U.S. Honey Crops and Markets archive
U.S Honey Crops and Markets - August 2015
As this was written, weather conditions had not changed substantially from our last report which indicated drought in the western U.S., while early honey crops over much of the rest of the country had been hampered by too much rainy weather that prevented bee foraging and washed the nectar out of flowers. The main difference is that temperatures have become a lot warmer, especially in the Southwest, California, Oregon and Washington where 100+ degree days have been common.
Honey crops suffered from too much erratic stormy weather in the Southeast and Southwest. Often, dry weather is cited as contributing to poor honey crops in these two regions, but this year too much rainy weather has been blamed. Likewise, too much rainy weather hurt the season in parts of the Northeast, Mideast, East Central and West Central areas. Some locations were able to make nice honey crops despite the heavy rains, but many of our reporters felt that the rainy weather had reduced their honey surpluses. Possible exceptions will be those states in the Upper Midwest that often have their main flows in July and sometimes even well into August. These beekeepers had their fingers crossed that conditions would clear up to allow many days of foraging on what is expected to be luxurious fields of clover and alfalfa. Last year, much of the Dakotas and Montana were able to produce excellent honey crops when earlier rainfall brought on abundant bee forage.
Demand for honey remains excellent at both the wholesale and retail levels. However, lower quoted bulk wholesale prices from other countries may bring slightly lower prices for new crop U.S. honey. At this point, very little bulk honey has come on the market except in the Southeast where bulk wholesale prices have been affected somewhat by cheaper foreign imported honey.
NORTHEAST—Rainy weather has often interrupted or shortened honey flows in this area. Bees were building up well, but the constant rain has been a real spoiler for what could have been a bumper season for a number of beekeepers. The combination of large bee populations and frequent rains caused above normal swarming in a few locations. Reporters tell us that later summer and fall flows could still help surplus honey production, especially if the rainy weather is replaced by clear, warm weather. Black locust, tulip-poplar, sumac and numerous wildflowers were in bloom this spring and in some cases beekeepers obtained fair to good flows from them if they had their bees in the right place at the right time. Japanese knotwood, as well as late clover, alfalfa, knapweed, goldenrod and aster should be coming on soon. Mite loads have not been mentioned as a significant factor in colony health yet, but now that bee populations are leveling off and beginning to decline, mite and virus damage will start becoming more apparent. Isolated occurrences of small hive beetles continue to crop up in different locations, but they do not seem to be a major problem like they are in southern states.
Beekeepers were beginning to extract their spring honey crops. Since almost all old stocks of locally produced honey had been exhausted, consumers were anxious to purchase the new crop honey.
MIDEAST—Spring honey flows were better in this area. Bees were able to forage more despite some locations receiving too much rain this spring. Some reporters are indicating that their spring honey crops will be 30 to 100% better than last season. Bees continue to build up well. The black locust flow was especially good in parts of Tennessee and Kentucky and in some locations tulip poplar also produced good honey surpluses. Flows mentioned by other area beekeepers included wildflowers, cotton, sumac, holly, blackberry, persimmon, clover, basswood and thistle. Bees will have additional opportunities for flows from summer and fall flowering from sourwood, clover, goldenrod, aster, knapweed and Japanese knotwood. Small hive beetle problems had not yet become severe, but beekeepers were on the lookout for beetle infestations which normally become worse in late summer. Beekeepers are anxious to start selling their new crop honey since it remains a seller’s market at both the wholesale and retail levels.
SOUTHEAST—Erratic, stormy weather disrupted honey flows in a number of southeastern states. Most notable has been the continuing dreary reports on Florida honey crops, which some reporters suggested may be at record lows in their locations. Only fair to poor honey flows have come from orange, gallberry, palmetto, tupelo, mangrove, mimosa and wildflowers. On the other hand, some beekeepers were still hopeful for tallow along the Gulf Coast, as well as Brazilian pepper in southern Florida.
Flows have also been only fair to poor in Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama, and South Carolina due to erratic weather. Flows mentioned included privet hedge, clover, sumac, gallberry, palmetto, tupelo and numerous wildflowers. One reporter suggested that less comb honey would be produced this season in the big comb honey-producing state of Georgia due to the poor flow conditions. Future flows could still be obtained from cotton, wildflowers, tallow and fall flowers since ground moisture remains plentiful.
Wholesale buying of new crop honey is rated as fair to good. Some producers continue to complain that packers are bringing in a lot of foreign honey, which is driving down prices. On the other hand, demand for locally produced honey at the retail level remains excellent, according to most of our reporters.
