colonies died anyway. As we indicated last month, beekeepers were scrambling to secure needed replacement nucs, packages and queens. As this was written, maple, elm, willow, fruit bloom and assorted wildflowers were coming into bloom, but the season was still rated as at least two to three weeks late. Some beekeepers have already told us that this will have to be a rebuilding year rather than a honey-making season for them. Many beekeepers were still feeding in May due to the heavy colony losses and the late spring. Since the season is running late reporters were not sure when black locust, sumac, and assorted spring honey plants would bloom. Commercial pollinators are preparing to move colonies into fruit and berry locations. Per colony prices were running from $70 to $90 per colony.
MIDEAST—Beekeepers in this area also had to replace a number of deadouts this spring. However, bee supplies were so tight that some beekeepers were not able to secure all the packages or nucs that they wanted. As this was written, beekeepers were still feeding packages, nucs and divides. However, overwintered colonies were sustaining themselves on many different fruit trees and wildflowers finally coming into bloom after a long, cold winter. Beekeepers mentioned flows from redbud, fruit trees, dandelion, and henbit. Black locust, tulip-poplar and clovers should be starting to bloom shortly. With plenty of ground moisture, flow prospects look good, but many colonies will be too weak to take full advantage of them. Beekeepers have little or no honey left to sell and are anxious to secure new-crop honey for customers.
SOUTHEAST—The Florida orange flow was short again this year due to adverse weather earlier in the season, citrus greening disease and possibly fewer bees being placed in the groves. As this was written, subsequent flows from tupelo, gallberry and palmetto were still in progress. Beekeepers hoped for better flows from these sources. Moisture conditions were fair to good over most of the state. Other states in the Southeast were still a little behind normal for the season due to the later spring. However, bees were building up quickly and major flows were getting underway from assorted wildflowers, black locust, tulip-poplar, berries and clover. Meanwhile, pollinators were wrapping up their season and will be moving colonies to honey flow locations. Package bee and queen producers were still quite busy trying to fill bee and queen orders. Many northern beekeepers did not know until late in the season that their winter losses were so high and were not able to secure as many replacement packages and nucs as they wanted.
Since little old-crop honey remained unsold, beekeepers expect new-crop honey to be in great demand, especially the orange, gallberry, tupelo and other favorite varietals.
SOUTHWEST—Despite getting off to a slow spring start, colonies have been building up quickly and by late April, considerable swarming was being reported. Many wildflowers, berries, brush, and clover are providing plenty of nectar and pollen. Rainfall and foraging conditions have been mostly adequate except in West Texas, New Mexico and Arizona where dry, hot conditions were slowing nectar flows from desert wildflowers. However, in the irrigated areas, bees are still working alfalfa and other crops. In Texas and Louisiana, upcoming flows from Chinese tallow along the Gulf Coast are normally a good source of surplus honey. In Oklahoma and Arkansas beekeepers have also been very busy supering colonies for major spring flows from wildflowers, berries, clover and alfalfa. Spring rains have kept ground moisture at adequate levels to support continued lush ground cover. With honey inventories down over most of this area, beekeepers and packers are eagerly awaiting their first surplus honey for 2014.
EAST CENTRAL—As indicated last month, beekeepers are still trying to rebuild their apiaries after suffering devastating winter-related colony losses. In addition to re-establishing deadouts, beekeepers have been feeding weak colonies. Northern parts of the area were still fighting cool weather, but farther south spring was finally in full bloom. Maples, elms, fruit trees, henbit and other wildflowers were helping colonies rebuild. Surviving colonies were building up well and some beekeepers farther south cautioned their northern beekeeping friends to be ready for a quick build-up and possible swarming conditions. Beekeepers will need to keep ahead of their bees by providing sufficient brood rearing space and supering room. Moisture and plant conditions are good, but the season was still running a few weeks late due to the late spring. Some beekeepers had trouble locating and ordering sufficient numbers of package bees, nucs and queens in order to rebuild their apiaries. Honey demand at both the retail and wholesale levels remains good, but no new crop honey was yet available.
WEST CENTRAL—The season is also two to three weeks late in this area due to the slow spring. Migratory commercial beekeepers still had their colonies in California or the South, but will be returning to their home states by mid-May. Non-migratory outfits wintered in the West Central states had heavier than normal losses in a number of cases. Beekeepers were scrambling to replace deadouts with package bees, nucs and divides. This process has been aggravated by the late spring, but conditions were improving day by day as this was written. Parts of the Dakotas, Nebraska and Kansas were still on the dry side, but spring rains have helped moisture conditions in other West Central states. Beekeepers were hoping for good foraging weather for the big clover and alfalfa flows that come later in the spring or early summer. Honey demand remains strong, but inventories are running short, so buyers are eagerly looking forward to this year’s new crop.
U.S Honey Crops and Markets - May 2014
Early April presented two very different pictures for beekeeping in the United States. While beekeepers in the southern states and California proceeded into colony build up and early honey flows, the northern half of the country remained the prisoner of a relentless winter which did not want to give up its grip on the land. This was especially apparent in the Northeast and Midwest where the spring season seemed to be running about two to three weeks behind schedule. Early maple and willow pollen was just starting to appear in combs in a number of states. However, in the Upper Midwest and New England, continued freezing weather and regular forecasts for snowfall made early bee work difficult. Cleaning out the huge number of deadout colonies will be a major challenge, as well as continuing to feed surviving colonies until regular spring pollen and nectar are available. The supply of package bees, nucs and queens has been running short, especially for April and early May deliveries. Some queen companies had stopped taking April and May orders, but were still taking orders for late May or early June delivery.
In California, the almond pollination season is over, but migratory beekeepers seemed to be in no hurry to return to their home states in the northern half of the country until warmer weather returned. The almond pollination season went quite well and colonies generally built up well and even stored some surplus almond honey that will be used for making divides or later colony buildup. The heavy rains that came earlier in the year were helpful, but will not alleviate the severe drought situation over much of the state that continues to cloud the picture for agriculture in general in the state. Honey production is not exempt from this problem and will continue to suffer until more normal rainfall patterns return to California. Meanwhile, in Florida early reports for the orange flow were disappointing, but gallberry and palmetto honey flows looked encouraging. Colonies were also starting to build up well in the rest of the Southeast, as well as the Southwest.
Demand for honey at both the wholesale and retail levels remains quite good, especially for the lighter grades of honey. Buyers are trying to lock in supplies of new crop honey because their inventories are starting to run quite short.
The USDA Agricultural Statistics Board estimates that 2013 honey production was up 5 percent, according to its initial report released in March. However, at 149 pounds, this still represents a huge decline from the previous so-called normal U.S. honey crop of 200 million pounds. Unfortunately, with large colony losses and erratic weather patterns becoming perennial problems, many beekeepers think the “new normal” U.S. honey crop may be closer to 150 million pounds.
California’s 2013 honey production, not surprisingly, was down to just 11 million pounds. Florida’s honey crop was actually up slightly, but honey production in the two big producing states of North and South Dakota was down. On the other hand, honey production in Montana almost doubled in 2013, going from 7.7 million to almost 15 million pounds! Texas honey production was also up slightly, going from 4.9 to 6.3 million pounds. Minnesota’s honey production went down some, as did honey production in Wisconsin in 2013.
NORTHEAST—Heavy winter colony losses continue to be reported over much of this area. Beekeepers generally blame the long, brutally cold winter. However, specific comments varied from blaming losses on starvation, lack of warm-up days for cleansing flights or cluster movement to new stores, as well as problems with varroa such as too few young bees or viruses. In some cases, colonies died after their first few flight days. Reporters said bees flew out of their hives, but did not return so cluster strength dropped to practically zero overnight!
These large losses are causing concern that some beekeepers may not be able to obtain replacement bees or queens or there may be serious delays in their orders. As we indicated previously, many package bee and queen companies booked up early for the first half of spring. Reporters also were worried that some new beekeepers may not be able to start this year or will have to start their first hives of bees much later than they had hoped. On a positive note, some beekeepers said the added moisture in the form of snow or spring rains should help honey plant growth this season. Unfortunately, the prolonged cold weather was slowing early pollen and nectar flows from numerous tree and wildflower sources. Many beekeepers were still feeding their colonies. Deep snows in some cases prevented beekeepers from reaching their outyards.
MIDEAST—Prolonged cold weather extended well into the Mideastern states as well, delaying colony development, as well as normal late winter/early spring apiary work. Beekeepers also noted much higher winter colony losses in some instances and said that they had to feed their colonies longer than normal early in the season due to the late spring bloom. Maple bloom was followed by elm, willow, henbit, dandelion and other early wildflowers. As in the Northeast, some of our reporters were worried that they would not be able to secure adequate numbers of package bees, nucs or queens to replace deadouts. In addition, some new beekeepers might not be able to start their new hobby this season or will have to wait until late spring before they can secure their bees. Demand for honey remains strong, but most locally produced honey was sold out earlier.
SOUTHEAST—The first part of the Florida orange flow seemed to be producing quite well. Unfortunately, a combination of rainy weather and fear of spraying, which kept many beekeepers away, lowered total orange honey production by 25 to 50 percent. In some cases, growers prohibited beekeepers from placing colonies in their groves due to spray loss liability. According to state officials, an estimated 150,000 hives of bees were moved to California for almond pollination and buildup. They will be moved back for later flows in Florida. However, in some cases Florida beekeepers have been tempted to sell semi-loads of bees due to offers to buy the hives.
Flows from later gallberry and palmetto flows also look encouraging in Florida and southern Georgia, if the weather continues to cooperate. Soil moisture conditions were rated as fair to good. Elsewhere in the southeast colonies had been building up on maples and elm, as well as early wildflowers such as henbit and dandelions. Bees were building up quickly after overwintering well for the most part. Cold snaps slowed colony development in several instances, but colonies seemed to bounce back well. Package bee and queen producers were very busy trying to fill orders for what looks like a very busy season for them. Some producers booked up early and stopped taking orders for packages much earlier than normal. In addition, some breeders had to tell customers that they would not be able to ship later queen orders until late spring. Others had done away with single queen orders or had set a limit of 50 or more queens per order to eliminate some of the added work that many small queen orders require.
Wholesale and retail honey demand remains excellent and beekeepers are anxious to start extracting their new crops of honey as soon as they are ready. There should be a ready demand for new crop honey this season, especially the lighter grades.
SOUTHWEST—A number of commercial colonies from this area were moved to California for almond pollination, but will be ...
U.S Honey Crops and Markets - April 2014
The first part of the almond pollination season went quite well in California. However, by early March unrelenting rains were preventing normal bee foraging, as well as knocking some of the blossoms from the trees. The rains were badly needed in this drought-stricken state, but when they came all at once like this, they also caused flash flooding and mudslides. Beekeepers and almond growers were hopeful that the weather would clear in time to salvage the remaining almond pollination season. On the plus side, the badly needed ground moisture may help California wildflower honey flows which have been severely curtailed by drought over the last couple of years.
Wave after wave of cold weather, often accompanied by snow or ice, continued to be a major beekeeper concern in the Midwest and Northeast. Oftentimes, maple and other early pollen and nectar sources are in bloom by late February or early March, but that was certainly not the case this year. Up until the first half of March, beekeepers were lucky to have a day now and then that was warm enough to allow bee cleansing flights. Many beekeepers were afraid their bees were running out of stores, so they were adding sugar patties or pollen supplements to their hives. In the Mideast and parts of the Southwest, temperatures were still colder than normal, but they had warmed enough to allow beekeepers to feed syrup and start some beeyard work. Meanwhile, southern and California bee breeders were busy trying to raise bees and queens in preparation for a hectic spring shipping season. As we indicated last month, many bee breeders booked up early since northern beekeepers were worried about being able to replace their winter colony losses. Breeders were hoping that they could avoid a late season severe frost which would delay package bee and queen deliveries.
The Florida orange flow was just getting started as this was written in early March. Beekeepers were hoping for a good flow, but some had decided to skip this major flow for fear of suffering devastating spray losses again as happened to a number of beekeepers last year.
NORTHEAST—In early March beekeepers and bees were still confined to their dwellings for the most part. Continued blasts of cold weather, often accompanied by snow or freezing rain, were making spring seem far off. Nevertheless, package bees, nucs and queens have been ordered and beekeepers were preparing their equipment for the new season. Many of our reporters felt that winter losses would be higher than normal, but thought that the first few weeks of March would tell the story. Some beekeepers were continuing to feed winter sugar patties or candy fondant to bees, but others hesitated to disturb colonies during such cold temperatures. However, they were planning to begin feeding as soon as the temperatures warmed some. With the heavy snowfall in some locations, beekeepers are hoping that honey plants will have plenty of moisture for normal growth once spring arrives. Many of the best honey flows in the Northeast take place during May or early June. Demand for honey continues to be strong at the wholesale and retail levels.
MIDEAST—Beekeepers were hoping that by the time this report is printed that their cold weather problems would only be a memory. They have had to contend with a very harsh winter to date—much cold weather, often accompanied by snow or ice. In early March, colonies are often starting to build up in this area, but not this year! Beekeepers were continuing to feed colonies, but were having difficulty reaching some outyards due to either deep snow or muddy conditions. Winter cleansing flights have also been few and far between, which is unusual for this area. Beekeepers are now assessing their apiaries to determine colony losses, as well as weak and starving colonies. Package bee, nuc and queen demand are expected to be heavy this spring. Some beekeepers said that they were worried that late freezes in March and April could be devastating. On the bright side, the added ground moisture should be very helpful to wildflowers and row crops.
Although honey demand remains strong, very little locally produced honey remains unsold at this late date. Beekeepers are looking forward to having supplies of new crop honey later this spring.
SOUTHEAST—Erratic late winter weather was making bee buildup difficult. Periods of nice, warm weather were being interspersed with cold, stormy weather in the form of rain, sleet and snow. Many beekeepers in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and northern Florida were still feeding colonies. Some producers report rather high winter loss rates, while others have said their colonies came through winter fine. Maple, willow, elm, elder, henbit and other early sources were providing pollen and nectar for brood development during warm periods. One nice thing about all the extra moisture is that it should help later spring and summer honey flows. If the weather cooperates, the gallberry and palmetto flows in Georgia and northern Florida look encouraging. The orange flow was just getting underway, but some beekeepers were a bit pessimistic due to previous major problems with citrus greening and resultant heavy insecticide use that killed or crippled a number of colonies last season. Some Florida migratory beekeepers, who transported their colonies to California, may try to get back to their home states in time for the orange bloom, but others have elected to stay in California for colony buildup and then return in time for gallberry and palmetto flows.
Many new hobbyists continue to swell the ranks of bee clubs and some reporters said short courses in their states were filled to capacity. Meanwhile, demand for honey at both the wholesale and retail levels remains strong. Unfortunately, most beekeepers were sold out and will not have any new crop honey until later this spring.
SOUTHWEST—Cool, wet weather prevailed over much of the eastern half of this area in February and early March. Even West Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, which had been bone dry, received some nice soaking rains in early March. These rains made current bee work difficult and limited foraging, but the added moisture was very welcome since it will help spring and summer plant growth. Migratory operations were still in California when this was written. However, colonies remaining in the Southwest were working maple, elm, oak and early wildflowers. Some beekeepers were still feeding colonies due to the late spring. Colonies generally wintered well, but need plenty of warm weather to build up in time for important spring honey flows from wildflowers, brush, clover and alfalfa.
Interest in beekeeping remains excellent. Honey demand is also very good, but little honey remained unsold. Local honey enthusiasts are waiting for their favorite local varieties of honey to be placed on the market.
EAST CENTRAL—The winter has been what one reporter called an “old-fashioned” winter with significant snowfall and long periods of very cold weather. At first glance, this sounds like a disaster for many beekeepers and it will be for those who did not leave adequate stores. On the other hand, other reporters said that the extremely cold weather has kept colonies in a tight cluster and they have not used as many stores as they might have if the winter had been warmer. Lack of cleansing flight days was a very real concern, however, and beekeepers were thankful for any days that were sunny and warm enough to allow bees to get outside of their hives for a while. Deep snows were a mixed blessing. The snow has helped insulate colonies from the cold and provided needed ground moisture, but it has also made outyard work such as feeding difficult if not impossible. Preorders of package bees, nucs and queens have been very heavy.
Packers are looking for any remaining supplies of honey, but few are still available. Demand for honey at both the wholesale and retail levels remains excellent.
WEST CENTRAL—Colonies returning from California will be stronger this year. Meanwhile, weather conditions in this area have been quite harsh with extended periods of cold, windy weather and in some cases heavy snow. On the other hand, other reporters were wishing for more snow or rain to replenish very short ground moisture conditions in parts of the Dakotas and Nebraska. The season is getting off to a slower start due to the late spring. Maple and willows often start blooming by early March, but that was not the case this season. However, many beekeepers had already begun to check and feed colonies where they could reach outyards. Demand for package bees, nucs and queens is ...
U.S Honey Crops and Markets - March 2014
Vastly different pictures emerged in late January/early February as beekeepers on the West Coast geared up for another busy almond pollination season, while beekeepers over much of the rest of the country shivered with wave after wave of unusually cold weather. However, beekeepers on the West Coast do have their share of problems. In some cases, their colonies were too weak or they are finding deadouts instead of thriving colonies. In addition, they face their third consecutive year of drought. Meanwhile, beekeepers in the Midwest and over much of the rest of the Eastern U.S. contended with unrelenting cold, windy weather in January that was taking its toll on overwintering colonies. Where possible, beekeepers farther south were feeding their colonies during warmer periods in an effort to bring them through the winter alive into early spring. Early indications are that package bee, nuc and queen demand will be quite strong this spring. Some breeders booked up earlier than normal and had stopped taking orders for bees by the end of January. Queen breeders were also booking up early select delivery dates. In fact, harsh weather in the South could take its toll on early queen breeding efforts, delaying some early delivery dates, especially if February weather did not improve.
The honey market remains strong at both the wholesale and retail levels. However, most bulk quantities of domestic honey have been sold by now.
NORTHEAST—Continuing cold weather and snowy conditions have prevailed through the first half of winter. January weather was extremely cold and bees only had brief warm-up periods where they could break cluster and move to new stores. Winter losses are expected to be higher than usual due to a combination of the harsh winter and poor winter stores. Some reporters were making sugar candy boards to feed their bees or were using winter patties to carry bee clusters through until warmer weather returned. Beekeepers are already finding some deadouts characterized by either mass starvation or deserted hives. They are planning to begin more frequent colony inspections and feedings in February and March before the first maple pollen was available. This may make the difference between normal and devastating colony losses. Many beekeepers had already ordered their packages, nucs or queens for the new season, anticipating that bees will be in short supply due to the long, cold winter extending into the southern tier of states.