SOUTHWEST—Honey crops over much of this area have also been lowered due to continuing rain showers. Spring is when most of the important flows occur and many of these flows were hampered by rainy weather. The main exceptions have been the western portions of Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arizona where excessive rain was not as much of a problem. Beekeepers over much of this area find themselves in an unusual situation since often they are wishing for more rain, not less rain, to help drought-parched honey plants. Flooding was at times severe in parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and even some parts of Mississippi. Crop estimates are difficult because a number of our reporters still felt that they might receive good late flows from Chinese tallow, alfalfa, clover and wildflowers since the ground has plenty of moisture at a normally dry time of the season. Unfortunately, important spring honey flows were down by 25 to 75%.
Honey demand remains good at both the wholesale and retail levels, but new crop honey is still hard to find due to the erratic weather conditions. In addition, some beekeepers are fighting high-moisture honey problems. High moisture honey is not a problem for commercial beekeepers who have the right equipment to safely bring down moisture levels without substantially harming the product. However, that is not the case for many smaller beekeepers with limited honey-house equipment.
EAST CENTRAL—Rainy weather and flooding has also been a problem for parts of this area, but since flows come later in the northern locations, these states may do better. Early honey flows over much of the area were not bad, but then rainy weather started and would not quit. A number of ...
U.S Honey Crops and Markets - July 2015
Initial honey crop reports coming from the Southeast, Southwest and Western reporting areas have not been encouraging due to weather extremes. In the Southeast and Southwest, stormy weather interrupted normal important spring honey flows over many states. Then, in California the drought continues to curtail major honey flows in that state. The torrential rains in parts of Texas and Oklahoma in May caused extensive damage not only to residences, but many thousands of agricultural acres were devastated as well. No doubt many colonies were lost to floods and honey crops in these flooded locations will be severely curtailed.
Meanwhile, early flows reported in parts of the Northeast, Mideast, East Central and West Central areas have been fair to good. Rainy weather at times curtailed early important flows from sources like black locust, wild mustard, tulip poplar and clover. With the good rains, however, later clover and alfalfa flow prospects had improved, provided the weather turns sunny and warm. The continuing loss of pastures to row crops remains a major problem in the Midwest and honey crop averages have suffered as a result. Colonies that had to be replaced or were weak coming out of winter were still in a build-up mode during much of the spring season, so no surplus honey had been obtained from them.
The honey market continues to be strong over much of the country at both the wholesale and retail levels. Unfortunately, little new crop honey had been extracted yet, so domestically produced honey stocks remain scarce.
NORTHEAST—Beekeepers were busy supering overwintered colonies. On the other hand, others were still feeding their divides, packages and nucs that were installed this spring to replace deadouts. Beekeepers experienced a harsh winter causing higher than normal winter colony losses in a number of cases. Then, spring was slow in coming, causing beekeepers to feed surviving colonies. Warmer temperatures finally returned in May, allowing beekeepers to fulfill their pollination contracts, as well as build up other colonies for later honey flows. Black locust, sumac, tulip poplar, honeysuckle, wildflowers and early clovers were mentioned as important nectar sources in May and June. Some reporters were worried about swarming if many nectar flows came on at the same time June. At times, frequent rains prevented bee foraging on the many spring flowers in bloom.
MIDEAST—Although rainy cool weather had delayed colony buildup earlier in the spring, by May bees were able to do more foraging. Colonies showed explosive growth in May as many different nectar and pollen sources came into bloom simultaneously. Bees had been working black locust, clover, tulip-poplar, sumac, canola, assorted berries, privet hedge, wildflowers and early tupelo. Sporadic rains continued to interrupt foraging, but beekeepers said the moisture would be beneficial for later flows from clover and other sources. In addition to many deadouts being restocked this spring, reporters also felt that many new beekeepers were continuing to start up with packages or nucs they had purchased locally.
No new crop honey was available for sale yet as this was written, but beekeepers were planning to start extracting in July and August. Most old-crop honey supplies have been exhausted by now.
SOUTHEAST—One reporter described the Florida honey crop thus far as possibly the “worst honey year in Florida for the last 50 years.” Granted, this assessment is coming from only one part of the state, but most beekeepers would agree that not a lot of honey has been made thus far in the season due to erratic weather conditions. Estimates on the orange flow have varied from 25 to 75% of normal. Unfortunately, later important flows from gallberry, tupelo and palmetto have also been or the sparse side. Beekeepers were hoping that weather conditions would clear up soon enough to catch to tail end of these flows, as well as later Brazilian pepper and remaining wildflower flows.
Stormy weather has also been blamed for a slow start to honey flows in Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama and South Carolina. However, now bees were building up quickly on numerous wildflowers, fruit trees and berries, in addition to privet hedge, dogwood and azaleas. Later flows were also expected from clover growing in the pastures and along roadsides. In some cases, the stormy weather caused excessive swarming as colonies were confined to their hives for days at a time. Then, once sunny weather returned, swarms issued from hives all at once.
Some honey had been extracted and sold in Florida, but most new crop honey was still setting on hives as this was written. However, many beekeepers were planning to start extracting soon after the major flows were over. Honey remains in short supply, but in some cases commercial beekeepers are still complaining about competition from cheap imported honey. New crop orange honey is selling at a premium and we have heard of prices as high as $3.00 per pound for honey in the barrel. Retail sales also remain strong, but not a lot of new crop honey had been put on the market yet. Some beekeeper/packers who are having short crops are buying from other beekeepers, so they will be able to pack enough honey for their regular customers.
SOUTHWEST—Earlier this spring colonies were building up well on numerous wildflowers, brush and trees. However, in May back to back storms rumbled through Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana, often producing record rainfalls and stormy weather. As a result, some of the main honey flows that normally occur in May were shut down due to bees being unable to forage. As this was written, more rains were on the way. Flooding has been severe in some parts of Texas and Oklahoma, but as this was written, we had not yet received any reports of colony losses. This is quite a contrast from some previous years when drought was the worry rather than too much rain. Earlier, migratory beekeepers had returned their colonies from pollination work in other parts of the country and were hoping to obtain surplus honey for the remainder of the season. Some good flows were being reported in locations where the rainy weather has not been continuous. We have not heard yet how the important Chinese tallow flows did along the Gulf Coast. Elsewhere in the area, if more seasonal sunny, warm temperatures return, colonies could still make some good honey crops from remaining flows.
Little new crop honey had been extracted yet ...
U.S Honey Crops and Markets - June 2015
The season is in full swing across much of the country as main flows were occurring in the South, while bees were building up on spring flows in the northern half of the country. Beekeepers were also completing their fruit and berry pollination contracts before moving on to honey flows. Winter losses were significant in some northern states and it will be tough for these beekeepers to make up their losses without losing a portion of their normal spring and early summer honey crops. Although moisture conditions appeared to be normal to good across much of the South, beekeepers in some Midwestern states were already expressing concern about dry weather hurting later main flows from clover and alfalfa. Drought worries are also a concern in the Intermountain states. However, in the West drought continues to be a major concern and it will definitely impact this season’s honey crop.
NORTHEAST—Beekeepers were finally able to spend more time in their apiaries in April and May, although scattered frosts were still occurring. It was a difficult winter for many beekeepers who reported heavy colony losses. Beekeepers were scrambling to clean up deadouts in time to make splits or receive package bees or nucs. Many new bee schools and short courses were guiding beginners in their efforts to have a successful first season. Beekeepers were still feeding surviving and new colonies heavily. The next major flows were coming from black locust, sumac and assorted wildflowers, as well as early clover. As this was written, dandelions and fruit bloom were available in abundance. A number of beekeepers were also pollinating fruit orchards in their areas. Demand for bees for pollination has been very good. Most beekeeper stocks of honey are exhausted until the new crop starts coming in.
MIDEAST—Spring seemed to take forever to come and the larger loss of colonies bore witness to the long, cold winter. Once dandelion, wildflowers and fruit bloom began, however, surviving colonies started building up very well. Beekeepers had ordered quite a few replacement packages, nucs and queens this year to replace deadouts. Many beekeepers have continued feeding colonies. Meanwhile, the number of new hobby beekeepers continues to increase. Colonies were also working blackberries, as well as a number of wildflowers. Wild mustard was mentioned as a good source in some fields. Beekeepers are hopeful that ground moisture will continue to support growth of later clover and wildflowers. Black locust, sumac and tulip poplar should also provide some nice surpluses in locations where those good nectar plants are available in abundance. Most local stocks of honey are exhausted until the new crop starts being extracted and bottled.