Fewer honey sales were reported due to local beekeepers running out of product. Many store shelves are currently stocked with out-of-state or foreign blended honey.
MIDEAST—Beekeepers were beginning to inspect colonies on warmer days and feeding where they needed to do so. Some are using candy boards, sugar patties, dry sugar or syrup on warmer days. However, many reporters continue to find cases of colony collapse, in addition to classic starvation. These losses will necessitate more demand for package bees, nucs and queens. Beekeepers were hoping for an early spring that would allow maples, elms and oak, as well as early wildflowers to begin blooming. Skunk cabbage and maples are some of the first early bloomers in this part of the country. Much will depend on the weather conditions during February and early March since this is often when colonies run out of stores, right when their salvation is at hand in the form of tree pollen and early wildflowers. Many beekeeping short courses were planned for February and March. Honey demand remains excellent, but most beekeepers have exhausted their remaining inventories.
SOUTHEAST—Late January freezing temperatures set back early pollen and nectar flows, as well as early brood rearing in some locations. Colonies have been wintering normally, but late freezes can be very damaging to brood rearing. In addition, late freezes can hurt early build-up honey flows that beekeepers rely on. Bees are generally in good condition and moisture conditions are satisfactory for the present. The big orange flow in Florida should be starting in early March and beekeepers are hoping that poor weather will not curtail this very important flow. However, they are also worried about citrus greening problems in the groves and the associated massive spraying efforts that growers mount in order to combat the problem. Last season many colonies were lost in the orange groves due to massive spraying in some locations. On the other hand, a number of Florida commercial beekeepers have committed to almond pollination in California, so will not be returning until after the orange flow has occurred.
Package bee and queen producers have been hard at work in preparation for another very busy season. Quite a few reported that they booked up quickly on package bees and nucs, but were still taking queen orders, although early delivery dates had already been taken. Bulk honey sales are down due to the lack of any unsold supplies. However, some reporters continue to comment that there is some packer resistance to buying the darker grades of honey such as Brazilian pepper and melaleuca. Retail sales continue to be reported as good.
SOUTHWEST—Beekeepers in this area are also playing a roulette game with the late winter weather, hoping for no late freezes that would disrupt brood rearing and early brush flows. Both local and migratory beekeepers in these southern states depend on good late winter and early spring build-up for colony splitting or pollination rentals. Winter storms and cold weather dipped down to the Gulf of Mexico in late January, which was a big concern to beekeepers who had their bees on locations for build-up. Some of these bees were to be used for California almond pollination or for early pollination duties elsewhere. Moisture conditions are adequate in the eastern half of this area, but farther west, more moisture is badly needed to insure good spring flows. Package bee and queen producers in this area have also indicated a very strong demand this season. Some breeders were already booked up for the season for package bees or nucs.
Very little old-crop honey remains unsold, but demand remains good at both the wholesale and retail levels.
EAST CENTRAL—January cold weather was very hard on colonies. Although there were actually a few days warm enough for cleansing flights, on most days colonies were confined to their hives. Temperatures were so cold that clusters sometimes could not move to new honey stores, so they died of starvation. These dying colonies are in addition to colonies that died earlier in the winter when bees simply disappeared from their hives due to dwindling caused by viruses.With large winter colony die-offs in some states, most of our reporters felt there would be a very strong demand for replacement packages, nucs and queens this spring. In fact, some southern breeders stopped advertising early in the season because they were already booked up.
In some cases beekeepers reported large amounts of snow accompanying the cold weather, but that was not always the case. In fact, some East Central locations are still on the dry side and will need good, soaking spring rains to help spring wildflowers.
Beekeepers were trying to feed colonies with varying degrees of success due to the extreme cold temperatures. Very few bulk quantities of honey remain unsold at present, so there was little market activity to report. Retail honey sales remain strong.
WEST CENTRAL—The majority of commercial colonies were moved to California for almond pollination or South for overwintering and subsequent early
U.S Honey Crops and Markets - February 2014
February marks the beginning of the almond pollination season in California. Although the first blossoms may not come until the second part of the month, most beekeepers have already moved their colonies on location or will be doing so shortly. Prices in the $180 to $200 range seem to be the norm this season, but we have heard of prices as low as $160 and as high as $220 per colony. No one knows if there will be a shortage of bees or not. However, many of our reporters felt that there would be spot shortages, which could develop into more severe shortages if starvation, mites, or disease cause migratory beekeepers to start finding large numbers of deadouts.
The first part of winter has, indeed, been quite severe in parts of the northern half of the country with very cold temperatures, winds and at times significant accumulations of ice or snow. What this will mean for colony overwintering is still a big question mark. However, the combination of poor winter stores and a long, cold winter never bode well for colony winter survival or early strong colonies. In fact, some package bee and queen companies have booked up early with the anticipation of large colony losses that will need to be recouped.
On the bright side, snow and rain have brought badly needed ground moisture to some parched locations. In addition, colonies have been overwintering fairly well in the southern United States, despite periods of stormy weather with heavy rainfall. Mite and beetle populations appear to be on the low side, so beekeepers are hoping to bring strong colonies into the spring season. Maple begins blooming in January in some southern locations, so beekeepers have been busy preparing for the new season. This has included feeding and examining overwintering colonies in preparation for making splits once bee populations rebound. Package bee and queen companies are scrambling to prepare for the upcoming season, which they believe will be quite busy. In addition, to supplying bees to repopulate dead colonies, many new hobby beekeepers have been starting and they will need bees as well.
Most beekeeper honey inventories have been exhausted by now, so little honey is available for sale at the wholesale level. Honey prices and demand remain strong over most of the country.
NORTHEAST—Despite harsh winter weather conditions, beekeepers are doing what they can to insure better colony overwintering success. These chores have included continuing to feed sugar patties where stores appear especially low, as well as providing makeshift windbreaks to protect colonies from the cold, winter winds. Some beekeepers have already started having problems with black bear depredation. Weather conditions have been a bit colder than normal and several storms had already produced significant snowfall or ice in some of the New England states. After the late December ice storm, many thousands of people were without power for over a week.
Beekeepers are trying to estimate how many packages, nucs and queens they will need to order, but this is difficult due the weather. Few deadouts had been reported yet, but reporters were quick to remind us that winter was just starting. A number of beekeeping associations were already gearing up to provide instructional short courses on beekeeping this winter and early spring. These beekeepers will also need bees for their new hobby.
Honey demand remains strong at both the wholesale and retail levels, but locally produced honey is in short supply.
MIDEAST—Beekeepers are monitoring colonies for honey reserves and have been feeding both syrup, candy boards or sugar patties when the weather has allowed. Cool, wet conditions prevailed during the first part of winter, but snowfall had not been heavy except in a few cases. Beekeepers were hoping for an early spring to help with winter survival rates. A few beekeepers were also worried about heavier than normal varroa mite loads on their bees during the fall of 2013, as well as increased incidence of European foulbrood. Most reporters from this area felt that demand for package bees, nucs and queens would again be very heavy this coming spring due to colony losses. In addition, a number of short courses scheduled throughout the area should also increase demand for bees.
Demand will also be heavy again for bees for pollination duties throughout this area, as well as other parts of the country since many commercial beekeepers are now routinely transporting colonies long distances for pollination work. Pollination prices for fruit trees and row crops are varying from $50 to $75 per colony. Demand for honey at both the wholesale and retail levels also remains strong, but supplies are mostly exhausted at this point. Holiday sales were reported to be brisk.
SOUTHEAST—Heavy rains came in December, but temperatures have remained rather mild in comparison with the rest of the country that was hit by several winter storms accompanied by cold snaps. Beekeepers are busy feeding colonies in preparation for making divides. Good late goldenrod flows had provided nice winter stores in some states, so some beekeepers did not have to feed as much as normal. Package bee and queen companies are starting to receive many orders and have been gearing up for another very busy season. They are hoping that the last half of winter and early spring will not set back colony buildup. Late freezes are especially detrimental once brood rearing starts since large amounts of capped brood are often killed. Maple and other early tree bloom were being worked by colonies as they expanded their brood areas. Mite and small hive beetle numbers are down right now, but beekeepers will need to keep these pests in check as warm weather returns. Some Florida beekeepers continue to worry about citrus “greening” and spray kills in the citrus groves. A few have decided to forego the orange flow entirely and have moved their colonies to California for the almond pollination season.
Beekeeper and colony numbers are expected to continue to increase, buoyed by the large influx of new hobby beekeepers. Many short courses have been scheduled by various beekeeping organizations in the Southeast. Demand for honey remains excellent at both the wholesale and retail levels, but most of last season’s crop has been sold, including the late Brazilian pepper honey produced in Florida.
U.S Honey Crops and Markets - January 2014
Almond pollination was the main topic of conversation among many commercial beekeepers. Thousands of colonies have already been moved into California to temporary holding yards where they are being fed and medicated in an effort to build up their populations in time for almond pollination at the end of February and early March. Many almond pollination contracts have already been signed for $180 to $200 per colony and some reporters expected later contracts to go even higher if colony winter losses appear to be higher than normal.
Colder weather accompanied by rain or snow spread over much of the country in November and December. In locations where drought was a problem last season the extra moisture is very welcome. In many cases feeding had stopped in the northern states since colonies were forming winter clusters. However, beekeepers hope to recheck outyards in February to see where additional feed needs to be applied to bring colonies through winter.
What some are calling the “new normal” U.S. honey crop has again been forecast to amount to no more than 140 million pounds. The so-called “normal” honey crop has been revised down about every 20 years or so as colony numbers and available bee pasture have declined. In 1947 colony numbers reached their high point of 5.9 million, but have since declined to about 2.6 million, a 56% decline.
Demand for honey at both the wholesale and retail levels has continued to remain strong. However, bulk quantities of honey still available for sale were getting scarce in some portions of the country. Most wholesale quotes provided by our reporters were running above the $2.00 per pound mark, with some quotes on smaller loads or varietals reaching the $2.50 per pound level.
NORTHEAST—With the coming of subfreezing temperatures and periods of snow mixed with rain, all outside bee work had come to a close. A number of beekeepers told us that they had been feeding colonies where fall goldenrod, aster and knotweed flows were poor this season. Feeding will need to resume in March before light colonies have a chance to starve. On the bright side, varroa mite populations were reported to be down this season, which some reporters attributed to the hot, dry summer in their locations. Winter clusters are mostly of sufficient size to survive the long, cold winter. Holiday sales have been excellent for those beekeepers who still had honey left unsold.
MIDEAST—By the end of November, most states had reported their first hard frosts, ending any remaining flows from asters and goldenrod. Colonies in some locations actually made significant winter stores from these sources, which will help them survive the winter season. However, a number of beekeepers were still feeding their apiaries. Some had abandoned syrup after the first frosts, but were continuing to feed via candy boards or sugar patties. Small hive beetle numbers were higher than normal this year, and many beekeepers were making an effort to trap as many as they could. Fall rains and snowfall will help ground moisture in locations that were dry.
Honey sales were excellent earlier in the fall, but many beekeepers sold out and did not have much honey, if any, to sell during the holiday season. Bulk quantities of honey were also very scarce. This area consists mostly of small to mid-sized beekeepers who pack the majority of their honey directly into jars or 60 lb. containers.
SOUTHEAST—Beekeepers were continuing to feed and medicate overwintering colonies where necessary. Many colonies moved to the southeastern states from the northern United States required immediate care and feeding due to poor honey flows in 2013. A few reporters have told us that they had very good fall flows and have not had to do much feeding so far this fall and winter. Beekeepers are also continuing to fight small hive beetles, but populations have waned with the coming of cooler temperatures. Colony numbers are down from their high earlier in the season, but beekeepers plan to make divides where necessary to rebuild their beeyards. Package bee and queen breeders are also hard at work feeding and medicating colonies in anticipation of another very busy spring season in 2014.
Wholesale and retail sales and prices were generally quite good in 2013. Beekeepers soon ran out of bulk quantities of honey, but many continued to sell locally and through the Internet at the retail level. Holiday sales were very good for those who still had sufficient inventories. The only bulk quantities of honey made recently were from Brazilian pepper in Florida. Offering prices for this amber honey started out at $1.85 to $2.00 per pound in barrels, but by the end of November and early December a few packers had reduced that offering price to as low as $1.60 per pound, much to the surprise and chagrin of producers. Despite this temporary reduction, most beekeepers feel that the wholesale market will remain strong in 2014. Some packers had reduced their purchases due to a lack of cash, but will be actively looking for honey again during the first quarter of 2014.
SOUTHWEST—Colonies went into winter in fair to good condition, depending on the honey flows available for foraging in the various Southwestern area states. Many colonies have also been brought into this area from northern states and beekeepers are counting on early nectar and pollen flows to make divides or build up colonies in time for pollination contracts. Winter and spring rains will be vital in providing the needed build-up flows that beekeepers count on. Until then, beekeepers are feeding colonies where necessary.
As we indicated in previous reports, honey flows were quite sporadic last season due to poor weather conditions. Most states ended the season with below normal honey crops, despite scattered positive crop reports. Needless to say, honey remains in short supply in the Southwest and both wholesale and retail sales have been brisk. Unfortunately, many commercial or sideline beekeepers had run out of the bulk honey by early fall.
EAST CENTRAL—Short honey crops made beekeepers scramble to supply overwintering colonies with sufficient stores to make it through the long winter season. Newly started colonies from packages or nucs were the most vulnerable because they did not have the advantage of strong populations to secure honey during sparse flows. Feeding and medicating came to a close in November when temperatures dropped enough that colonies went into winter clusters. However, some beekeepers were continuing to feed light colonies with winter sugar patties or candy boards. Parts of northern Michigan and Ohio reported excellent late goldenrod flows, but they were in the minority since many locations were too dry for good flows from late sources.
Honey sales at both the wholesale and retail levels continue to be strong, but supplies are low. Local specialty honeys such as star thistle were selling above the market price for generic honey. Some beekeepers reported running out of honey before the end of the holiday season.
WEST CENTRAL—Many commercial beekeepers moved their colonies to California or southern locations in October and November before the colder weather and snowfall began. They are now being fed on location in holding yards in preparation for almond pollination in February and March. Honey crops were generally on the low side for most beekeepers this season, but there were also exceptions where beekeepers made good crops due to ideal weather conditions. Most beekeepers blamed poor weather conditions, but some beekeepers in Minnesota said that soybean spraying killed off honey bee field forces, hurting late summer honey yields. Recent rains and snowfall have helped replenish soil moisture conditions in drought locations.
Wholesale trading for new crop honey was very good this fall, but sales have declined recently since either packers have secured needed inventories or beekeepers have sold out. Retail honey sales continued to be brisk through the holiday season. Wholesale prices quoted on new crop honey were varying from $2.11 to $2.60 per pound for white and from $2.01 to $2.50 for amber grades.
INTERMOUNTAIN—Migratory beekeepers had completed moving their colonies to California or the South for the winter. Beekeepers who overwinter on location had been feeding, medicating and wrapping colonies until cooler weather moved into the area, shutting down outside bee work. Some beekeepers were continuing to move their colonies into potato warehouses in Idaho for the winter months. Rains and snows moved into the area in November. The added moisture is welcome and will help replenish ground moisture which is badly needed in drought-stricken locations such as southeastern Colorado. More honey was made in several Intermountain states in 2013 than had been made in 2012, but total crops were still not what most reporters would call an average or good year.
Demand for honey remains excellent at both the wholesale and retail levels. However, most producers were sold out of bulk quantities of honey by the beginning of December. Most prices for both white and amber grades were above the $2.00 per pound mark.
WEST—Almond pollination news takes the forefront at this time of the year since so many commercial beekeepers rely on this important event for their yearly income. Many contracts had already been signed at $180 to $200 per colony. Although late contract prices are expected to go higher, at this point no one knows for sure and much will depend on how colonies overwinter. Most commercial beekeepers were busy feeding and medicating colonies in holding yards in an attempt to boost brood rearing and resulting colony populations to coincide with almond pollination season in late February and early March. In some locations beekeepers said that they had nice, but unexpected late pollen and nectar flows in the California foothills. And, of course, the less that beekeepers need to feed, the better their profits will be after expenses are tallied.
Beekeepers are hoping for better rains and snow in the mountains since moisture was such an important factor in reducing honey crop yields over most of the state in 2013. Rainy weather with snow in the foothills and mountains had returned to much of northern California, Oregon and Washington by the beginning of December. With the coming of colder weather, outside bee work had stopped in the Northwest, but many pallets of bees were still being moved south to winter holding yards in preparation for almond pollination. These colonies will continue to receive syrup, pollen substitutes and medications to boost their populations by mid to late February in time for almond pollination.
Honey sales over most of the West Coast continued to be listed as good to excellent, but not a lot of honey was still available in bulk quantities. Retail sales were expected to remain strong through the holiday season.
Weather conditions during the last part of the spring season in Argentina have been extremely encouraging. Timely rains during November (unseen during the last five years) have created exceptional conditions for a successful honey crop during December and January. Beekeepers were able to restock winter deadouts and recover from last season’s losses. However, we do not see any expanding efforts from current beekeepers. Manufacturers of bee equipment have reported very slow sales this year.
Although the new crop is small at this moment, current prices per kilogram are about USD 1.80 per kilogram. These dark and amber honey grades are coming from the Northeastern and Northwestern subtropical regions of Argentina. Migratory beekeepers have decreased their itineraries due to very expensive fuel costs. Some large commercial beekeepers have even reduced the number of their colonies because of high operational costs.
Exports during the period January-October 2013 were 57,900 MT and sold for USD 187 million, equivalent to USD 3,228 per MT. The USA has been the largest importer with over 65% of all Argentine honey (37,877 MT). Germany keeps its second distant place as an importer with an 11% share of 6,390 MT. The two largest exporting honey companies are NEXCO with a 24% share, followed by CIPSA with 14% of the volume.
U.S Honey Crops and Markets - December 2013
In the northern half of the country beekeepers were finishing their fall feeding and medicating before closing up colonies for the winter. As usual, many commercial beekeepers had already moved their colonies to the South or California for overwintering and early buildup. Many of these colonies will later be moved to almond pollination or will be split on location. These splits will be sold to other beekeepers or eventually returned to northern states for honey flows.
Southern beekeepers are monitoring their beeyards and feeding where necessary. In some past years, reports of early colony mortality were common, but that has not been the case so far this fall. However, with very poor honey crops in many locations, reports of colony starvation are expected to be common before next spring. Many beekeepers began feeding their colonies when late summer or early fall hive examinations revealed very short colony stores in a number of cases.