SOUTHEAST—Although the orange flow was not very good this spring, beekeepers in Florida were optimistic that later flows from gallberry and palmetto would be better. Beekeepers in the state also mentioned that the good moisture conditions had helped flows from assorted wildflowers, ti ti and tupelo. Between flows, some beekeepers were still having to feed colonies. Beekeepers in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and South Carolina were busy preparing colonies for honey flows after a somewhat erratic spring characterized by alternating cold and warm spells, as well as frequent storms. Many wildflowers and trees are blooming, so colonies now have plenty of nectar sources. Clover flows also should be starting later this spring. A number of new beekeepers started with their first colonies this spring and interest remains high at local beekeeping short courses.
SOUTHWEST—Colonies in Texas were building up well on wildflowers, persimmon, horsemint, brush and early alfalfa and clover. A number of beekeepers were making splits to avoid swarming and to increase their colony counts or sell nucs. Moisture conditions are mostly good, but a few dry spots have been noted in states like Louisiana. We had not received any word yet on how the big Gulf Coast Chinese tallow flow was shaping up. In Arkansas bees were working wildflowers, blackberries and holly. In Arizona, beekeepers mentioned flows from assorted wildflowers, citrus and alfalfa. In Oklahoma, many wildflowers were blooming in the fields and woods, as well as wild mustard, vetch, clover and alfalfa. Beekeepers were hoping that timely rains would continue in order to extend the spring flows as long as possible. Some colonies were coming back to this area after California almond pollination just as other beekeepers were trucking colonies north for honey flows in Montana and the Dakotas.
EAST CENTRAL—Beekeepers were glad to finally have some reliably warm weather after suffering through a long, cold winter and early spring. Although some very high colony winter losses have occurred in parts of this area, remaining colonies seem to be strong and are building up well. As this was written, early sources from maple, elm, willow and poplar were available to northern beekeepers, while farther south in this area, bees were already working fruit bloom, dandelions, wild mustard and other assorted wildflowers. Many beekeepers were still feeding, especially in the case of newly installed divides and package bees. Moisture conditions around the area are varying from fair to dry. However, some good spring rains have helped the situation. Most new divides, packages and nucs had arrived by the end of April, but some more loads are still scheduled for May delivery. Honey demand remains good in the East Central area, but little honey is still available for sale.
WEST CENTRAL—The severe winter caused significant starvation losses for some beekeepers in this area. However, surviving colonies seemed to be strong and building up well on early nectar and pollen sources. At times, replacement bees were hard to come by and in some cases arrived later than beekeepers had hoped. Nevertheless, beekeepers are optimistic coming into the new season. Moisture conditions are marginal in some states, so more spring moisture would be very helpful. In the northern parts of the area bees were just starting to build up on maple, elder, elm, willow and oak pollen, while farther south colonies were building up on dandelion, henbit, fruit bloom and wild mustard.
Migratory beekeepers were returning to their home states in the Midwest. Arriving colonies are mostly in good condition, especially if they were able to escape any spray losses while doing pollination work. One beekeeper estimated that his transportation costs per semi-load of bees was varying from $5,500 to $5,700. Fees collected for almond pollination were varying from $160 to $180 per colony, depending on colony strength.
Demand and prices for honey at both the wholesale and retail levels are expected to remain strong this year.
INTERMOUNTAIN—Migratory colonies were beginning to return in April and
U.S Honey Crops and Markets - May 2015
UNITED STATESThe winter and early spring were generally described as very cold, sometimes accompanied by heavy snowfall in the Northeast, Mideast, East Central and West Central areas of the country. On the other hand, the Intermountain and West have been characterized as having a rather mild winter and spring. Winter colony loss reports have also been higher in the eastern two-thirds of the country, while bees wintered better in the western one-third of the U.S. Pollination work continued in California and the southern states, while beekeepers in northern states worked on repairing equipment and restocking deadouts with packaged bees, nucs or splits they were making. Early flow reports in Florida were not encouraging from main sources like orange groves. On the other hand, flow prospects looked better from later flows. Some parts of the Southwest and West Central areas are on the dry side. Likewise, parts of the Intermountain and West remain quite dry.
The honey market remains strong at both the wholesale and retail levels over most of the country.
NORTHEAST—The season got off to a slow start due to record cold weather in February over much of the area. Winter loss reports jumped again after beekeepers were able to start checking colonies in March. Current projected winter loss is between 40 and 60% for many area beekeepers. Package bee and queen demand is very strong, as might be expected. However, supplies are limited, especially for early delivery. Some customers are being told that they will have to wait until later this spring before new queens and/or packages can be delivered. Early pollen and nectar sources from skunk cabbage, red maple, willow and other sources finally started being reported about mid to late March. Temperatures were up one day and back down the next day, so no prolonged bee work could be accomplished, other than cleaning up deadouts or feeding light colonies. Enthusiasm remains high for new beekeepers at area short courses and bee meetings.
MIDEAST—In this area late cold weather and snows also delayed colony buildup and beekeeper work until later in March, probably two to three weeks later than normal. Skunk cabbage finally began peeking through the snow cover and then maples, elms, willows and other early tree sources began providing needed early pollen and nectar. Winter losses will be high, but not as bad as in the Northeast. Beekeepers were scrambling to keep up with the season once warm weather decided to make its appearance. Demand for package bees, nucs and queens will again be heavy in this area. Hobbyist demand for bees remains strong due to wonderful turnouts at short courses and bee meetings. Beekeepers want to have colonies built back to good strength in time to take advantage of important spring flows from fruit trees, sumac, persimmon, tulip-poplar and black locust. Most local honey supplies are completely exhausted until the new crop starts coming in.
SOUTHEAST—Most of our Florida reporters felt that the orange honey crop “started out with a bang, but ended in a bust.” However, they were more optimistic about upcoming flows from wildflowers, gallberry and palmetto because moisture and temperature conditions were optimal. Farther north into Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and South Carolina beekeepers reported late cool weather that at times held back colony development and bee work. Package bee and queen companies are hard at work trying to fill orders on time. Bees were building up on wildflowers and tree bloom such as red bud and privet hedge. Beekeepers are hoping for good later crops from clover, tulip-poplar, wildflowers and assorted fruit trees. Along the Gulf Coast Chinese tallow should also provide some nice honey crops for beekeepers if the weather cooperates. Honey demand and prices are expected to remain strong through the 2015 season. Some packers are actively seeking to lock in contracts for new crop honey.
SOUTHWEST—This area was still having variable weather conditions through the month of March. However, conditions were stabilizing enough that colonies were working many different trees and wildflowers for available nectar and pollen by the first of April. Some commercial beekeepers were still actively engaged in pollination contracts, while others were busy making splits for later honey production or to sell to northern beekeepers. In addition to red maple, sweet gum, elm, assorted wildflowers, tulip-poplar, alfalfa and citrus, bees were working various desert plants in Arizona and New Mexico. Brush and sage flows were also starting in southern and western portions of Texas. Honey supplies are mostly exhausted in the Southwest and buyers are actively looking for new crop honey to purchase.
EAST CENTRAL—A lot of our reporters said January and February weather flipped this year because January was somewhat mild, but February was much colder and with more snow than usual. As might be expected, this played havoc with colony overwintering. A number of colonies perished in February after surviving the first part of winter quite well. Winter losses are being estimated to be from 20 to 40%. In March a number of beekeepers were able to open their colonies and begin feeding. However, due to heavy colony losses, demand for package bees, nucs and queens will be quite heavy again this spring. Bees were beginning to work red maple, elm, alder, willow and a few spring flowers. Beekeepers were also feeding a lot of sugar and pollen supplement. Moisture conditions are fair to good, so beekeepers are hoping for good clover and alfalfa flows later in the season. Most beekeepers are sold out of honey until new crop honey starts coming in later this season.
WEST CENTRAL—This area also experienced a severe winter; February was especially hard on colonies. Winter loss reports are varying considerably from 15 to 50%. In fact, a lot of beekeepers told us that most of their winter colony losses occurred in February. Snow cover was...
U.S Honey Crops and Markets - April 2015
Early reports coming from California indicated a successful almond pollination season. Several reporters told us that growers in their area had released colonies earlier than normal. This will allow them to get an earlier start on making nucs and divides or moving on to other pollination jobs or honey flows.
The Southwest and Intermountain areas had a rather mild early winter, but February was at times harsher with reports of snowstorms and colder than normal temperatures. Since a number of western states have been on the dry side, the added snow cover or rain were very welcome. Meanwhile, the West Central and East Central areas experienced a very cold February and several major snowstorms, contrasting with the earlier mild weather in December and January. The Northeast has won the dubious honor this winter for having the most severe winter. The Mideast and Southeast experienced early mild winter conditions, but in February several cold snaps set back colony development and bee work for several days at a time.