With another short crop honey crop predicted for this year, honey prices and demand are expected to remain high. A number of beekeepers have told us that they expect to be sold out by early 2014 if not before.
NORTHEAST—After the October and November frosts and the onset of colder weather, most beeyard work has ceased. A few beekeepers were still feeding, but bees have gone into winter clusters, so are not actively feeding. Many New York beekeepers felt their bees had sufficient stores, but it some states with poor summer and fall honey crops, beekeepers will need to watch colonies and feed where necessary with sugar patties, candy boards or dry sugar until warmer weather returns next spring. In some locations quite a bit of goldenrod honey was made, but other beekeepers said cool, wet conditions shut down the fall flow early.
As we have indicated in previous months, honey crop reports have been mixed, but many beekeepers blamed erratic weather or weak colonies for poor yields this season. Beekeepers are having no trouble selling their current honey crop and many said that they would be sold out by beginning of the New Year if not before. Demand for honey at both the wholesale and retail levels remains excellent.
MIDEAST—Beekeepers have completed most of their feeding and mite treatments as colonies go into winter clusters. On warmer days some beekeepers were still feeding, but most beeyard work was done. Beekeepers in short crop locations are worried about colonies having sufficient stores to make it through the winter. Some reporters said that they planned on checking colonies in February and resuming feeding where necessary with sugar patties, candy boards or dry sugar. Then, as warmer weather returns, they will switch to feeding syrup.
Honey crops were disappointing again due to erratic weather varying between wet and cool to hot and dry. Nevertheless, some beekeepers were lucky enough to live in locations that made fair to good crops from clover, alfalfa, sumac and sourwood. Beekeepers have been selling their 2013 honey crops and have had little trouble since demand is strong. Most honey in the Mideast is sold at the retail level. Supplies are expected to be exhausted by the holidays or shortly thereafter.
SOUTHEAST—Seasonal scattered rainfall continued in this area. Temperatures were cooling, but Florida weather was still warm for the most part. Fall flower flows from sources like goldenrod had come to a close. Beekeepers were finishing their mite treatments and beetle trapping. Colonies had sufficient stores for the most part and were in good shape going into the winter season. The exceptions were where colonies were weakened due to losing their queen for a period of time. Honey crops were variable, but the big honey-producing state of Florida had a better crop than last season, despite some early season setbacks due to poor weather. Florida Brazilian pepper and melaleuca flows were done. Some beekeepers made surplus honey to extract, but many left these added stores on their hives for overwintering.
Beekeepers continue to report excellent wholesale and retail honey sales. Most large wholesale lots have been sold by now. However, beekeepers continue to sell local honey to the retail trade and sales are expected to continue to be strong through the holiday season.
SOUTHWEST—The last of the goldenrod and asters were finishing their bloom as beekeepers prepared for the winter season. Most colonies had sufficient stores despite poor honey flows in parts of this area. Northern beekeepers are also starting to move back to their winter locations in the Southwest where they will build up on early pollen and nectar in preparation for either the almond pollination season or making splits for later honey production in the northern states. Needed rains have been falling in some locations to help replenish ground moisture, which had been getting low.
Beekeepers don’t anticipate having any trouble selling their crops. In fact, many large lots of honey have already been sold. Beekeepers are also selling a lot of honey at the retail level at farmers’ markets and local festivals.
EAST CENTRAL—With the season drawing to a close, beekeepers were taking stock of their honey surplus, as well as the condition of their bees. Most honey crop averages were down, but there were exceptions in every state where beekeepers beat the odds and produced excellent honey crops. Beekeepers had finished their extracting and were busy either selling their honey in bulk or via the local retail trade. Sales at both the wholesale and retail levels remain brisk due to the continued shortage of honey, as well as the excellent demand for the product. Packers are trying to rebuild their inventories for the fast approaching holiday season. Offering prices for both white and ambers grades of honey remain above the $2.00 per pound level.
Colonies of bees are entering the winter with average to strong bee populations. Winter stores are fair, but a number of our reporters felt that they would need to feed some of their colonies to bring them through until spring. Commercial beekeepers were moving colonies to the South or California for the winter.
WEST CENTRAL—As in the East Central area, a few locations produced good honey crops, but they were in the minority. Most reporters are estimating that they produced about 50 to 80% of a normal honey crop. Erratic weather varying from cool and rainy early in the season to extremely hot and dry during the later spring and summer is blamed. Estimating crops in the big honey production states of North and South Dakota has been extremely tough this year since they were so variable, depending on the weather. In some locations the weather turned hot and dry, preventing normal production of clover and alfalfa. Instead, beekeepers had to depend on canola, buckwheat sunflowers, soybeans and other sources. Consequently, this year’s honey color is also a little darker than normal, which has been the case over much of the Midwest this season. On the other hand, other beekeepers were lucky enough to receive good weather at the right time and produced good to excellent clover and alfalfa flows.
Another short crop in this area has caused prices at both the wholesale and retail levels to increase. Most extracting was done and beekeepers were preparing to move their colonies to the South or California for the winter. A few will continue to overwinter indoors in climate controlled buildings and then will move these colonies directly to the almond groves about February 1st. Colonies are in fair to good condition going into winter. Some will need feeding now or in late winter in order to make it through until spring.
INTERMOUNTAIN—Honey production estimates continue to be equal to or better than 2012 over the most area states. Drought remained a big stumbling block to widespread good honey crops again this season, but a number of beekeepers in irrigated locations or where rainfall was better were able to secure fair to good honey crops. Beekeepers had finished their extracting and were either moving colonies to winter yard locations within their states or to southern or California locations for early 2014 almond pollination. Some colonies were being fed, especially in locations significantly affected by drought.
Beekeepers able to secure better honey crops this year are also enjoying better prices at both the wholesale and retail levels. Most locally produced honey will be sold out by the New Year.
WEST—Thousands of colonies began streaming into California for winter buildup and later almond pollination. Many colonies already in the state were being fed syrup and pollen supplements to keep bee populations up. Forcing colonies to be booming by early February is not easy and beekeepers must keep a constant vigil on holding yards to be sure they are not stressed by lack of food, disease or mites. Almond pollination contracts already locked in are higher than last season. However, pricing for later contacts may increase or decrease, depending on the availability of colonies.
As we indicated last month, honey crops over much of California will again be down by as much as 50% of normal. Seasonal rains and early snows are now returning to the state. Beekeepers in Oregon and Washington were able to secure better honey crops since rainfall came in time to help honey plant growth from alfalfa, clover, assorted berries, numerous wildflowers and row crops.
Honey prices and demand at both the wholesale and retail levels continue to be very good.
Although spring weather has been colder than usual, the buildup of colonies is exceptionally good in most of Argentina, especially in areas where timely rains have provided adequate ground moisture. Unfortunately, the number of commercial beekeepers has dropped significantly and the availability of bee forage is limited. Therefore, even though prospects for the future crop are better than last year, they are still down from the times before pastures were greatly reduced in favor of row crops. Late spring and early summer rains will have a major impact on what appears to be the best season of the last five years.
Drought affecting central provinces of Argentina (like Córdoba and Santa Fe) have prompted farmers to cut back on their sunflower crops. The acreage this year will be significantly reduced. It is important to bear in mind that sunflower is maybe the only commercial crop that has kept many beekeeping businesses viable in these provinces. Although honey from sunflower is not in the whiter grades, for many beekeepers it is the only honey they can get in areas where intensive agriculture has become prevalent.
Unlike the three previous years, this spring many beekeepers were again able to feed their hives liberally with sugar syrup. The price of granulated sugar returned to its historic average of 50 cents per kilogram, thus making stimulative feeding required during spring more affordable. Last year granulated sugar cost one dollar per kilogram.
Little if any honey remains unsold by beekeepers. For this reason the current high price offered by exporters cannot be taken advantage of by honey producers who sold their inventories early this year. Few recent transactions were made at USD1.90 per kilogram. Uncertainty at the exchange rate market is growing steadily after the gap between the US dollar on the black market when compared to the artificial parity set by the Central Bank of Argentina reached a record of 72% between the two quotations. Mid-term legislative elections took place in Argentina on October 27 and the government was defeated drastically. This outcome means that 50% of the Chamber of Representatives will be renewed, as well as one-third of the Senators. Budget cuts are expected that will put pressure at the exchange rate market.
During January-September of 2013, over 54,951 metric tons of honey were exported. The number one destination accounting for almost 65% of the volume is the USA with 35,800 MT sold at an average price of USD3,186 per MT. The second distant import is Germany with just 5,900 MT, representing 10.50% of Argentine shipments. Interestingly, Canada holds the number five position in the ranking with 1,892 MT (3.5%).
U.S Honey Crops and Markets - November 2013
Although the total U.S. honey crop will again be down from normal (estimates are for 150 million pound crop), states in some areas produced better crops than last season. For example, beekeepers in parts of the Southeast and Intermountain areas did better than last season due to timely rain showers and good foraging weather. Meanwhile, record prices continue to be received for honey at both the wholesale and retail levels due to the shortage. On the other hand, many commercial beekeepers have gone into colony buildup mode in preparation for the big almond pollination season in California beginning in February. Colonies are being moved to California holding yards now or will be moved there later this year. Since there was a shortage of colonies for almond pollination last season due to high winter losses, a number of commercial beekeepers sacrificed part of their honey production in favor of making splits to rebuild their colony numbers for 2014 almond pollination.
NORTHEAST—Poor weather during some of the major flows caused reduced honey crops for many beekeepers in this area. Information from the majority of our reporters mentioned cool, wet spring weather followed by dry, hot conditions during the summer flow period. These extremes lowered honey crops for many beekeepers. For those who were lucky enough to secure a honey crop, 40 to 50 lbs. per colony has been the average. Many New York beekeepers were among the lucky group who had good weather at the right time in order to secure better summer honey crops from sumac, clover, vetch, alfalfa, basswood and buckwheat. If the weather cooperated, beekeepers were hoping to make their final crops and winter stores for the year from goldenrod, assorted asters, loosestrife and Japanese knotwood. Rainfall returned in late summer and early fall. Many beekeepers were finishing their mite treatments, as well as feeding where honey flows have been poor.
Although locally produced honey remains in short supply, some beekeepers are buying bulk honey from out of state to supply their customer base. Demand for honey remains excellent at both the wholesale and retail levels.
MIDEAST—Erratic weather is blamed for poor honey crops across much of this area. A number of beekeepers complained of wet, cool weather during spring honey flows that hurt crops in Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. Then, weather conditions turned hot and dry for the remainder of the summer. (On the other hand, rainy weather is blamed for a below normal sourwood honey flows in some states.) Needed moisture returned in late summer and early fall, which should help remaining flows from asters, goldenrod, wing stem and other fall flowers. Higher than normal varroa and small hive beetle populations were a big concern for some of our reporters who were trying to reduce populations of these two pests so that colonies would go into winter with strong bee populations.
Demand for honey remains excellent in the Mideast area, but the supply is short and many beekeepers said that they expected to run out of new crop honey before the holidays.
SOUTHEAST—Although honey crops suffered in some states, the Southeast has been one of the brighter spots in the nation for honey crops this year. While total production has not been described as great, many beekeepers were able to secure fair to good yields due to good moisture conditions combined with plenty of warm weather at the right time. Florida orange flows were down, but later flows from gallberry and palmetto were reported to have been fair to good over much of the state and these flows boosted honey yields. Later flows were also expected from cabbage palm, goldenrod, melaleuca, Spanish Needles, and Brazilian pepper.
Honey crops were also listed as fair to good, but spotty in Georgia, Mississippi and Alabama. Honey flows mentioned included cotton, wildflowers, tallow, soybeans and goldenrod. These states had plenty of rain, which allowed longer and later blooming for a number of honey plants. As fall began, some beekeepers were treating for mites and small hive beetles to prepare colonies for overwintering. Honey stores seem to be fair to good.
Both wholesale and retail honey sales continue to be listed as excellent. However, much of the commercially produced bulk honey had already been sold to packers. New crop wholesale honey prices ranged from $2.00 to $2.50 for white honey and from $1.60 to $2.00 for various amber grades.
SOUTHWEST—Honey crops have been spotty again this season due to hot, dry weather combined with periods of very erratic weather. For example, some locations had torrential rains at times, which caused localized flooding and loss of crops and property. Colonies had just finished working the last of the cotton, soybeans, sunflowers and alfalfa in irrigated locations. Where ground moisture was sufficient, bees were still working blooming fall wildflowers such as goldenrod, aster and Spanish needles. In the desert Southwest, the season is mostly over, but some scattered desert wildflowers are still blooming where rains have been received. Good bee locations are getting harder and harder to find due to intensive farming and urbanization. This combined with erratic weather has made it difficult for many beekeepers to make the same per colony honey averages that they used to harvest. Most beekeepers have finished their honey extracting and have been medicating and/or feeding their bees in preparation for the winter season. Honey sales continue to be brisk and prices are higher at both the wholesale and retail levels.
EAST CENTRAL—Spotty crop reports continue. Some of the best honey crops were made in Indiana and central and eastern Wisconsin. As we have indicated all summer long, the cool, wet spring followed by the hot, dry summer was not conducive to good honey crops, although not every location was hurt equally. Some beekeepers managed to produce fair to good honey crops, but for many, their season’s production will be as bad as last season or worse. In addition, a number of reporters are telling us that their new crop honey is much darker than usual which they blame on the slow flow, as well as the bees having to rely more on wildflowers than clover and alfalfa for nectar. In Wisconsin and Michigan, the main flows came from thistle, wildflowers, clover and alfalfa. In some cases, the main flows did not come until September, according to some of our sources. On the other hand, other beekeepers received fair to good May and early June flows, but then everything shut down once the drought and hot temperatures began. In Ohio, some of the spring honey crops from locust and clover were excellent, but then the remainder of the season very poor due to erratic weather. Indiana beekeepers had better conditions during their main flows and thus a number of beekeepers reported average to excellent honey crops.
Winter honey stores are problematical due to the poor late summer weather, which was either too hot and dry or too rainy. Normally goldenrod, aster, knapweed and other late wildflowers provide winter stores, but in many cases that is not occurring this season, so beekeepers are feeding their colonies.
Honey prices at both the wholesale and retail levels remain excellent since there continues to be a major shortage of locally produced honey.
U.S Honey Crops and Markets - October 2013
As this season draws to a close, its most striking aspect has been its erratic nature combined with such vast differences in its weather, even within individual areas. This type of weather is not good for crop honey crops and the total U.S. honey crop will reflect this. Most predictions we have seen indicate another poor honey crop with total U.S. honey production not expected to exceed 150 million pounds, similar to 2012’s poor crop. Some reporters said that a very late spring hurt colony buildup and recouping colony numbers. Then, in some cases extreme drought or torrential rains characterized the remainder of the spring and summer. As always, some locations lucked out and were able to produce normal or excellent honey crops because rains came at the right time followed by good bee foraging weather. In addition, those beekeepers who had their colonies built up and ready to take advantage of honey flows also produced better total honey crops. However, accomplishing this was often difficult due to weather extremes. A number of beekeepers had trouble rebuilding their colony numbers. In some cases they could not obtain the bees or queens when they needed them. In other cases, beekeepers complained of high queen supersedure rates.
Taking a look at the major honey-producing states, we find that Florida honey crops were actually better than last year for a number of beekeepers, but many others did not produce good honey crops due to erratic weather. California honey crops were crippled by either drought or rainy weather. Honey crops in North and South Dakota were hurt by the late cool, wet spring followed by erratic weather during the main foraging period for sweet clover and alfalfa. Production was very spotty as a result and total colony averages were down significantly from what used to be considered normal.
Reflecting the continuing shortage of domestically produced honey, both the wholesale and retail honey markets remain very strong for new crop honey. Wholesale honey prices have blasted through the $2.00 per pound level and we have even heard of offering prices of $2.25 or more per pound. Those beekeepers who were able to produce an average or better honey crop are doing well, but they are in the minority. In some cases beekeepers took off honey early and then had to resume feeding colonies when erratic weather prevented colonies from producing enough honey to overwinter on.
NORTHEAST—Summer honey flows were dwindling, but beekeepers were hoping that goldenrod, aster, knotweed, loosestrife and knapweed would provide another super of honey or at least fill up brood chambers for winter stores. Spring and summer flow reports were mixed with some of the best honey crop reports coming from New York and Pennsylvania. Some parts of the Northeast had received too much rain, while other locations were on the dry side. Beekeepers were busy extracting, bottling and selling new crop honey. Demand was reported to be excellent. Some exceptional honey was made in parts of New York from basswood, clover and alfalfa this season.
Beekeepers are also beginning to treat colonies for varroa mites. In addition, some feeding is being done where colonies are light on stores. Colony numbers continue to be down from normal due to poor overwintering last winter. Although beekeepers restocked some of their deadouts, not all losses were recouped. Beekeepers are hoping for better overwintering weather this coming winter. Some early predictions are for a snowy and unusually cold winter.
MIDEAST—It has been a season of feast or famine, according to a number of our reporters from the Mideast. While some beekeepers enjoyed fairly good honey crops from clover, alfalfa, holly, sourwood and sumac, other reporters said that heavy rains during some of the main honey flows curtailed their honey crops. Some beekeepers had already begun feeding, while others were holding out a while longer, hoping for good fall flows from wingstem, goldenrod and aster. The situation was especially acute in parts of Kentucky and Tennessee where rain showers have been unrelenting this season. In these wet locations beekeepers said they would be lucky to harvest 30 pound averages.
With the coming of fall, a number of beekeepers have turned their attention to preparing colonies for winter and this has included treating for varroa mites, as well as reducing small hive beetle populations with traps. A wet, long winter is forecast, according to some of our reporters.
SOUTHEAST—Wet weather has been blamed for below average summer honey crops, according to a number of our reporters from this area. Earlier spring crops were fair to good, but once torrential rains started later in the summer, most bee foraging slowed or came to a standstill. In Florida, some of the main flows were over before heavy summer rains came to the state. However, in Georgia, Alabama and parts of Mississippi the rains hurt later clover, cotton, sourwood, soybean and wildflower crops. Despite the erratic weather, colonies are in fair to good condition as beekeepers begin their late summer/fall mite and beetle treatments. Some colonies where stores were low will need immediate feed as well. Beekeepers are hoping that the added moisture will trigger good late summer or fall flows from wildflowers. In Florida, beekeepers were still hoping to obtain pepper and melaleuca honey for bees to winter on.