Colony loss reports took a turn for the worse after beekeepers peeked into their hives in late February. The February extreme cold was just too much for many colonies that succumbed to the harsh weather. Early reports from Northeastern sources suggest as much as a 50% colony loss for a number of beekeepers. Survival of remaining colonies rests on the severity of March weather.
NORTHEAST—Beekeepers have been busy checking colonies on warmer, sunny days. As of early March, some reporters were saying that their colonies had not had cleansing flights for one to two months. Beekeepers in some states are reporting losses as high as 50%. This area has probably had one of its snowiest winters on record. However, what has been most damaging to colonies has been the unrelenting cold weather. One Nor’easter after another has hit these states. Beekeepers were hoping that March would bring some cleansing flights and also allow beekeepers to check and feed colonies. Package bees, nucs and queens will be in very high demand again this season. Locally produced honey supplies are exhausted until new crop honey starts being produced in May and June.
MIDEAST—Beekeepers have been busy feeding colonies and cleaning up deadouts in preparation for packages, nucs or making divides. This has been a long and often severe winter for beekeepers in the Mideast. Despite continuing cold weather, on some warmer days bees had been gathering pollen from maple, alder, elm, willow and skunk cabbage. Brood rearing was starting to gear up in overwintered colonies. Beekeepers were hoping for warm weather and no late devastating frosts. Honey flows will start in late April and early May in some portions of this area. Most of our reporters said that they were mostly sold out of honey, but were still receiving regular calls from customers looking for honey.
SOUTHEAST—The spring season is well underway, despite some late February cold snaps which slowed colony activity and hurt some of the early wildflower bloom. Maples, alder, elm, oak, willow, quince, jasmine, dandelion, henbit and wild mustard are just a few of the many nectar and pollen sources which were in bloom. Major flows in Florida from orange, gallberry and wildflowers will start in March. Orange flow prospects are only fair due to a combination of pesticide fears keeping some colonies out of the groves, as well as a number of sickly trees. The sick trees bloom at odd times rather than all at once and this hurts the intensity of the flow. According the February USDA National Honey Report, an estimated 125,000 to 150,000 hives in Florida out of the state’s 400,000 were shipped to California for almond pollination work.
Beekeepers in Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina and Mississippi are still feeding colonies due to cold, erratic late winter weather. However, colonies are beginning to show good growth now that nectar and pollen is becoming more plentiful. Demand for package bees, nucs and queens is expected to be very heavy again this season. Some package bee and queen companies were booking up quickly for the spring delivery season.
Honey demand at both the wholesale and retail levels remains excellent, but stocks are mostly exhausted until the new crop starts coming in later this spring.
SOUTHWEST—Colonies were building up well, but cool weather and snow storms at times delayed colony expansion. Trees and early wildflowers have begun to bloom. Moisture conditions are adequate to good for the present. Beekeepers will need to be alert to colony expansion to prevent excessive swarming where possible. Some beekeepers are making divides or will sell nucs from their excess bees. Commercial bee work in the area was minimal due to many of these hives still being in California for pollination work. Main honey flows should start in March and April from brush, wildflowers, alfalfa and clover. Demand for honey remains strong, but supplies are very limited for the present.
EAST CENTRAL—Beekeepers tell us that a lot of colonies were lost in mid to late February due to the bitterly cold weather. In some years, bees have good cleansing flights in February and sometimes begin early foraging on maple if conditions remain mild for several days at a time. Unfortunately, that was not the case this season. A number of beekeepers tried feeding colonies with mixed results. In some cases conditions were just too cold for colonies to break cluster and feed on sugar patties or candy boards. In some states bees were able to get out for brief cleansing flights, but for the most part, they remained in tight clusters. March weather will determine whether heavy bee losses continue or subside. Beekeepers were hoping that warmer temperatures would return as soon as possible.
Beekeepers have continued to sell some honey, but most large stocks have long since been sold. Demand remains good for honey at both the wholesale and retail levels.
WEST CENTRAL—Many commercial colonies were still in California or the South, but will be returning in April for spring buildup. December and January winter weather was on the mild side, but then a bitterly cold February took a heavy toll on some apiaries with beekeepers reporting heavy losses due to extended bitterly cold temperatures resulting in starvation. Some beekeepers tried feeding with mixed results due to the cold temperatures preventing colonies from being able to break cluster to feed on beekeeper provided candy boards or sugar patties. A few beekeepers reported that ...
U.S Honey Crops and Markets - March 2015
UNITED STATESColonies were expected to be on location in California almond groves by mid-February. We had not heard yet from either growers or beekeepers if colonies are plentiful or in short supply this season. However, most commercial beekeepers had contracted their bees much earlier, so an upsurge or downturn in prices will only affect those who were waiting until later to negotiate rental fees. Per colony rental fees may also be reduced if minimum brood and bee standards are not met. Scattered rains in California continued in the valleys, but more snow cover is needed in the mountains to help with the continuing shortage of reservoir water available for irrigation.
While the Northeast and portions of the Mideast continued to be pounded by regular snowfalls and bitterly cold temperatures, much of the rest of the country had enjoyed a relatively mild winter as of early February. In some cases colder than normal temperatures had extended into the Southeast, which temporarily stopped bee foraging on early nectar and pollen sources. Many southern beekeepers are busy preparing colonies for spring flows. Early tree and wildflower pollen is available now in most southern states. Package bee and queen companies are hard at work building up colonies in preparation for what appears to be another very busy season.
The orange flow in Florida is still in doubt. Florida citrus acreage continues to decrease due to citrus greening, as well as urbanization. In addition, some beekeepers who used to rely on heavy orange flows are now afraid to go into the groves due to honey bee pesticide poisoning fears. This, in turn, puts more pressure on other bee forage in the state as beekeepers jockey for these remaining honey production areas for gallberry, palmetto, tupelo, Brazilian pepper and wildflower sites.
Beekeepers in the northern half of the country will begin checking and feeding colonies in late February and March. In some cases, large colony losses are expected due to poor honey crops last year that left colonies weaker than normal or without their usual amounts of winter stores. In other cases beekeepers are blaming varroa and viruses for weak or dead colonies.
Honey continues to sell well across the nation, but supplies are dwindling and buyers are anxiously awaiting the first new crop honey of 2015.
NORTHEAST—The winter continues to be a harsh one for this part of the country. A severe snowstorm in late January buried some states in two feet or more of snow. The snow (a good insulator) is not normally a problem for colonies, even if they are buried in it. However, ice accumulation can suffocate a colony. Beekeepers were more worried about prolonged extremely cold weather that accompanied the snowstorms. Wintering success will depend on how well colonies were prepared for long-duration cold weather with adequate food reserves and in some cases added insulation. A number of beekeepers told us earlier in the winter that they felt their colonies were light on stores. Many beekeepers have already ordered new packages, nucs or queens for spring delivery.
A few brief warm spells would be great in February and early March to give colonies some flight time, as well as allow clusters to reposition themselves on to new honey stores. Beekeepers were planning on checking colonies during the first late winter warm-up periods that are available. Travel to some yards (much less feeding) may be difficult or impossible due to snow or muddy conditions.
MIDEAST—Since some colonies were on the verge of starvation, beekeepers were feeding during warm spells in order to save them. Maple, skunk cabbage and willow will often bloom in February and early March, so with any luck beekeepers hope to see bees foraging for early pollen soon. Until then, some reporters said that they were feeding pollen supplements and syrup to encourage brood rearing. This area has had periods of cold, wet weather, but nothing like their fellow beekeepers in the Northeast. With continued excellent demand for honey and great interest in beekeeping, reporters felt that beekeepers would be recouping their losses and more new beekeepers would be starting this year. Some commercial beekeepers had moved their bees to South Carolina, Georgia or Florida for the winter and will be making splits in these states before returning to their home states for spring honey flows.
SOUTHEAST—Despite some periods of cold weather, bees have been wintering well for the most part. Beekeepers have begun stimulative feeding to encourage colony growth before the main spring flows begin. The red maple flow was coming to a close in Florida, but other early pollen and nectar sources were beginning to provide light flows for bee buildup. Nevertheless, most beekeepers were continuing their feeding programs to encourage colony growth. The next big flow in Florida will be from citrus in March. A number of beekeepers remain discouraged about this flow due to continued heavy pesticide use for citrus greening. This has caused some beekeepers to seek other bee forage and completely bypass this important main flow.The weather and moisture conditions have been encouraging for spring flows if no late freezes come.
Bees are also doing fair to good in Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi. Early nectar and pollen sources have begun, but beekeepers in these states are also feeding colonies to encourage bee buildup. Interest remains excellent for beekeeper growth in these states and many bee associations report record numbers of participants in their local short courses. Demand for package bees, nucs and queens remains very strong. The package bee and queen companies in these states expect to have very heavy demand again this spring. Some companies were already starting to book up for the season.