Beekeepers are in the process of either selling their honey to packers or selling it to an eager public at local farmers’ markets and fairs.
SOUTHWEST—Some fair to good honey crops were made earlier this spring, but then either very hot temperatures or too much rain hampered remaining summer flows from wildflowers, alfalfa, cotton and soybeans. Too much rain caused honey flow problems in Arkansas, for example, and one reporter said his area was 15 inches above normal for rainfall. Some fall flows from goldenrod and aster are expected if the weather cooperates, but most of this honey is left on the hives for overwintering. Beekeepers are preparing colonies for winter, which has included feeding and applying mite and beetle controls. With honey remaining in short supply, beekeepers are having no trouble selling their 2013 honey production to packers or the public.
EAST CENTRAL—Honey crop reports have been a roller coaster ride throughout this area. We have heard reports as low as 50% of normal to as high as 200% of normal. Of course, the erratic weather is blamed, as well as the higher than normal winter colony losses, which some beekeepers had trouble restocking. Cool, wet spring weather also delayed bee buildup and prevented foraging during the first part of the season. Then, in some cases the weather turned off very hot and dry for the rest of the summer. Examples of areas that were very dry included parts of Upper Michigan and Central Illinois. On the other hand, parts of Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana had too much rain. However, some Indiana beekeepers report receiving their best honey crop in several years and have been hard pressed to keep us with their bees. Parts of northern Ohio also had great early spring and early summer flows from black locust, sweet clover and basswood. Similarly, parts of Wisconsin and northern Illinois also had good spring and summer flows. In other cases, reporters said their colonies made normal to good spring crops, but then hot, dry summer weather caused colonies to consume this surplus to survive. Star thistle and soybeans produced honey in some parts of Wisconsin and Michigan, but other parts of the state did not receive much honey from these two sources. In parts of the East Central area that have had enough summer rains beekeepers still hoped to produce late honey from goldenrod, aster and loosestrife.
Weather predictions call for a bitterly long, cold winter. Beekeepers have begun mite treatments and other fall work. Some migratory beekeepers will be moving their bees to California or the South soon. Honey demand remains excellent at both the wholesale and retail levels, so beekeepers do not anticipate having any trouble selling their product or obtaining top dollar for it.
WEST CENTRAL—Parts of Iowa, Missouri, Kansas and Nebraska received good spring or early summer flows after warmer temperatures returned. However the larger winter colony losses reduced colony numbers for some beekeepers who could not restock all of their deadouts. For strong colonies, the basswood and clover flows were excellent, but some beekeepers complained that their bees were still in a build-up mode and did not make much surplus honey. Parts of Minnesota also produced excellent summer honey crops from basswood, clover, alfalfa and sunflowers, but other parts of the state were held back by dry or wet, cool weather. Similarly, honey production has been reduced in the big honey production states of North and South Dakota due to cool, wet spring weather followed by summer drought in some cases. Fair to good flows were obtained from clover, soybeans and sunflowers. However, the main flows were poorer than normal from clover and alfalfa in much of the Dakotas and honey crops will be reduced by 50 to 60%.
Beekeepers were busy extracting, bottling and selling honey, as well as treating colonies for varroa mites. The honey market remains very strong at both the wholesale and retail levels. Most quotes on new crop white honey are over $2.00 per pound.
INTERMOUNTAIN—Honey crops are improved from last season, according to a number of our reporters. These better crops are coming from wildflowers, sweet clover, alfalfa and sunflowers. Moisture conditions are much improved in the area, except for a few locations that remain in a severe drought, such as southeastern Colorado. Earlier this spring some beekeepers had heavy colony losses and this was further aggravated by heavier than normal queen losses. With good weather conditions, beekeepers hope to obtain good late honey flows from sunflowers, knapweed, second-cutting alfalfa, goldenrod and rabbit brush.
Demand for honey continues to be excellent, so producers do not anticipate having any trouble selling their crops. Beekeepers continued to extract and bottle honey and were starting their mite treatments as well in some cases. Fortunately, varroa mite levels have been down, which some beekeepers attribute to the fact that many colonies were started from divides this year due to heavier than normal winter losses. This interruption in the mite reproduction cycle slowed their buildup significantly.
WEST—As cooler temperatures began to return to parts of the area, beekeepers were starting their winter feeding programs consisting of liquid sugar and pollen supplements. This was expected to continue until 2014 almond pollination began. Getting the upper hand on varroa mites has been particularly difficult for some beekeepers this season. Beekeepers blame the early season bee buildup, which seems to have also given the mites more time to reach the economic threshold where they are doing significant damage to colonies. Honey crop reports are spotty. In parts of Southern California honey was made where rains were sufficient or on irrigated land. Besides irrigated alfalfa, cotton, sunflowers and safflowers, some honey was made in the foothills from sources like sumac, eucalyptus, buckwheat and sage. On the other hand, other parts of California had scattered heavy rainfall which caused flash flooding. Later flows were mentioned from tarweed, rabbit brush and other late wildflowers.
In Northern California, Oregon and Washington bees continued to work scattered flows from various wildflowers in the foothills and mountain, as well as later irrigated crops. Earlier flows mentioned included blackberries, clover, alfalfa, knapweed, thistle and various wildflowers. Forest and brush fires continued to be an ever present threat in this area. Beekeepers were finishing their extracting and bottling. Honey crops were fair to good, according to our reporters. They also noted that prices and demand for honey continue to be excellent at both the wholesale and retail levels. In addition to feeding colonies, a number of beekeepers had begun treating for mites.
During the last half of August, winter weather suddenly arrived at the Argentine prairies putting an abrupt end to unusual warm weather during both June and July. Several killing frosts along with freezing temperatures have been prevalent for the last 20 days. So far prunes, almonds and peaches have delayed their first blossoms by at least two weeks. Low ground moisture levels are becoming a major concern for both farmers and ranchers. Although the situation is still manageable for beekeepers, substantial rains will be needed before early October to ensure a successful spring build up. The subtropical Northwestern provinces of Salta and Chaco (where some migratory beekeepers usually make early splits) have been affected by severe drought.
An annual inflation rate of 40% along with a 60% exchange rate gap between the dollar at the black market (ARS 9.60) and the government artificial parity (ARS 5.60) makes the export business very difficult. Traders of foreign goods are losing their competitiveness because of inflation that cannot be added to the final export price. Honey exporters are not the exception and even achieving a record price of over USD 3,600 per metric ton is not enough for them to meet their costs, especially considering that export dollars have to be sold to the Central Bank of Argentina at the low parity of ARS 5.60 per dollar.
Argentine beekeepers have sold most of the estimated 65,000 MT that were produced last season. Unsold stocks of approximately 23,000 MT are still held at exporters` warehouses. From January to July of year 2013 Argentina exported a total of 46,800 MT of which 31,000 MT (67%) were shipped to the USA at an average FOB price of USD 3,144 per MT. Germany is holding a distant second position with only 4,100 MT (9%) and the third major destination has been Japan with 3,100 MT (7%). The rest of the European Union countries, formerly major importers of Argentine honey, now represent just 5.5% (excluding Germany). According to exporters, about 60% of cheap Chinese exports equivalent to 25,000 MT are being shipped to Europe.
U.S Honey Crops and Markets - September 2013
Honey flows were mostly done in the Southeast and Southwest. Honey crops have been spotty, depending on the vagaries of the weather this spring and early summer, as well as colony strength at the time of the flows. Florida reporters have estimated that their state’s total honey crop will eclipse last year’s poor showing of only 13 million pounds. Beekeepers in Texas also hope to surpass their 2012 honey production of 5 million pounds, despite some tough weather conditions at times.
Honey production in the East Central and West Central areas was held back by the late spring and in some cases heavy rainfall. However, once this weather gave way to more seasonable summer weather, bees were able to resume normal foraging on remaining clover, alfalfa, basswood and assorted wildflowers. We had received no word yet on the soybean honey flows, which actually saved the season for some beekeepers last year. Other flows were also still in progress such as second-cutting alfalfa, knapweed and sunflowers. With the better moisture conditions this season, beekeepers are also hoping for improved late summer and early fall flows from goldenrod, aster, smartweed and Spanish needles.
The Dakotas and Minnesota remain big question marks as this was written. Since all three states always produce large honey crops, their final crops are very important in determining the total U.S. honey crop. The extremely late season played havoc with honey crops in the Upper Midwest. Some beekeepers said that their colonies did not start producing much honey until late July or early August. With good weather, sources seemed to think beekeepers could still avoid a honey crop disaster, but the situation was very tenuous. Many beekeepers said their colonies were still very strong, while others said that bee populations had begun to dwindle. Some beekeepers said they were delaying mite treatments due to the lateness of the honey flows. However, they were still planning to treat their colonies once all supers had been removed.
Honey crops are definitely down again in California, although some beekeepers were pleasantly surprised by unexpected late season wildflower flows in the foothills despite the dry, hot weather. Honey flows from irrigated crops have also been fair to good. California produced 12 million pounds of honey in 2012 and this year’s production is expected to be similar. In a good year, the state can produce 20 million pounds of honey.
Honey demand and prices remain very good for the most part throughout the nation. Locally produced and varietal honeys are selling very well at farmers’ markets and roadside stands.
NORTHEAST—Cool, rainy weather is blamed for lower spring and summer honey crops. However, the extra rain allowed more plant growth, so some honey flows may have lasted longer than normal. Beekeepers report summer flows from clovers, alfalfa, basswood, sumac, tulip-poplar, buckwheat, knapweed and other wildflowers. These flows have been spotty, depending on the weather. Later summer and early fall flows were expected from goldenrod, aster, purple loosestrife and knotweed. If the weather is clear and warm during these last flows, beekeepers may be able to secure another super or two of honey per colony. Colonies were generally in good condition, with the exception of new colonies and later requeened colonies that did not have sufficient time to rebuild to larger foraging populations. Earlier this spring a number of our reporters indicated higher than normal winter colony losses and not all of these empty hives were restocked with bees.
Early honey sales have been very good since this area generally sells out of their new crop honey quickly.
MIDEAST—Rainy conditions also impacted spring flows over a wide area of the Mideast. Reporters said that in many cases the flower bloom was there, but the bees simply did not have enough good foraging weather. Tulip-poplar, sumac, wildflowers and black locust were among some of the spring flows mentioned. Later flows included assorted clovers, basswood, and sourwood. Another obstacle to good honey crops this season was the high winter colony losses, as well as the late spring season. Some of these colony losses could not be recouped due to lack of money or unavailability of bees and queens when they were needed. Some beekeepers also have said that the moist conditions have brought on more problems with small hive beetles.
As this was written, beekeepers said that they were well into extracting their spring honey crop, but will probably also do another extracting session once the sourwood, clovers and wildflowers stop blooming. Most of the time, beekeepers leave much of their fall honey from goldenrod, aster and Spanish needles on their colonies for wintering. Producers anticipate having no trouble selling their surplus honey since there is always a ready market for local honey.
SOUTHEAST—Honey crop estimates are varying widely from one location to the next due to spotty rainfall and luck of the draw. Florida honey crops were typical for this seasonal trend. One reporter said gallberry was his best crop, while orange and tupelo were the poorest. Another reporter said orange was his best crop, but palmetto was his worst honey crop. Still another said both orange and palmetto were his best honey crops, while gallberry was his worst honey crop this season. Florida total honey crops will be somewhat better than last year, but still down from what many reporters call “average” crops. Alabama honey crops may be down by 30 to 40% from last season due to untimely rains, which often came right during flower bloom. Traditional flows from blackberry, privet and tulip-poplar were down. Good honey flows were secured from sumac and crepe myrtle. In northern Georgia sourwood and clover produced some good flows and the area seemed to have adequate rainfall. On the other hand, honey flows were hampered in the southern half of the state due to dry weather. Mississippi beekeepers said the weather was generally hot and humid. Colonies built up well and later honey flows were fair to good. Spring flows were below normal. Some beekeepers blame the fact that so many colonies were weak and winter losses were heavier than normal. As a result, bee populations were not strong enough to take advantage of spring honey flows. Some beekeepers also reported more problems with queen supersedure. Later in the season, small hive beetle populations were reported to be building up quickly.
Beekeepers were almost done with extracting their spring and summer honey. Buyers at both the wholesale and retail levels are expected to quickly purchase most if not all of this year’s honey production in record time. Honey has been in very short supply, especially the lighter grades.
SOUTHWEST—Texas bees came into the spring season in generally good shape. Early flow reports were very mixed. However, the tallow flow was generally considered to be better along the Gulf Coast. Spring flows from brush, clover, alfalfa and assorted wildflowers were fair to good with our reporters estimating about two-thirds of a normal crop. Similarly, Louisiana beekeepers indicate fair to good honey flows with tallow being the main crop this season. Rainfall in both Texas and Louisiana has been variable. One week an area is too dry and the next week torrential downpours and flash flooding are reported. As usual, West Texas beekeepers are reporting some of the driest and hottest conditions. New Mexico and Arizona have also had a very hot summer, broken up with occasional torrential downpours which have caused localized flooding. Colonies have made fair to good honey crops from desert wildflowers and irrigated crops such as melons, cantaloupes, alfalfa and cotton.
Oklahoma weather started the season quite variable with frequent storms. The plants and bees were said to be a month behind normal in some parts of the state. Where sufficient moisture was received, beekeepers obtained fair to good flows from clover, alfalfa and assorted wildflowers such as hairy vetch. Cotton and fall flowers should provide the last flows of the season for Oklahoma beekeepers. Arkansas honey flows have generally been good, although a number of beekeepers had to play catch-up on colony repopulation and build-up due to heavy winter losses. Later flows from soybeans and assorted wildflowers will be dependent on the continued good weather.
Both wholesale and retail demand for honey remains excellent in this area. Local varietal honeys are often snapped up and gone before they even have a chance to make it out of their production locations.
U.S Honey Crops and Markets - August 2013
As this was written in early July, the eastern two-thirds of the country was still coping with excessive rainy weather at times, especially in the Upper Midwest and the Northeast. Meanwhile, the western one-third of the country continued to suffer from drought and excessive heat. The area affected most continued to be the desert Southwest, but at times dry, hot weather extended into the Northwest as well. Honey flows in the West will definitely be reduced substantially from normal due to the drought. The Upper Midwest continued to receive heavy rainfall, but temperatures had begun to warm. Early clover and alfalfa flows have been affected, but the last half of the season was still a big question mark. Honey flow reports from the Southeast for the last part of the season were better. Unfortunately, beekeepers in the Northeast and parts of the Mideast continued to have problems with excessive rainfall.
With another short U.S. honey crop predicted, record high wholesale prices appear to be here to stay for a while, especially if consumer and industrial demand for honey continues to be strong. The U.S. Department of commerce has set the preliminary anti-dumping duty rate on honey imports from China at $2.63 per kilogram, according to a June news release from the Department. In 2012 the government determined that removing tariffs on honey imports from China would likely harm the domestic industry.
NORTHEAST—The season was late this year due to excessive rainy, cool weather in many locations. Nevertheless, a number of reporters had still produced fair to good early honey crops from black locust, assorted berries and fruit trees, blueberries, honeysuckle, dogwood, sumac, tulip-poplar and early clover. Later summer flows depended on continued good colony buildup, as well as continued adequate moisture levels for plant growth. And, of course, the big late summer/autumn flows from purple loosestrife, goldenrod, aster, and knotweed are still to come.
Colony numbers are generally down throughout this area since many beekeepers lost colonies over last winter that were never restocked due to the rainy, cool spring and lack of replacement bees and queens. In addition, swarming was not as prevalent this spring, so many beekeepers did not catch as many swarms to repopulate deadouts.
Beekeepers are anxious to start extracting this year’s honey crop since many of them have been completely sold out for many months now. New crop locally produced honey is in great demand.
MIDEAST—Weather conditions had improved for later spring flows, but many beekeepers had not been able to make as many splits or obtain as many package bees as they had originally wanted to replace dead colonies. Weather conditions were finally settling down for the season. Colonies were currently working clover and sourwood, but earlier in the season beekeepers reported honey flows from blackberry, black locust, tulip-poplar, privet, vetch, sumac, persimmon, thistle, huckleberry, tupelo, black gum and gallberry. With local honey supplies depleted, beekeepers really need a good honey crop this season in order to rebuild their honey inventories. Some beekeepers were lucky enough to produce a couple supers of black locust and white Dutch clover honey in between wet spells. Due to the late, wet season, beekeepers were hoping for a longer than normal clover flow that would last well into July.
SOUTHEAST—After a disappointing early season and below average orange flows, a number of Florida beekeepers were able to make fair to good crops from gallberry and palmetto. The tupelo flow in the western part of the state was below normal, but along the western coast some nice tallow honey crops were obtained. In Georgia, the season got off to a slow start, but later gallberry and palmetto flows were improved. Cool weather in the mountains delayed or curtailed flows from clover and sourwood. Beekeepers are hoping for improved later flows from soybeans and fall wildflowers. Earlier cool, rainy weather had also hurt spring flows in Alabama, Mississippi and South Carolina. In Mississippi, honey flows mentioned included privet hedge, clover, wildflowers and soybeans.
One encouraging note expressed by a number of beekeepers this season was the lower colony losses in the Southeast. Beekeepers are also happy about the continued strong market for honey at both the wholesale and retail levels. Interest in hobby beekeeping continues to be strong, as well as the increased awareness and interest in local, natural foods.
SOUTHWEST—Erratic weather conditions earlier in the season hurt colony buildup and honey flows. Then, dry, hot weather settled in and many of the remaining prospects dried up. Very hot weather in late June and early July put a lot of stress on both bees and beekeepers. In Texas beekeepers reported scattered flows from irrigated cotton, wildflowers, desert flowers, and some tree sources. In parts of Arkansas, Louisiana and Oklahoma beekeepers reported flows from wildflowers, clover and alfalfa. In addition, beekeepers in areas with large acreages of soybeans were also hoping for a late flow from this source. Several destructive storms passed through Oklahoma and northern Texas in June causing widespread damage to homes and crops. Along the Gulf Coast beekeepers had obtained fair to good flows from tallow trees.
Demand for honey remains excellent at both the wholesale and retail levels. Unfortunately, early reports suggest that this will be another below average year for honey crops due to poor weather conditions. Colonies have generally been in fair to good condition, but beekeepers have reported heavier mite or beetle loads in some locations.
EAST CENTRAL—After suffering through a winter of heavy colony losses followed by a cool, wet spring, colonies finally began to make honey in May and June. Periods of clear warm weather allowed fair to good buildup from dandelion and wild mustard. However, black locust flow reports were mixed due to rain occurring during the bloom in a number of instances. Where beekeepers lucked out and had no rain, reports of two or more supers were made from this source. Then, immediately after this flow, yellow sweet clover, white Dutch clover, alfalfa and basswood began to bloom during June and early July. Some of these flows were later than normal due to the cool spring, but beekeepers hoped that they would last longer into the summer than normal due to the abundant moisture and mild temperatures. Colonies that were able to build up bee populations right before these flows are making quite a bit of honey, but a number of divides and packages were simply too weak to make any surplus yet. Increased acreage of corn and soybeans and less pasture land continues to erode available bee pasture.
Very few beekeepers had much honey to sell yet, but there remains an excellent demand for honey at both the wholesale and retail levels.
WEST CENTRAL—Sunshine and warmer weather finally came to the southern half of this area in mid-June, but beekeepers in the Upper Midwest were still encountering rainy, cool conditions. Beekeepers over much of this area battled cool, rainy conditions throughout the spring season as well. In a number of cases commercial beekeepers had still been feeding colonies to prevent loss of brood production or possible starvation. With excellent soil moisture conditions over much of the area, beekeepers still hoped to produce some nice late clover and alfalfa honey crops. However, the southern parts of this area missed part of their normal clover and alfalfa flows due to rainy conditions. Many locations had abundant spring wildflower blooms that lasted longer than normal due to the late season. Honey crop reports are a mixed bag at this point due to earlier unsettled weather. Those locations that had sufficient foraging days and strong bee populations were producing some nice honey crops, but many other beekeepers were frustrated by the season so far. Colonies are generally healthy, but due to the large winter losses, many divides or colonies started from nucs or packages were still in a build-up mode and could not produce surplus honey yet. By next month, we should have a better idea about how the honey crops materialized over much of this large honey production area. A number of beekeepers continue to lament the loss of bee pasture in their states to continually increasing corn and soybean acreage.
In the meantime, beekeepers indicated a continuing strong market for honey at both the wholesale and retail levels. Honey remains in short supply and packer inventories are getting very low in some cases.
INTERMOUNTAIN—Dry, hot weather was becoming a major concern among beekeepers by late June due to the prolonged heat wave encompassing a number of states. Ironically, cool weather was a problem earlier in the spring in some of these same states. Although some locations still have adequate soil moisture, other parts of this area remain in a drought situation and this will hurt honey plant growth. Beekeepers are still hoping for good flows from clover, alfalfa and knapweed if the weather cooperates.
Demand for honey at both the wholesale and retail levels remains excellent, but little unsold honey remains available and no new crop honey was available yet.
WEST—The drought continues to be a major problem for beekeepers in California, especially in the southern part of the state where the heat wave was severe. Honey crops are down substantially again. Colonies are generally healthy, but will continue to need feed since flows have been so poor. Most pollination work for the season is winding down. Some beekeepers moved to irrigated locations on cotton and alfalfa, but they were few and far between. A number of beekeepers have moved their colonies to out-of-state locations to build up. With additional moisture, wildflowers such as sage, buckwheat and star thistle could still produce some honey, but it is getting late. Commercial beekeepers are mainly concerned at this time of year with rebuilding their colonies for the 2014 almond pollination season.
Oregon honey crops were impacted by the drought, but we had no good reports yet on the total honey crop. In Washington, soil moisture and honey crop reports were better. Beekeepers mentioned honey flows from sweet clover, snowberry and knapweed.
The demand for honey at both the wholesale and retail levels remains good, but domestic honey continues to be in short supply. Wholesale prices are reaching record levels, but many beekeepers will not be able to take advantage of these better prices due to the short crop.
U.S Honey Crops and Markets - July 2013
Coming into the month of June, many beekeepers were wondering if this season would turn out to be the exact opposite of last season. During much of the 2012 season a good portion of the country suffered under extreme dry, hot weather. On the other hand, this season much of the country has suffered from unrelenting wet weather, often accompanied by cool temperatures. Granted, much of the beekeeping season remained to be seen in the northern half of the country and Mother Nature could turn the tables again on the weather situation. Nevertheless, weather-related damage to bee build up and early honey flows has already occurred. Not only were many spring flows hampered by the cool, wet weather, but bee build-up, which is so crucial to later honey crops, was delayed in many cases. Adding to the problem was the large winter colony loss for many beekeepers. Shortages or delays of bee and queen orders further added to beekeeper frustration. A few locations, notably the West Coast and parts of the Southwest, remain on the drought list. However, the widespread drought of 2012 has subsided over much of the Midwest.
Early honey flows in the Southeast and Southwest have been rated as fair at best. This assessment also applies to the big orange honey crop in Florida, which has been estimated to be about half of normal due to erratic weather. Some Texas honey flows have also often been delayed or ruined by stormy weather. The season was delayed in the northern half of the country and continuing wet, cool weather threatened to hurt later main flows from clover and alfalfa. Meanwhile, West Coast beekeepers were enduring another year of drought, which had hurt wildflower flows over a wide area. In fact, a number of commercial beekeepers were ignoring honey production in favor of concentrating on building up colonies for next season’s almond pollination season. Early reports suggested that growers would be offering a price increase on 2014 contracts to insure that they have sufficient bees for their almond crop. Almond demand and prices remain strong, so growers have an incentive to continue to pay beekeepers well for strong colonies.
Domestic honey demand and prices remain excellent over much of the country. However, frustrated beekeepers are having trouble taking full advantage of record wholesale and retail prices because crop yields have been so poor over much of the country for the last few years.
NORTHEAST—The late spring continued to play havoc with the beekeeping season over much of this area. Not only were winter losses heavier than normal, but colonies did not have access to the early nectar and pollen sources that were available last spring. In addition, many reporters told us that replacement nucs, packages and queens were also delayed in arriving, putting beekeepers several weeks behind last year’s very early spring. The result of the late season and higher deadout replacement will translate into smaller honey crops for the season. In addition, more of the honey will be darker because it will be produced in the late summer and early fall as opposed to the spring lighter honey crops. Some migratory beekeepers delayed their move back from the south or California until later in the spring when more nectar and pollen sources were available. Numerous fruit trees and wildflowers were finally coming into bloom. Beekeepers were hoping that the black locust, tulip-poplar and clover flows would not be cut short by rainy weather.
As this was written in early June, few beekeepers had much new crop honey extracted yet due to the late season. This has further aggravated the local honey shortages in the Northeast.
MIDEAST—The spring season was later than normal here as well. However, warm weather finally did come in time to salvage many wildflower flows, as well as flows from redbud, tulip-poplar, sumac, huckleberry, honeysuckle, thistles and black locust. These flows were interrupted by rainy weather at times, so honey crops have been spotty. In addition, a larger percentage of winter loss forced some beekeepers into a rebuilding mode, which meant that a number of divides, nucs or packages built up on these flows instead of making surplus honey from them.
On a bright note, beekeepers were hoping that the extra moisture would prolong honey flows from wildflowers and clover. As this was written, we had no good estimates on how well tulip-poplar, black locust and sumac produced. Clover, privet hedge, sourwood and cotton flows were mentioned as future prospects that beekeepers were hoping would produce well. Swarming came later than normal this year due to the late spring, so hobby and sideline beekeepers were not able to catch as many swarms to help repopulate their deadouts. Local beekeepers, who provide blueberry, fruit tree and vegetable pollination services, have been busy trying to build up their colonies and then transport them to crop locations in time to catch the bloom.
As in the Northeast, locally produced honey supplies are very low. Local honey buyers are enthusiastically looking forward to being able to purchase supplies of their favorite honeys as soon as summer extracting begins.
SOUTHEAST—Early honey flows were patchy due to unsettled weather conditions and weak colonies in some cases. However, beekeepers were more optimistic about later spring flows. In Florida, the orange crop was about half of normal, but reports on the later gallberry and palmetto flows were better. Assorted regional Florida flows from black gum, tuplelo, clover, mangrove and wildflowers were also reported. Beekeepers in Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi also had problems with unsettled early spring weather. Later flows from blueberries, blackberries, privet hedge, holly, clover and tupelo were more encouraging. Some beekeepers also had trouble getting colonies back to foraging strength after a long winter and late spring. Ground moisture conditions remained fair to good for the most part, which should help extend honey flows.
Beekeepers are anxious to extract this year’s crop since demand remains very strong at both the wholesale and retail levels. Prices for lighter grades of honey continue to be quoted at $2.00 to $2.25.
SOUTHWEST—Much of this area also had unsettled spring weather, including torrential rains, wind, hail and tornadoes. Beekeepers were working between storms to make sure colonies had adequate supers and were continuing to build up. Texas honey flows mentioned included wildflowers, brush, horsemint and clover. Along the Gulf Coast beekeepers were hoping for a better Chinese Tallow flow. Arizona wildflower flows were fair to good. Colonies continue to work irrigated crop sources such as alfalfa. In Arkansas blackberries, wildflowers and clover had provided some nice honey crops. Soybeans should be blooming soon and will provide a flow in areas where they are grown extensively. Oklahoma beekeepers were still hoping for improved clover and alfalfa flows since moisture conditions have been better this season. Louisiana beekeepers had already obtained some good wildflower and privet hedge honey flows. They were also counting on later clover flows, in addition to tallow along the coast.
Reporters indicate a continuing strong market for honey at both the wholesale and retail levels. New crop honey was just starting to be extracted in some locations as this was written. Beekeepers indicated a lot of interest by packers and the local retail trade since stocks of 2012 honey had been exhausted for quite some time.
EAST CENTRAL—A combination of a late, cool spring and torrential rains have made for a difficult early spring season in this area. Winter colony losses were much higher than last season due to the long winter. Then, the spring season came about 2 to 4 weeks later than normal. In many cases beekeepers were feeding colonies well into April and early May. Swarming was delayed and in many cases fewer swarms were reported this season since bees were weaker. Some correspondents were worried about the possibility of late swarms right when the clover and alfalfa flows were at their height. Beekeepers have done their best to recoup their colony numbers, but the late spring and shortage of packages, nucs and queens made apiary rebuilding problematical.
U.S Honey Crops and Markets - June 2013
Early honey flow reports from the Southeast and Southwest have been a mixed bag. The total orange honey crop in Florida will definitely be down due to erratic weather problems such as wind, rain or cooler temperatures. On the other hand, better moisture conditions in other parts of the Southeast may help later spring honey flows. Honey flow reports from the Southwest are also variable, depending on which locations had received enough moisture, as well as good foraging weather during major honey flows.
The big story in the northern half of the country remains the huge number of overwintering colony losses. Some beekeepers have blamed last season’s drought or larger varroa populations, which spurred more virus problems for bees. Others are blaming higher infestations of Nosema ceranae. The late spring, no doubt, would have to rank high on the list of problems for overwintering colonies. Reporters cite last year’s very early spring, which correlated with below normal colony losses. Then, they point to this year’s large colony losses and the very late spring.
Beekeepers in some cases have not been able to obtain queens, nucs or packages of bees when they wanted them for ideal build up in their areas. This could translate to smaller bee populations during later major clover and alfalfa flows. In addition, honey crops from earlier main flows in the Northeast and Mideast may be curtailed if beekeepers have not been able to recoup their colony numbers and strength in time to take full advantage of these flows. As this was written in early May, the Upper Midwest was still dealing with sporadic snowstorms and cold temperatures. On the bright side, many drought locations have been helped by the snow or rain. Nevertheless, the threat of dry weather later in the season remains a major concern among beekeepers.
Reporters also continue to indicate excellent wholesale and retail honey prices and demand. A shortage of domestic honey remains a major driving force in the continuing strong market. However, increased consumer interest in honey as part of the natural foods and locavore movements have also contributed to the continuing strong honey market.
NORTHEAST—Beekeepers were still battling unseasonably cool weather as late as early May. This has made colony build-up difficult and will delay beekeepers from being able to make splits to help recoup winter colony losses. In addition, some package bee and queen orders have been delayed due to cool weather or rain in their area. Colonies in the Northeast had access to maple, elm, willow and early wildflower bloom on nice foraging days. Unlike last season, the fruit bloom has been late in coming, which has been good for those beekeepers who are still building up colonies in preparation for commercial pollination. Beekeepers must also time their feeding to coincide with the season, so that colonies will not build up too quickly and swarm before major honey flows. Spring honey flows from berries, black locust, tulip-poplar and clover will be starting in May to early June.
MIDEAST—Colony winter losses and spring build-up were also problems for beekeepers in this area. Beekeepers were scrambling to make divides or install nucs or packages in time for them to build up for pollination contracts and honey flows. Bees had been working skunk cabbage, honeysuckle, henbit, maples, elms and willows earlier in the season, but were now being drawn to the abundant fruit bloom and dandelions available to forage on. This is the exact opposite of last season when beekeepers were worrying about early swarming due to the early spring. Enthusiasm among new beekeepers continues to be excellent. In addition, the public is still eager to buy new crop local honey when it becomes available. Beekeepers are hoping for good black locust, clover, wildflower, sumac, tulip-poplar and sourwood honey flows.
SOUTHEAST—Erratic weather is blamed for rather spotty honey crops to date in the Southeast. Ironically, the year started out unseasonably warm and beekeepers were worried about early swarming in some southern locations where maples, berries and fruit trees bloomed very early. Later unsettled weather, however, caused the Florida orange crop to be hit or miss for many beekeepers and the total orange crop will be down to about half of normal. Gallberry and palmetto flows in the northern half of the state and Georgia were also in jeopardy due to erratic weather during the bloom. Meanwhile, tupelo was beginning to flower in the Panhandle area of Florida. Cool, rainy weather is blamed for hampering early flows in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and South Carolina also. However, some reporters were thankful for the added moisture if they were in a dry location. Beekeepers were hoping that weather conditions would stabilize in order to salvage later spring and early summer flows before the dearth season begins. The erratic weather had also made commercial pollination earlier this spring difficult. Despite the difficult weather conditions, enthusiasm for beekeeping remains high at beekeeping short courses and at beekeepers’ meetings. Demand remains very strong for honey at both the wholesale and retail levels. The smaller new crop of orange honey had already caused a spike in wholesale offering prices. Prices mentioned were varying from $2.00 to $2.25 per pound at the wholesale level.
SOUTHWEST—Parts of Louisiana and Arkansas were a couple weeks behind normal in build-up due to cool weather. Some locations were also still very dry in the Southwest, while other locations had received nice amounts of rainfall. Bees continue to build up on many spring wildflowers and fruit trees. Main flows started in April and May from assorted wildflowers, clover and alfalfa. In the Gulf area, beekeepers are hoping that the Chinese tallow trees will yield better than last season. In Arkansas numerous berries and wildflowers were coming into bloom and should provide some nice flows if the weather cooperates. In Oklahoma, clover, alfalfa and numerous wildflowers were beginning to bloom. Texas honey flows reports were a mixed bag from brush, sage, assorted wildflowers and irrigated crops.
Throughout this area, demand for honey remains strong at both the wholesale and retail levels. Enthusiasm among new beekeepers also remains excellent, according to reports from beekeepers attending meetings and short courses.
EAST CENTRAL—Recovering winter colony losses has been a big issue for many beekeepers. Winter colony losses have been rated as high as 40 to 60%. Such large losses require a lot of time and money to replace, no matter how the beekeeper chooses to recover his colony numbers. In addition, the late spring and continuing cool, rainy weather into May has hampered spring bloom and colony build up. In the southern parts of this area, dandelions, fruit bloom and numerous wildflowers and trees were providing abundant nectar on sunny days. However, the northern states in this area were still fighting cold weather, periodic snow storms and heavy rains. As a result, many locations were short on spring pollen and nectar for important bee build up at this time of the year. Beekeepers were feeding bees syrup and pollen substitute in an effort to bring them through this difficult spring. Commercial pollinators were also finding it hard to know when to place colonies in orchards and at the same time they were fighting muddy fields and rural roads. If warm weather returns soon, beekeepers believe the added moisture will bring on heavy alfalfa and clover growth. Hopefully, colonies will be strong enough by then to take advantage of these important honey flows.
As in much of the rest of the country, our reporters have said that both wholesale and retail honey market conditions are excellent. Unfortunately, most beekeepers had long since exhausted their supplies of 2012 honey. Wholesale honey prices are ranging from $2.10 to $2.50 per pound for white honey and only 10 to 20 cents less per pound for amber grades.
WEST CENTRAL—This has been a difficult spring for beekeepers due to much larger than normal winter colony losses, in addition to cold weather lasting well into the spring season. Most reports of winter colony losses we have heard are running from 30 to 75%. Migratory beekeepers going to California had the benefit of warmer temperatures and honey flows to build up colonies. However, those who kept their colonies in their home states have had a very tough time due to the late spring and scarcity of package bees, nucs and queens. Many beekeepers have reportedly combined weak colonies in hopes of bringing bee strength up to normal in time for alfalfa and clover flows. Some beekeepers, who had planned to make divides, are having a difficult time finding enough surviving strong colonies to divide. Beekeepers in many cases were still feeding colonies, especially in the Upper Midwest.
As this was written, snow and rain had helped moisture conditions in some locations, but the overall drought situation remained a major problem in the Upper Midwest. As this issue went to press in early May, additional late snow storms were occurring. Although the moisture was appreciated, the cool, wet conditions were not conducive to colony foraging on maple, elm, willows, fruit bloom and dandelions. Another problem mentioned by some beekeepers is the continuing flood worries along major waterways. This has made traveling difficult and some low-lying beeyards have been flooded.
Honey remains in short supply and packers continue to pay over $2.00 per pound for white honey and only slightly less for amber grades. Retail sales also remain excellent, but local honey supplies are getting very low.
INTERMOUNTAIN—Winter did not want to let go in these states with snowstorms continuing to pound some locations into May. However, in the lower elevations and southern locations, bees were working maple, willow, dandelions and in some cases fruit bloom. Commercial migratory beekeepers will not be returning to their home locations until sometime later in May after warm temperatures have returned. In the meantime, many of these commercial beekeepers were continuing to pollinate assorted fruit and nut tree orchards in California, Oregon and Washington. Colonies came out of the almond groves in excellent condition for the most part with surplus honey remaining in their brood chambers. Beekeepers moving their colonies to warmer states in the Southwest are busy making divides and building up colonies. Many beekeepers, who kept their bees on location in Intermountain states, suffered larger than normal winter losses due to the long, cold winter. A number of beekeepers were feeding where they could gain access to beeyards.
This area remains below normal in ground moisture and snowpack cover. Some locations did receive nice snowfalls at times this winter, but they were not enough to replenish the moisture deficit.
WEST—Early honey flow reports from the foothills were encouraging. Bees were working numerous wildflowers, in addition to black locust and blackberry. Early bee foraging sources included wild mustard, rosemary, borage, willows, dandelions, eucalyptus, cotoneaster and many other wildflowers. Unfortunately, the continued dry weather will likely hurt upcoming sage, buckwheat and star thistle flows. Many beekeepers were still involved in pollination of cherries, avocados, apples and other fruit trees. The first major honey crop from California will be from orange trees in the southern part of the state. Lack of rain and snow in the mountains will continue to hamper agriculture in California this season.
Early estimates put the 2012 almond acreage at 870,000 acres, up 4 percent from the 2011 acreage of 835,000 acres. Kern, Fresno, Merced and Stanislaus were the leading counties for almond acreage. These four counties had 63 percent of the total bearing acreage of almonds, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture.
According to Joe Traynor’s Scientific Ag. Company April 12, 2013 newsletter, “Some beekeepers will be holding out for $200 or more in 2014 [per colony for almond pollination.] Good luck to them as there could well be a glut of bees next year if beekeepers with problems this year make up their numbers. We could probably increase our 2014 price by more than $15 and it would be justified due to increased cost for varroa control and supplemental feeding, but almond growers are also faced with increased costs across the board.”
Colonies were building up normally in Oregon and Washington on early nectar and pollen sources. Many commercial beekeepers were busy earlier with pollination of apricot, cherry, peach, plum, pear and apple trees. Ground moisture and reservoir levels in the mountains are fair to good, but if rains don’t continue, later honey flows from alfalfa, mint and clover could be hampered. The temperatures have been mild, which has allowed normal bee foraging on spring wildflowers and trees.
Argentine honey exports during the first three months of 2012 were 19,900 MT which sold for an FOB total price of US$61.5 million. This translates to an average FOB export price of US$3,095 per MT. One of the most surprising events this year is that Germany completely lost its relevance as the traditional honey importer it used to be. Right now, German imports of 1,113 MT (5.6%) rank third behind the USA with 13,826 MT (69%) and Japan with 1,642 (8%). It is evident that cheap Chinese honey has replaced quality more expensive Argentine honey in Europe.
The crop this year seems to be similar to 2012, around 60,000 MT. However, domestic costs have increased about 25% due to inflation. The devaluation of the local currency, the Argentine Peso (ARS), goes on. The parity between the government artificial quotation of the US dollar set for exporters is ARS 5.19, while in the current black market it is ARS 9.35 to one U.S. dollar. The spread between the two quotations is 80%.
U.S Honey Crops and Markets - May 2013
Early spring concerns continued to revolve around the much larger colony losses this past winter, in addition to weaker colonies. As we indicated last month, migratory commercial beekeepers were some of the first to notice this last fall as they checked and loaded colonies for their big move to California for almond pollination. Then, this early spring northern beekeepers also began finding larger than normal winter losses in their colonies. An often mentioned loss percentage has been 30 to 40 percent. However, some beekeepers suffered losses as high as 75% of their colonies. Package bee, nuc and queen producers booked up quickly and there exists the very real possibility that many beekeepers will not be able to repopulate their deadouts until late spring or early summer due to heavy demand for early spring packages, nucs and queens.
In addition to the massive pollination industry on the West Coast, growers throughout the rest of the nation need colonies to pollinate fruits and berries. Demand and prices are up for pollination of many different crops.
Early honey flow reports in the southern half of the country have been mixed. Erratic weather is blamed for poor Florida orange flows. However, reports of moisture and plant conditions, as well as bee build up, were more optimistic over much of the rest of the Southeast and Southwest regions. Meanwhile, the northern half of the country has struggled with a late spring and efforts to rebuild depleted apiaries. On a positive note, however, ground moisture conditions have recovered to near normal in a number of states that were suffering from drought in 2012. Unfortunately, lack of moisture remains a major concern in the Upper Midwest, as well as parts of Oklahoma and Colorado.
The strong market for honey at both the wholesale and retail levels is expected to continue over the entire country due to the shortage of locally produced honey combined with the increasing consumer demand. Prices at both the wholesale and retail levels are reaching new highs.
NORTHEAST—Colony losses were estimated to be higher than normal—perhaps 35 to 50% due to weaker hives in the fall and the longer winter. Unlike last season, when colonies had access to early pollen and nectar in February or early March, this season cold, rainy weather kept bees in their hives much longer. Many beekeepers fed when they could, but often it was too late to save clusters. Early maple, alder, willow and wildflowers were blooming as this was written in early April, but warmer, sunny weather was needed. Ground moisture conditions are mostly rated as average to above normal. Demand for replacement packages, nucs and queens is very good, but some shortages are predicted. Very little of last season’s honey remains unsold.
MIDEAST—Spring was slow in coming to the Mideastern states as well. Beekeepers had to feed later into the early spring at a time when colonies would normally be working many early trees and wildflowers. Colony losses in these states were ranging from a low of 15% to a high of 50% in some locations. Maples, alders, willows and henbit were in bloom as this was written, and fruit tree bloom was coming on quickly. Demand for replacement packages, nucs and queens is quite heavy. With good ground moisture and fair weather, beekeepers are looking forward to better wildflower, black locust and tulip poplar flows this spring.
SOUTHEAST—The Florida orange flow was below normal due to erratic weather during the main part of the bloom. In addition, a major bee kill resulting in the loss of hundreds of colonies occurred when one grower sprayed his groves during the height of the orange blossom. Later prospects from gallberry and palmetto are good if the weather cooperates. Northeastern Florida flow prospects looked the brightest when this report was written in early April. Bees continue to build up, but some nuc and package orders are expected to be delayed. An estimated 125,000 Florida hives were trickling back into the state after almond pollination in California. Many of these migratory beekeepers missed the orange flow, but hope to catch later important honey flows in the state.
Elsewhere in the area, colonies continued to build up nicely on plentiful early nectar and pollen sources such as dandelion, wildflowers, tupelo, redbud and assorted fruit bloom. Ground moisture remains good and the weather continues to be mild. Due to the early spring, a number of package bee and queen companies were able to get a jump on the season. This has been most helpful in view of the extremely heavy demand for bees and queens due to the higher than normal northern colony winter kill. Many new hobbyist beekeepers are showing up at beekeeping short courses this spring and they will want to order bees as well.
Demand for honey at both the wholesale and retail levels remains excellent. New crop honey is expected to sell near or above $2.00 per pound in the barrel. Specialty honeys such as orange, tupelo and sourwood should go even higher. However, much of this year’s crop will be sold at area farmers’ markets and roadside stands since demand for locally produced honey is so strong.
SOUTHWEST—Colonies were building up well with the bloom of numerous wildflowers and fruit trees in the area. Honey bees being overwintered in the Southwest will be split sometime in April before they are moved back to their northern locations for clover and alfalfa flows. Other colonies will be moved to honey flows elsewhere in the Southwest such as the brush, horsemint or tallow flows. Texas fruit trees and brush plants are coming into full bloom and should provide nice flows for build-up or honey storage. Later clover and alfalfa flows will also be starting shortly, as well as the tallow flows along the Gulf Coast. In Arizona and New Mexico, desert wildflowers, citrus and alfalfa are providing honeyflows. In Arkansas and Louisiana, dandelions, fruit trees and wildflowers are coming into full bloom. Later blackberry and then clover flows should start soon afterward. Some good late snows and rains helped the drought situation in Oklahoma, but many locations are still indicating below normal ground moisture. Maple, fruit bloom, dandelions and wildflowers have come into bloom in various parts of Oklahoma and then clover and alfalfa flows will soon follow.
Demand for bees is excellent in this area, although winter colony losses were lower than for beekeepers farther north. Many new hobbyists are starting this year and will need packages or nucs. A growing number of beekeepers in this area are selling more nucs and packages to other beekeepers since demand continues to grow.
Honey remains in short supply in the Southwest, especially for locally produced varietal or regional honeys. Prices at both the wholesale and retail levels have continued to increase. Although honey supplies have dwindled, demand has continued to increase.
EAST CENTRAL—Colony losses are much higher than last spring when the warmer temperatures came in February and early March. Reports from beekeepers are varying widely, but many reports of losses in the 30 to 60% range have been received. Beekeepers were late in assessing losses due to the cold February and March. Cold temperatures were also often accompanied by heavy snowfall or sleet. As this was written in early April, beekeepers were cleaning up deadouts and feeding surviving colonies in preparation for the new season. Many beekeepers were planning to make splits, but others planned to buy packages or nucs to make up their colony losses. The problem many are encountering, however, is that a large number of southern and California package bee and nuc producers are booked through the spring months. This could mean that fewer deadouts will be recouped or if they are repopulated, they may not build up in time to make any honey this season.
Maple pollen came to the southern part of this area in March, but many beekeepers farther north said they did not see any pollen coming into hives until early April. This is a full one to two months later than last year’s early spring. Fruit trees, dandelions and wildflowers were expected to follow soon, so bees should have many more nectar sources by mid-April.
One optimistic note about this season—the increased snow cover and rain has helped replenish ground moisture, which should be especially helpful to plant growth in dry parts of this area.
The demand for honey at both the wholesale and retail levels remains strong, but locally produced honey is in very short supply. Prices at the wholesale level for quality white honey are in the $2.00 to $2.50 per pound range.
U.S Honey Crops and Markets - April 2013
Since our last report, news of the bee shortage for almond pollination made the national news around the country. The seeds of these shortages were sown in 2012 after drought caused shorter honey crops and put stress on colonies, which was further aggravated by varroa, viruses, Nosema and pesticides. Many commercial beekeepers were reporting very heavy colony losses resembling classic colony collapse disorder even last fall. Then, as the winter progressed, loss reports continued to be heavier than normal. This situation was first apparent as commercial beekeepers in both California and over much of the rest of the nation began preparing for the big almond pollination season. A number of beekeepers discovered not only many deadouts, but a number of weak colonies. Drastic feeding efforts were started to bring back colony numbers and strength, but time limitations prevented some beekeepers from being able to recoup their colony numbers in time for their pollination contracts and early honey flows.
Beekeepers in the South were pressed to have colonies built up and on location for both pollination duties, as well as early honey flows. As this was written, we still had no final reports on how the big orange flow in Florida turned out. The bloom started very early and then cold snaps at times caused great concern about the intensity and duration of this very important honey flow. Important gallberry and palmetto flows will follow in southern Georgia and Florida. Meanwhile, important honey flows were also getting underway all across the South. Many wildflowers and trees provide some of the first important flows, but are followed by flows from clover, both planted and wild, growing in farmers’ pastures and along roadways. Beekeepers along the Gulf Coast were hoping for a better tallow flow this year. In many years, beekeepers who transport their colonies to this flow, are rewarded with two or more supers of tallow honey.
Although weather conditions caused an early bloom season in the southern United States, the northern half of the country experienced late snow storms and cold weather that prevented a repeat of last year’s unusually early spring. The first part of the winter was fairly mild, but the lack of snow or rain remains a big concern to all of agriculture. Memories of last season’s severe drought are still fresh in the minds of everyone. Northern beekeepers were feeding their bees in March in preparation for later honey flows from wildflowers, clover and alfalfa. In addition to maple and elm trees coming into bloom, a number of fruit trees were providing good amounts of nectar and pollen to growing colonies.
On the honey market front, both the wholesale and retail honey markets remain strong and prices are good. Domestically produced honey stocks are quite low due to another poor crop last year combined with continued excellent consumer demand. In late February, two honey importing companies and five individuals were charged with roles in illegal honey imports, allowing them to avoid an estimated $180 million in antidumping duties. News of these charges spread quickly in the beekeeping and honey industries. Beekeepers and beekeeping groups are applauding these efforts by the government to rein in the huge amount of Chinese honey brought into this country illegally. This abuse has brought about a “two-tiered market that has plagued the industry for several years and created an unfair and uneven playing field for packers, importers and exporters,” according to Ron Phipps, president of CPNA International honey company.
NORTHEAST—Beekeepers were continuing to monitor and feed their colonies where necessary. Many were feeding with candy fondant, protein patties and syrup during warm periods. Although earlier in the fall there were reports of larger colony losses in the Northeast, beekeepers had not yet had a chance to check all their colonies as spring approached. Mild temperatures persisted until February and March when the area had several winter storms move through, as well as cold fronts. This weather delayed colony build up and may have taken a toll on weak or starving colonies. Beekeepers were hoping for a break in the weather in March, so that bees could have cleansing flights and begin working blooming maples and willows. Reporters said that they planned to restock their deadouts by making splits or buying package bees or nucs, so demand for bees and queens should be strong again this spring. Demand for honey remains good, but stocks are very low.
MIDEAST—Unlike last year, the late winter weather was erratic with snowstorms one week, followed by warmer weather the following week. Beekeepers were checking and feeding colonies where they could. They are also cleaning up deadouts in preparation for restocking them with splits, package bees or nucs. Maple, willow, fruit bloom and other early pollen sources were being worked by the bees on warmer days. Some beekeepers were supplementing this natural pollen with pollen substitute patties. Brood rearing is picking up, but colonies are not as far along as they were last spring. Snow and rain have helped ground moisture conditions, which were low in some Mideastern states. Demand for honey at both the wholesale and retail levels remains strong, but beekeepers’ stocks are about exhausted.
SOUTHEAST—The early spring caught some beekeepers by surprise and they were scrambling to prepare and move colonies to pollination and honey flow locations. Maple, elm, willow, alders, fruit bloom and wildflowers came very early and colonies built up well on them. Then, main honey flows began earlier than normal from orange trees, assorted wildflowers, ti ti, clover, etc. Red bud and tupelo were beginning to show buds. Ground moisture conditions continue to be adequate to insure continued nectar production with some exceptions. Cold snaps had temporarily delayed foraging in some instances, but these cold periods did not do major damage to the season. As this was written, we had not received an updated report yet on orange flow honey production. Some migratory beekeepers, who normally move bees to California for almond pollination, decided to stay home this year so they would be sure and catch the orange and other early flows. Producers expect at least $2.00 per pound wholesale and some said they would hold out for $2.20 per pound for new crop orange honey.
In Georgia, Mississippi and Alabama beekeepers were telling us that their bees were building up well and that honey flows should be starting soon from fruit bloom, clover, wildflowers, privet, berries, and tree sources. Package bee and queen producers are very busy preparing for shipment of packages and queens. Demand has been very good again this season and some producers booked up early. Local honey buyers are anxious for new crop honey to come on the market. Demand remains quite strong.
SOUTHWEST—Many commercial beekeepers had moved their colonies to California for the almond pollination season. The weather was warm during late winter and early spring, but moisture was needed in some western parts of this area, especially in Oklahoma. Colonies were continuing to build up on early nectar and pollen sources. Bees generally wintered well and colony losses were not nearly as high as we have heard from some of the other areas of the country. Clover, horsemint and tallow were mentioned as important upcoming flows in eastern Texas, as well as parts of Louisiana. Farther north blackberries, assorted wildflowers, vetch, alfalfa and clover should be blooming soon.
EAST CENTRAL—There have been quite a few colony losses in this area. The first wave came last fall, but now beekeepers are also reporting new losses after the February and early March snow storms and cold snaps. Apparently, a number of colonies were in a weakened condition and this last round of cold, windy weather caused many to succumb. Beekeepers are now feeding surviving colonies winter patties, syrup and pollen substitute in an effort to bring them through the remainder of the cold weather. A couple reporters said that last year their bees were already bringing in maple, elm and willow pollen by late February. On the other hand, one good aspect of the stormy, colder weather this winter is that it has helped replenish the soil moisture in drought-stricken states.
Beekeepers will be replacing deadouts with divides, packages and nucs. Demand for package bees and queens is expected to be very heavy again this spring. Reporters have indicated the continuing strong honey market is ample incentive to recoup their colony numbers for honey production. Some Michigan beekeepers are worried about a new government biological control program to eliminate spotted knapweed (star thistle), which is a very important honey plant in parts of the state.
Demand for honey remains excellent at both the wholesale and retail levels, but little honey remains unsold in the beekeepers’ hands.
WEST CENTRAL—It’s been a tough winter for many beekeepers in this area due to heavy winter losses. Many colonies were found dead in the fall and then more had died when beekeepers checked them again in February. Commercial beekeepers moving colonies to California were the first to discover the large losses. This made it very difficult if not impossible for them to meet their almond contract numbers. It may also be impossible to rebuild colony numbers before honey flows from clover and alfalfa start later this spring. A number of reporters told us that their colonies did not die from starvation, but from CCD-like symptoms since lots of honey remained on the deadouts. Quite a few larger beekeepers will be making divides or buying nucs and packages. Demand for both bees and queens is expected to be heavy this spring.
The winter had been rather mild until February when several snow storms and prolonged cold spells came to this area. The snow was very welcome since these states have been one of the hardest hit by the drought. In the southern parts of this area, maples and elms were just starting to bloom, which was a few weeks later than last spring. Surviving colonies have fairly large clusters, so beekeepers are hoping that they will be able to survive until more nectar and pollen is available. Until then, a number of reporters told us that they were beginning to feed colonies syrup and pollen substitute.
Honey demand remains strong in this area, but many beekeepers have been sold out since the end of 2012. Both wholesale and retail honey prices are expected to remain high due to the continuing shortage of domestically produced honey.
INTERMOUNTAIN—The winter has been much colder over most of this area than was the case last year. Unfortunately, the colder weather has not been accompanied by snow in many cases. Therefore, much of this area remains in a drought situation which does not bode well for the upcoming honey crop season. Bee losses in the area have been heavier than last season as well. However, many commercial beekeepers still have most of their colonies in California for almond pollination or have moved them north for apple and other fruit pollination duties. They will not be returning to their home apiaries in the Intermountain states until May in many instances.
Reporters said they were hoping for more snowfall and spring rains to help replenish ground moisture and reservoirs. This moisture is needed for clover and alfalfa flows, as well as the numerous wildflowers that bloom in the spring and early summer. Meanwhile, beekeepers are feeding their colonies and cleaning up deadouts in preparation for recouping their colony numbers this spring. Demand for package bees, nucs and queens is heavy. Beekeepers are hoping for some nice weather as their packages and nucs begin arriving on location this spring. They are feeding a combination of sugar patties, pollen patties and syrup to hold off colony starvation and/or stimulate early brood rearing.
This area is low on honey inventories, so there should be a very strong demand again for new crop honey. Prices remain excellent at both the wholesale and retail levels.
WEST—This was the first area of the United States to feel the effects of large colony losses since a number of almond growers had trouble finding enough colonies to pollinate, as well as finding strong colonies. In many cases beekeepers, who had contracted with growers to provide a certain number of colonies of a specified strength, simply could not do so due to larger than normal colony losses last fall and over the early winter months. Further aggravating a bad situation was the last minute bidding war by growers to secure enough colonies for their almond groves. This drove the per colony price to over $200 in a number of instances. While these higher prices were great for the beekeepers who had not locked in their pricing with growers yet, it created hard feelings among those beekeepers who had signed contracts last fall for a specified per colony price that was much lower.
As this was written, colony loss reports in the western states were quite variable, ranging from a low of 20% to a high of 80%. Beekeepers were feeding syrup and pollen substitutes to remaining colonies and new colonies in an effort to build them up for remaining pollination duties, as well as fast-approaching honey flows. In California, build-up flows had come earlier from alder, wild mustard, rosemary, borage, eucalyptus and manzanita. Ground moisture levels are mixed with some reporters indicating fair to normal moisture, while others are worried about the drought returning to hurt their yearly honey production. Farther north in California, as well as in Oregon and Washington, moisture levels and snow packs are better. While most commercial beekeepers are still busy with pollination, other beekeepers are assessing winter colony losses, feeding and making divides in preparation for honey flows. Later spring and summer flows include eucalyptus, buckwheat, sage, star thistle and numerous other wildflowers. Irrigated crops that will provide later flows include alfalfa, sunflower, safflower and cotton. In Oregon and Washington, a number of berries produce some of the first marketable honey followed by wildflowers, clover, alfalfa, sanfoin, mint, snowberry and fireweed in the mountains.
As in the rest of the country, honey stocks remain low in the West and producers are anxious to secure new honey crops since wholesale and retail pricing remains very attractive. Many wholesale bulk honey buyers are now regularly quoting prices to producers of over $2.00 per pound.
Argentine honey exports during January 2013 were only 4,252 MT and sold for US$12.6 million which translates to an average FOB price of US$2,968 per MT. U.S. buyers got a 63% export share of 2,720 MT, while Germany only received 10% of the volume (430 MT).
Unlike January 2012, when 6,310 MT had been shipped overseas for US$18 million, current exports show a 32% decline in volume, while a 4% higher price per metric ton.
Although it is still too early to predict whether this declining trend will continue for the remainder of the year, it is a clear sign that honey production was considerably lower than last year. According to exporters, they expect a total crop of about 60,000 MT or even lower.
The honey harvest is finished except in the southwest area of Buenos Aires and the eastern region of La Pampa provinces. These two particular regions received rain when needed. The rest of the country suffered a rare blend of drought and floods. During the last two weeks of February, weather was unusually cold with severe robbing episodes. Goldenrod is the only chance to replenish pollen stores. Varroa does not seem to be a major problem this year.
Exporters are very discouraged regarding shipping their products with the current unfavorable exchange rate, which is 55% lower than the government artificial currency quotation system. However, demand from buyers in both Europe and the US is stronger than normal.
U.S Honey Crops and Markets - March 2013
Early reports from California continue to mention some spot shortages of bees for the almond pollination season. However, sources were generally optimistic about the pollination season since bees on location seemed to be building up well and cooler weather had held back almond tree bloom. This later bloom will lessen the chances of late freezes hurting the pollination season. Moisture levels on the West Coast are also being replenished
by plentiful rains and snows. This should help later wildflower flows, which were hurt by the drought last season, curtailing California’s honey crop.
In Florida the mild winter and early spring forced beekeepers into high gear as they scrambled to keep up with the earlier than normal bloom for build-up flows and then honey flows from sources like oranges, titi and tupelo. Commercial pollinators in some cases had to move colonies into fruit and berry pollination locations several weeks earlier than normal to catch the bloom. The main worries were late freezes ruining the spring flows, as well as colonies not being strong enough to take full advantage of early heavy flows. In addition, early Florida honey flows would mean that some Florida migratory beekeepers from the state would miss important flows in their home state before being released from California almond pollination duties.
Beekeepers continue to report above normal colony losses. However, along with viruses and pesticides, now beekeepers are also blaming starvation. Due to these significant colony losses, as well as many new hobby beekeepers starting this season, package bee, nuc and queen demand is expected to be heavy again this spring. Although maples and other early pollen and nectar sources should be available to colonies in March, many beekeepers have begun feeding their bees in order to bring them through the critical shortages that often occur in the hive at this time of year.
Locally produced honey continues to be in short supply over the entire country. However, we are now starting to receive more reports of foreign honey being brought in by packers to fill the shortage until the new crop honey is available from U.S. producers.
NORTHEAST—Colder temperatures and more snow came in January, although snow cover is still below average. Earlier some beekeepers experienced fall colony losses from viruses. However, many are now worried about loss of more colonies to starvation before the spring blossoms appear. The mild weather earlier in the fall allowed colonies to consume above normal amounts of stores in some cases. On the bright side, clusters were able to break on warmer days allowing cleansing flights and repositioning to new stores. A number of beekeepers have been feeding their colonies on warmer days. Spring pollen and nectar should be available soon from maples, skunk cabbage and other early sources. Some reporters continue to worry about a lack of moisture for spring plant growth. Demand for bees and queens is expected to be heavy again this spring due to a higher number of winter deadouts, in addition to many new hobbyists getting started. Demand and prices for honey remain strong in the Northeast.
MIDEAST—Beekeepers are gearing up for the new season. This has included ordering packages, nucs and queens, as well as cleaning up deadouts in preparation for new bees. Surviving colonies are being fed syrup and pollen substitute. On warmer days colonies are working skunk cabbage, maples and early wildflowers. The winter has been generally mild with a few very cold periods. Snow and rain has been on the light side and this lack of moisture may hurt some spring flows. Interest in beekeeping continues to be
strong and a number of new beekeepers are expected to begin this spring. Many beekeeping classes were scheduled in the Mideastern states to assist new beekeepers. Local honey continues to be very popular and sought after, but supplies are very limited until the new crop is produced.
SOUTHEAST—The mild winter has kept beekeepers vigilant regarding colony conditions, as well as early flower bloom. In Florida, the biggest fear was that orange and other early important flows would begin very early and then be cut short by freezing weather. Beekeepers with pollination contracts had to scramble to keep ahead of flowerings in berry and fruit orchards. An early blossoming of orange trees could be devastating in Florida if late freezes or prolonged cold weather come after the main bloom has occurred. In the woods, wildflowers and trees are also blooming early. Colonies were building up well on early nectar and pollen sources. Package bee and queen producers have also been very busy trying to keep colonies well stocked with food in preparation for the busy season approaching. Demand for both bees and queens has been excellent this season. Some states are still on the dry side and will need more spring moisture to allow for normal honey flows. Demand for honey is still mostly strong, but some buyer resistance has been noted to high prices for the amber grades since packers say them can import this honey cheaper. Retail honey demand remains strong, especially for locally produced and less processed honey.
SOUTHWEST—Beekeepers have been busy gearing up for the new season. The winter was generally on the mild side, which allowed colonies to remain active for longer periods. This could cause some of them to run short on stores unless they are fed or enough early nectar and pollen sources remain available. Many migratory beekeepers had moved their bees from build-up locations in the Southwest to California for the almond pollination season. The soil moisture in the Southwest in still quite short in some locations and more rains would be helpful to spring flows that are fast approaching. Deman for honey at both the wholesale and retail levels remains strong.
EAST CENTRAL—Beekeepers had found more deadouts than usual for this time of year and fear what might be ahead since they had two more months of winter weather. Some earlier colony losses were blamed on viruses, but later losses have been blamed on colony starvation in many cases. A number of beekeepers have continued to feed sugar patties or candy boards when temperatures have warmed enough for bees to break cluster. One good thing about this winter has been themild weather and more days for cleansing flights. With the continued strong market for honey at both the wholesale and retail levels, many beekeepers plan to maintain or enlarge their apiaries in 2013. Demand for bees and queens is expected to be heavy again this spring. Lack of winter snows has some of our reporters worried about a ground moisture shortage in 2013, especially if spring rains don’t come to the rescue. Many migratory beekeepers in this area make the long trip to California for almond pollination and will leave them there until later in the spring.
U.S Honey Crops and Markets - February 2013
A combination of heavy fall colony losses in certain parts of the country, and the continued severe drought over much of the country have made for a very uncertain 2013 beekeeping season. The severe fall colony losses are being blamed on varroa, viruses, and Nosema for the most part. The typical report from beekeepers is that they are finding large numbers of colonies devoid of bees, but containing ample stores for overwintering. On the other hand, colonies that were not affected seem to be strong and overwintering well.
Some beekeepers have already speculated that this loss of bees could cause spot shortages in Calfornia for almond pollination, as well as drive up prices on remaining uncommitted colonies coming into the state for pollination. As this was written, colonies were being placed in holding yards until they can be moved to almond groves in February and March. The going price for strong colonies is between $150 and $160. However, some reporters have speculated that spot shortages could drive up prices to as high as $200 for uncommitted colonies.
Uncertain bee pasture in many traditional clover and alfalfa locations in the West Central and Intermountain areas have beekeepers scratching their heads about whether or not they should bring colonies back to their traditional home territories after pollination work in done. Much will depend on winter snows and rains during the first three months of the 2013. If ground moisture and irrigation reservoirs are replenished, many honey crops could still be salvaged this year.
With the continued strong market for honey at both the wholesale and retail levels, beekeepers will be seeking out remaining good honey crop locations. Having colonies strong at the right time to take advantage of flows will be especially important. Package bee, nuc and queen demand is expected to be heavy again this spring. Some smaller bee and queen producers were already reporting that they were booked for the season.
NORTHEAST—Immediately following Superstorm Sandy, temperatures began to turn colder. In addition, the area began to experience more seasonal precipitation in the form of rains and snowstorms. Beekeepers are worried about winter stores, although fall flows were done by the time Sandy struck the area. As we indicated last month, some beekeepers continue to report deserted hives, which they have blamed on varroa and the viruses it spreads. Honey crops were rather spotty with some beekeepers reporting good crops, while others were very disappointed due to drought conditions. The next big critical period will be in late February as colonies begin to run out of stores and will need beekeeper help in many cases to make it through until the maples and early flowers bloom.
With the high price of honey, some beekeepers were tempted to take more fall honey, but most left stores hoping to bring more colonies through the winter, so that they can make divides in the spring. Many beekeepers sold out of their remaining stocks of honey during December. Demand and prices for honey are expected to remain strong during the coming season.
MIDEAST—Although most beekeepers had buttoned up their hives for wnter by time of Superstorm Sandy, quite a few colonies were partially flooded or upset by high winds. Tree limbs and other debris had to be cleaned up so that beekeepers could freely travel to beeyards and work bees where necessary. When weather conditions allowed, beekeepers were still feeding colonies low on stores. By the end of the February early pollen sources should be available in some locations if the weather cooperates. Rain and snow has helped soil moisture conditions in locations that were dry. Beekeepers are hoping for another early spring like they had in 2012, which helped winter colony survival.
Most reporters told up that they were about sold out of honey after the holiday season. Much of the honey on the store shelves is from other parts of the country or of foreign origin. Demand for honey remains quite good in this area, especially for locally produced honey.
SOUTHEAST—Colony losses this fall were much higher than normal in the Southeast. Beekeepers have blamed a combination of factors such as Nosema ceranae, mites, viruses and small hive beetles. After a rather dry period, much of the area has received needed winter rains. Maples and other early sources should be blooming now in the southern portions of the Southeast. Meanwhile, commercial beekeepers have moved their bees to California for almond pollination. Beekeepers are hoping that the spring flows will not come as soon this spring because they caught many beekeepers off guard. In addition, migratory beekeepers were still in California pollinating almonds, so they missed some important honey flows due to the extra early season. Meanwhile, package bee and queen producers are gearing up for the new season, which they believe will be a busy one. In fact, a few producers were already about booked up for the year.
Prospects for the orange flow look fair to good if the weather cooperates. Beekeepers are about sold out of last year’s honey and are anxious to produce a new crop since wholesale and retail prices have held up so well. Pollinators are receiving around $150 per strong hive for almonds, while melons and other row crops are still paying in the $70 to $90 range.
SOUTHWEST—Some rains and snows were reported, but moisture conditions are still on the dry side in this area. Colonies are generally overwintering well to date, but more moisture will be needed for spring honey flows. In southern locations early pollen and nectar sources have already started from assorted tree and wildflower sources. Commercial beekeepers are gearing up for pollination in the their states or will be transporting colonies to California for almond pollination. Package bee and queen producers have been busy in this area feeding and medicating colonies in preparation for what they believe will be another very busy order season. Demand for honey remains strong at both the wholesale and retails levels.
EAST CENTRAL—Fall colony losses were unusually high for some reason. Beekeepers are blaming the losses on viruses and Nosema, but no one seems to know for sure at this point. The typical complaint from beekeeepers is that they went out to check their beeyard and found many of the hives completely empty of bees, but full of winter honey. These losses stopped eventually, but some beekeeepers are going to have to make up more losses than they had planned this spring. In locations that had poor honey crops due to the drought, beekeepers expect to have to start early heavy feeding. So far this winter, snowfall has been on the light side, although a few locations had received some heavy snowfall at times. Drought remains on the minds of many farmers in this area. Soil moisture is still significantly below average for this time of year.
Beekeepers continue to indicate an excellent demand for honey at both the wholesale and retail levels. A number of reporters told us that they were pretty much sold out by January of 2013.
WEST CENTRAL—Reports from the field also indicate significant fall colony losses in this area as well—as high as 25% for some beekeepers. The symptoms were the same as elsewhere—colonies were deserted of bees, but had plenty of winter stores left. Beekeepers report that remaining colonies seem to be healthy and are wintering well. As a result of these early unexpected colony losses, beekeepers will need to rely heavily on package bee and queen producers to replenish their beeyards. In addition, some of our reporters also felt that there might be a shortage of colonies for almond pollination, but this was just conjecture at this point. One reporter suggested that a colony shortage could even force per colony almond rental prices up as high as $200 for growers who had not already locked in their contracts.
The drought situation in this area remains acute. Some winter snows have helped, but much more moisture is needed in the form of snow or rain to replenish ground moisture. How the moisture shortage will affect farmer planting plans remains to be seen, but corn definitely needs more moisture than is currently available for spring germination and early growth. Many commercial colonies are now in Texas or California, but will be brought back for clover and alfalfa flows sometime in April or early May.
The honey market remains quite strong in this area, but most stocks of honey have been sold by beekeepers by now. Holiday retail honey sales were also very good, according to our reporters. Most beekeepers continue to report prices at the wholesale level in the $2.00 per pound range for white and only slightly lower for amber grades. Some small lots of honey are selling as high as $2.25 per pound.
INTERMOUNTAIN—Much of this area was still being classed as in extreme drought. Some snows had blanketed parts of the area by the end of the year, but they were few and far between. Beekeepers and farmers were hoping for much heavier snows during January through March to help replenish ground moisture and reservoirs. Beekeepers in locations that have irrigation made fair honey crops in 2012, but even these areas may be in trouble in 2013 if reservoir levels are not replenished by winter snow melt. Many commercial beekeepers are in southern states or California now for either colony build up or almond pollination. The big decision many will have is whether or not they should return to their summer home locations for clover and alfalfa flows that may never materialize.
Honey supplies in the area are exhausted, but demand remains strong. Both white and extra light amber honey are selling above $2.00 per pound at the wholesale level.
WEST—As we indicated elsewhere in this report, bee supplies for almond pollination appear to be very uncertain and possible last minute price spikes for remaining unspoken for colonies are possible. A combination of the drought, varroa, viruses and Nosema are being blamed for bee losses over much of the country. As this is written, thousands of colonies are streaming into California and many thousands have already come into the state over the last few months. Colony health at this point is not bad, but a number of beekeepers found empty hives in the fall of 2012 before they even made the trip to California. Beekeepers are currently feeding, medicating and grading colonies in preparation for placing them in the almond groves.
At the lower elevations colonies in California are able to work various wildflowers and trees for pollen and nectar on warmer days. However, many colonies destined for almond pollination are in large holding yards that do not have access to winter forage. These colonies are being fed on a steady diet of syrup and pollen substitute until they can be moved into the almond groves.
After a very dry summer over much of the West Coast, late fall and early winter weather brought torrential rains in the lower elevations and heavy snows in the mountains. The precipitation was especially heavy in northern California, Oregon and Washington. In some cases beeyards located close to streams and rivers were flooded. The moisture is very much needed to replenish ground moisture and reservoirs. Unfortunately, parts of southern California missed the bulk of the showers and remain in a drought situation.
Very little honey remains in the hands of beekeepers and packers are searching for remaining stocks. Prices and demand are strong at both the wholesale and retail levels and are expected to remain high in 2013.
U.S Honey Crops and Markets - January 2013
The fall and early winter weather has been mild for the most part. Some locally heavy snowfalls have occurred, but they have not lasted long. In late November and early December a series of rain storms caused flash flooding in the Northwest. Although the storms have caused some loss of property, the area actually needed the moisture, but not all at one time! Reporters in other parts of the country have also received needed rains or snow since our last report. However, much more moisture is needed in states where the drought has been particularly acute.
Many of our reporters indicated that their colonies had been wintering well due to the mild fall and early winter. However, we also have begun to receive disturbing reports of substantial colony losses in various parts of the country. Many of these reports describe similar conditions—colonies are found deserted with honey stores still intact. This has led some of our reporters to speculate about possible spot shortages of colonies for almond pollination in California. Many migratory beekeepers in California and around the country were gearing up for almond pollination. Remaining out-of-state migratory beekeepers were transporting their colonies into California. Meanwhile, beekeepers managing holding yards in the state were feeding and medicating colonies.
With another short honey crop having been produced in the United States in 2012, honey packers have been aggressive in their buying at the wholesale level. Prices and demand are up in every area. In addition, retail honey sales continue to be quite good around the country.
NORTHEAST—Superstorm Sandy damaged or destroyed some colonies close to the coast, but also caused torrential downpours of rain or record amounts of wet snowfall over a large portion of this area. Beekeepers were just finishing or had finished their winter preparations when the storm struck. In many cases, no real damage was done to colonies and in some cases, the states actually needed the moisture after last summer’s drought. Subsequent weather has been generally mild, with a few cold snaps. Beekeepers are concerned about winter stores. Many were feeding earlier in the fall or have continued to feed where temperatures have allowed colonies to break cluster. In states where the drought took a toll on honey production, beekeepers are worried that colonies won’t have enough stores to last until April. The warm fall has been a mixed blessing. Some beekeepers have told us that it allowed for late colony work and feeding, but others told us that the warmer temperatures kept colonies more active and that they have used more of their winter stores than normal.
Beekeeper honey stocks are getting low and will be mostly gone after the holiday season. Honey demand and prices continue to be rated as excellent by almost all of our reporters.
MIDEAST—Superstorm Sandy also did a tremendous amount of damage along the mid-Atlantic coast. Further inland, winds, heavy rains, or snow complicated bee work, as well as general transportation. Along the coast, the storm surge did the most damage to apiaries that were flooded. However, some other beekeepers reported wind-related damage to colonies. Many beekeepers told us that they were lucky enough to escape with moderate winds accompanied by rain or snow. Another storm immediately after Sandy also dropped additional rain or snow on the area, but subsequent weather has been on the mild side. Beekeepers have been able to continue feeding colonies that are light on stores during this mild weather. This is important to note because a number of colonies were light on stores due to poor honey crops.
Beekeepers were finishing their honey sales for the year with the holiday season. They did not anticipate having any trouble selling their remaining honey supplies since demand remains excellent at both the wholesale and retail levels.
SOUTHEAST—Colonies were in fair to good condition in December as beekeepers began to gear up for the new season. Some colonies are being fed where the season was poor and colonies went into winter with low stores. Red maple has or will start blooming shortly in many southeastern locations. Beekeepers will be trying to boost colony strength for early honey flows, while package bee and queen producers are trying to strengthen colonies for the big package bee and queen sales season that is fast approaching. A surprising number of colonies from this area are trucked to California for almond pollination and these bees have already been moved west or will be leaving for California shortly.
Some Brazilian pepper honey was still selling in the $1.75 to $1.80 range, but it is fast disappearing. Both wholesale and retail honey sales continue to be rated as good to excellent. However, most beekeepers were sold out until new crop honey starts being produced. in Argentina.
U.S Honey Crops and Markets - December 2012
As this was written, we had not yet received much news from the many beekeepers along the Atlantic Seaboard who had to brave the brunt of Superstorm Sandy’s wrath. With high winds and flooding over a wide area, no doubt some colonies were lost. Meanwhile, beekeepers in the rest of the country were finishing the last of their apiary work, as well as bottling honey for the fast-approaching holiday season. Even though honey crops were better than anticipated earlier in the season, the total crop will be another short one, especially in the Southeast, West and West Central areas. Unfortunately, these three areas also represent a good portion of the commercial honey production in the United States. Our reporters have said that honey continues to be in great demand over the entire country due to a shortage of honey. Honey prices at both the wholesale and retail levels also continue to be strong.
Commercial beekeepers have been transporting truckloads of bees to California through the fall months in preparation for the almond pollination season. Colonies are being fed and medicated, so that they will be strong by February/March when the almond groves come into bloom. Availability of enough colonies for almond pollination depends on how they come through the next month or two before the almond season starts. Autumn rains have helped replenish ground moisture in parts of the drought-stricken country, but much more moisture in the form of rain or snow is needed to bring back normal moisture levels.
NORTHEAST—As this was written, stories of catastrophic damage to the Eastern Seaboard were being reported by the media. One cannot help but wonder also how many colonies of honey bees were destroyed or damaged by superstorm Sandy as it passed through many eastern states. New York, New Jersey and Maryland have been prominently mentioned as suffering much of the damage from ocean and nearby river flooding, but torrential rainfall and amazing amounts of snow have also been recorded in several Northeastern states. How this unusual weather will affect colony health and overwintering is anybody’s guess at this time. For sure, some apiaries were probably destroyed by flood waters. However, heavy snowfall is not generally a problem for colonies, although it can be a pain for beekeepers who may need to reach snowbound apiaries for feeding or moving to southern states or California.
Normally, this time of year would be relatively quiet for northeastern beekeepers, except for their equipment repair work and honey bottling activities. In that regard, Sandy’s timing was actually better than it could have been had this storm hit earlier in the beekeeping season.
Earlier, some reporters had said that beekeepers in parts of this area had noticed higher varroa mite loads on colonies, which they attributed to the early spring and longer brood rearing season. Generally, however, colonies went into winter in fairly good shape with normal bee populations and adequate honey reserves. In fact, honey flows were much better this season than many would have predicted due to the drought in some Northeastern states. Some beekeepers reported lighter than normal fall flows, which they blamed on the dry weather.
Honey sales and prices continue to be rated as excellent. However, supplies will probably be exhausted before the new season starts in the spring of 2013.
MIDEAST—This area was also severely impacted by superstorm Sandy. In particular, Virginia and West Virginia received punishing wind and rain, often followed by snow and sleet, especially at the higher elevations. On the bright side, ground moisture was renewed in many dry locations, but on the down side, some apiaries were lost to flooding or damaged by high winds. Beekeepers were prevented from attending to their colonies due to rain or snow. Some beekeepers were still feeding colonies when the storm struck. In some cases, beekeepers said that their mite and small hive beetle populations had been higher due to the long, warm summer.
Before the storm, beekeepers had been finishing their fall beeyard work, repairing equipment and bottling honey. As we have indicated previously, demand and prices for locally produced honey at both the wholesale and retail levels is excellent. Most honey retailers expect to be sold out by the beginning of the New Year.
SOUTHEAST—Hurricane Sandy only brushed the coasts of most Southeastern coastal states, so no large amounts of damage were reported. However, some locations did receive heavy rainfall along the coast. Bees and beekeepers are in the off season now. Many northern colonies have been coming into this area for overwintering and spring flows from wildflowers and orange trees in Florida. These flows will start in March, but by January and February, maples should be in bloom to provide buildup pollen and nectar.
Colonies were being fed in some states. In Florida, the Brazilian pepper and melaleuca flows helped provide winter stores and surplus honey in some cases. Most colonies are in fair to good shape, but some reports of large colony losses have already come to us from commercial beekeepers. These reports are mostly coming from migratory beekeepers who have transported their colonies to the South for the winter and have begun examining them. Varroa mite and small hive beetle populations have been heavier than normal in some states such as Georgia, according to our reporters. Soil moisture conditions are mostly rated as fair over much of the Southeast.
Demand for honey remains excellent, but beekeepers are selling out quickly as packers try to secure needed inventories for the holiday season and beyond. Local varietal honey is also selling quite well and even some of the so-called locally produced bakery grades are being bottled and sold to eager customers.
SOUTHWEST—Beekeepers were forced to feed colonies where late flows were sparse or nonexistent. Feeding was especially heavy in parts of Oklahoma where drought reduced honey crops from traditional clover and alfalfa sources. The honey was also darker this season since bees were forced to work more wildflowers and bushes than normal. Parts of Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana actually produced better honey crops this year than in 2011. In addition, some beekeepers report receiving good fall flows from goldenrod, aster and late cotton. In October the weather turned cooler as beekeepers were finishing their fall mite treatments and feeding. Migratory beekeepers, who move their operations to one of these states, are hoping for another early spring and good honey flows to help their bees obtain a jump on the season. However, until spring comes sources said adequate amounts of rain and snow are needed to replenish ground moisture. Some beekeepers have reported more trouble with small hive beetles and varroa this season.
Honey sales and prices at both the wholesale and retail levels continue to be listed as excellent by most of our reporters. Locally produced varietals are selling out quickly due to the heavy demand.
EAST CENTRAL—Overall honey crops were better in this region than last season. Despite the drought, many beekeepers said their honey crops were near normal or better. However, there are some notable exceptions, such as parts of Michigan that missed their mains flows due to dry weather conditions. Late rains finally did come to much of this area just in time to spur some good fall flows from goldenrod and aster. In many cases bees were able to add to their winter stores with the extra honey received from these sources. On the other hand, some beekeepers were worried that they had taken too much honey earlier in the season and were feeding sugar syrup and high fructose corn syrup to replenish their stores. With the high demand and excellent prices being offered for honey, it was tempting to take as much honey as possible from colonies.
Colonies are going into winter in generally good shape. The problems mentioned were higher mite counts in some cases, as well as smaller clusters of bees where brood rearing had shut down early due to drought. In some cases, beekeepers were finding that their colonies had gone queenless, which is unusual for this time of year.
WEST CENTRAL—The big honey-producing states of North Dakota and South Dakota saw their honey production reduced by 20 to 30% from last year due to drought. However, a total crop failure was averted with the help of stunted alfalfa that farmers didn’t cut, soybeans producing more honey than normal and a variety of wildflowers being worked to supplement poor yields from clover and alfalfa. Minnesota honey production was very spotty with yields varying from 40 to 140 lbs. Honey production in Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri was also spotty due to the drought. Iowa’s honey crops probably came the closest to being described as normal or slightly better than normal.
Good fall flows from goldenrod and sometimes aster provided much needed honey stores for winter at a critical time. One reporter said the nice late crop prevented him from having to buy a tanker load of fructose for feeding. Colonies were going into winter in fair to good condition for the most part. However, a few beekeepers were reporting problems such as higher mite counts, smaller clusters or queenless colonies. Many migratory beekeepers loaded and moved their colonies to California or the South in October or early November before the weather started getting bad.
Due to reports of smaller honey crops, wholesale honey prices have continued to increase and are now averaging near or above the $2.00 per pound level for white honey. Amber grades are only slightly below that. Retail honey sales also continue to be very strong.
INTERMOUNTAIN—Despite the drought encompassing most of this area, some beekeepers were still able to produce fair to good honey crops in irrigated areas. Much of the honey was made from alfalfa where sufficient water was available. Overall honey production will be down in this area. Some of our reporters began feeding their bees high fructose corn syrup immediately after removing the last of their honey supers. Others reported obtaining winter stores from fall wildflowers like rabbit brush, Russian thistles, goldenrod and aster. Most commercial beekeepers have moved their colonies to warmer California for buildup and almond pollination in early 2013. However, some beekeepers continue to experiment with indoor wintering in climate-controlled buildings, especially in Idaho. Varroa mite levels are a bit higher than normal in some apiaries, but overall colony health looked good as winter approached.
WEST—Drought reduced honey crops significantly in California, but Oregon and Washington honey crops were better, despite drought conditions from time to time during the summer. Most beekeepers were now in a colony rebuilding mode as they worked to feed fructose, pollen supplement patties and medicate colonies in preparation for the almond pollination season starting in February/March 2013. Mite populations were on the upswing, but general colony health was fair to good going into the winter months. Some beekeepers also reported above normal problems with loss of queens.
Although rains were received in parts of California, dry weather continued to be a major factor in limiting fall flows from wildflowers like blue curls, rabbit brush, goldenrod and aster. This was forcing more feeding than normal, but beekeepers are glad to do it if they can build up colonies in time for their almond contracts. At this point, it is anybody’s guess as to whether or not colonies will be in short supply for almond pollination. Much depends on how colonies survive the winter, not only in California, but in other states such as Texas from where more colonies will be transported to California in January and February.
Demand and prices for honey on the West Coast remain strong due to the continued shortage and better demand.
As of the end of October, which is the middle of the spring season in Argentina, severe floods now cover more than 9 million hectares in the prairie region of Buenos Aires, Santa Fe, Córdoba, Entre Ríos and La Pampa provinces. Unlike last year’s tremendous drought, this season Argentine beekeepers in particular and farmers in general are suffering the effects of extremely humid conditions. This is the result of the El Niño oscillating weather pattern.
Even with 4-WD vehicles, beekeepers cannot access their apiaries nor can they feed colonies that have depleted their honey stores. Although the vegetation is beautifully green, nectar and pollen production has been interrupted many times because of heavy rains. Thus, colonies had to survive on their own pollen and honey stores. Ground moisture conditions are so high that farmers cannot plant any of their summer crops such as corn and soybeans.
Most beekeepers assume now a delay of 20 days in their production cycle. Acacia early honey was completely lost, as well as highly nutritive pollen from Patterson`s curse. If and when showers come to a halt, then honey production volume will likely be predictable.
During the period January-September of 2012, Argentina exported 57,620 MT of honey for a total price of US$164.6 million (US$2,850 MT). So far, US buyers are still buying the largest share, which is 31,235 MT bought for an average US$2,888 per MT. On the other hand, German importers are the main European buyers with a 23% volume (13,610 MT with an average price of US$2,770 per MT). The other EU buyers have replaced expensive Argentine imports with cheap Chinese honey, which cannot be exported to the USA unless the U.S. tariff is paid.
The financial, economic and political situation of Argentina is deteriorating at high speed. Exchange rate restrictions are draconian and make the import and export of any kind of goods very difficult. Inflation is out of control at a 30% rate per year. Angry and spontaneous citizen`s demonstrations are taking place at different locations in Argentina.
U.S Honey Crops and Markets - November 2012
The drought took its toll on honey crops over much of the United States this year, but surprisingly a number of beekeepers made more honey than last year. Last year’s crops were hampered by too much cool, wet weather in the spring followed by a summer drought. This year the season started out on an optimistic note with smaller winter losses and an early spring. Bees built up well in early spring, but then when normal spring rains did not materialize, colonies began to go downhill quickly. In many cases queen losses were common. In some locations bee populations dwindled and colonies went into a survival mode. Traditional flows from clover and alfalfa were often shorter than normal. Soybeans, on the other hand, produced more nectar than many beekeepers could ever remember. Apparently, the dry, hot weather put the plants under stress and this caused much heavier nectar production than normal. Since corn and soybeans had replaced pastures in many states, the higher soybean honey production was a real savior for beekeepers over much of the Midwest.
Late summer rains brought a resurgence of wildflower growth at a critical time for many beekeepers who were able to secure additional honey or winter stores from goldenrod, aster, Japanese knotwood, purple loosestrife, Spanish needles and knapweed.
Below normal honey crops in the big honey production states of Florida, Texas, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and California will keep U.S. honey production on the low side again. These smaller national honey crops have become all too common in recent years. As we indicated last month, we believe total U.S. honey production will probably be in the 145 to 165 million pound range. Some of our reporters, however, have been predicting a record poor crop, which would put the 2012 U.S. honey crop at below 2009’s record poor 144 million pounds.
Honey sales reports continue to be good at both the wholesale and retail levels.
NORTHEAST—As often occurs in the fall in the Northeast, some beekeepers were preparing their colonies for winter, while others were still in the midst of a fall honey flow. Fall flows can be heavy and long in this part of the country, so many beekeepers try their luck at obtaining a last crop from goldenrod, aster, knotweed, milkweed, loosestrife and smartweed. Honey crops have been spotty this season due to the drought. However, some beekeepers actually produced very good overall crops, while others said their production was better than last year, but still not back to normal.
Beekeepers who were low on stores were feeding both syrup and pollen substitute in some cases, while continuing to treat for mites. Mite levels have been higher than normal for some reason, but colonies were in generally good health. A few small hive beetle outbreaks were reported. Some reporters were a little worried about beekeepers taking off too much honey due to the excellent consumer demand and pricing. Some beekeepers said that they were taking off more honey, but were replacing it with high fructose corn syrup feeding.
Beekeepers continue to be very happy with the excellent demand and prices for honey being offered at both the wholesale and retail levels.
MIDEAST—Honey flows were also spotty in these states due to the drought. Some beekeepers obtained excellent crops, while others were feeding their bees during much of the summer. The sourwood flows at the higher elevations were also spotty, but some beekeepers were indicating that goldenrod, aster, sunflowers and milkweed were keeping a late fall flow going until the first hard frosts come.
Beekeepers were busy finishing their remaining feeding and mite control before buttoning up hives for the winter. Varroa and small hive beetle infestations were ranging from light to quite heavy. Fall festivals and farmers’ markets were selling a lot of the new crop honey. Some producers expected to be sold out before the holiday season arrived.
SOUTHEAST—Needed rains came to much of this area in late summer and early fall. However, some locations are still on the dry side, so more moisture will be needed before early 2013 honey flows begin. In western Florida, bees were making some honey from Brazilian pepper and melaleuca. Fall wildflowers such as goldenrod, aster, Spanish needles, cabbage palm, and partridge pea were providing good overwintering stores. Earlier, the last of the cotton and soybean plantings had provided some honey for beekeepers in parts of Alabama and Mississippi.
Beekeepers were completing their mite and disease treatments before the colder weather began. Mite levels have been variable, but colonies were generally in good condition. Small hive beetle outbreaks have occurred in some locations, but they have not been a huge problem this season. Marauding bears have damaged or destroyed hives in several southeastern states.
With short supplies of honey again common throughout the Southeast, beekeepers are reporting record prices and strong demand for remaining unsold lots of honey. Some white honey grades have been sold as high as $2.20 per lb. at the wholesale level, while amber grades have received bids as high as $1.85 per pound. Retail honey demand also continues to be strong.
SOUTHWEST—Parts of Louisiana and Texas received heavy rains in late summer, but they came too late to help most of the main honey flows, which had already occurred. The rains did help some of the fall wildflowers such as goldenrod, aster and Spanish needles. Beekeepers have been treating and feeding colonies in preparation for the winter season. Honey crops are quite variable, depending on the timing of spring flows, relative to the amount of ground moisture available at the time. As this was written, heat and dry weather were still a problem for a number of beekeepers, especially in the western parts of this area. Northern beekeepers, who winter in the South, are weighing their options in lieu of continued dry conditions in several southwestern states. Some urban beekeepers report more problems this year with mosquito spraying killing their honey bee field force. Due to higher mosquito populations and more problems with West Nile disease, some communities have done more spraying this season.
As this was written, beekeepers were finishing the last of their extracting and have been busy selling their new crop. Demand and prices for honey remain excellent at both the wholesale and retail levels.
EAST CENTRAL—Hot, dry conditions impacted honey crops in this area, but not to the extent that some beekeepers feared earlier in the season. Apparently, enough moisture was received last winter and early spring to carry plants through the spring season before dry, hot weather had a chance to do too much damage. Later spring and early summer flows quickly dried up, but many beekeepers made much of their honey crop before the worst of the drought had set in. Some farmers even delayed alfalfa cutting, which further helped total honey production. Total honey crops in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois will probably be better than last season (keeping in mind that last season was very poor for many), but Michigan beekeepers felt their total crop would be down by about 25%.
Dry weather curtailed fall flows from goldenrod, aster and Spanish needles, except in cases where late summer or early fall rains helped late wildflower plant bloom. As this was written in early October, light frosts were starting to occur over much of this area. Beekeepers were finishing the last of their extracting and beeyard work before cold weather began. Some feeding was occurring, as well as varroa and nosema treatments. Migratory beekeepers were preparing colonies for their move to the South or California during the winter months