Honey remains in excellent demand at both the wholesale and retail levels, but almost all old-crop honey has been sold by now. The first new-crop honey will be coming from orange blossoms and assorted wildflowers.
SOUTHWEST—Colonies were beginning show more brood rearing as early pollen and nectar sources came into bloom. In addition to red maple, oak, elm, willow and early wildflowers were in bloom in parts of this area. Beekeepers said that they were also feeding colonies both syrup and pollen supplements. Cold weather was still a factor in limiting colony flight and beekeeper work. However, beekeepers were hoping for a warm spring. Many Southwestern states have received good winter rains which should ...
U.S Honey Crops and Markets - January 2015
Colonies continued to stream into California from all over the country for the big almond pollination season starting at the end of this month. Most reporters quoted $170 to $180 for colonies with eight frames of brood, with bonuses for stronger hives. Heavy rains in December helped soil moisture in this drought-stricken state, which in turn should also help spring honey flows. The large reduction in fuel prices has been a real godsend to migratory beekeepers.
Early winter storms caught beekeepers on the Eastern Seaboard by surprise. Where stores are adequate, no harm was done, but in many cases beekeepers were still feeding colonies that were light on winter stores. This could lead to higher winter losses. The Upper Midwest also received an early taste of winter, but elsewhere in the country snow has not been as heavy as last season. In some cases rainfall came instead where temperatures were milder than normal.
Beekeepers were beginning to gear up for the season in the South. Demand for package bees, nucs and queens is expected to be very heavy again this spring. Colonies are generally in good condition and beekeepers are hoping that extreme cold weather will stay away. This is especially important as the first maples and wildflowers begin blooming and colonies begin to brood up.
As we have indicated in the past, honey inventories remain low. This has continued to keep both the wholesale and retail markets for honey strong.
NORTHEAST—Beekeepers continue to report harsh winter weather. Cold weather has often been accompanied by snow or rain. Many reporters have not been able to check their colonies, but some hope to start winter feeding with sugar fondants or winter sugar patties. This will be switched to syrup and pollen subs later in the winter or early spring. Orders are starting to be made for package bees, nucs or queens, although many beekeepers do not know how many colonies they will lose until spring. A number of states are planning beekeeping short courses for this late winter or early spring.
Holiday sales of remaining stocks of honey were excellent, but little honey remains unsold at this point.
MIDEAST—Similar reports of extreme cold weather accompanied by snow or rain also have been coming from our reporters in this area. Unfortunately, a number of colonies also went into winter low on stores, so will need additional feed before spring. Beekeepers are hoping for an early spring, so their losses will not be extremely high. Some reporters were already suggesting that package bees and queens would be in short supply this spring. Most stocks of locally produced honey have been sold out for quite some time.
SOUTHEAST—November weather was colder than normal, but December temps were about normal for the month. Some rain has helped moisture conditions. Beekeepers have continued to feed colonies during warmer periods. Stormy weather in late December produced some heavy rains, winds and even a tornado or two. Mississippi was especially hard hit. Believe it or not, spring bee work is beginning in some locations as package bee and queen producers gear up for production and commercial beekeepers start preparing for making splits or moving colonies out of state for pollination rentals.
Honey demand and prices have continued to be quite good in this area, but little honey remains for sale at this late date. Brazilian pepper in Florida was the last significant honey flow reported and most of that honey sold quickly, even though it is generally regarded as a less desirable honey than those honeys produced earlier in the year.
SOUTHWEST—Colonies are wintering well, although at times cold or stormy weather has been reported. The rain and snow are welcome to replenish ground moisture in preparation for spring wildflower growth. Beekeepers are continuing to feed colonies both sugar and pollen subs in preparation for making early spring splits or transporting colonies to almond pollination in California. Demand for bees for almond pollination remains excellent, and reduced fuel prices have cut transportation costs significantly. Honey demand also remains very strong in this area, but most stocks of unsold honey are long gone. Beekeepers reported very good holiday sales via shops and the Internet.
EAST CENTRAL—After a cold, sometimes snowy or rainy November, December weather was milder. Migratory beekeepers had long since moved their bees to the South or California, but other beekeepers were still trying to feed colonies on warmer days with sugar patties or candy boards. Although it was too early for winter colony loss reports, many beekeepers had already sent in their orders for early package bees, nucs and queens. By late January or early February, beekeepers should have a better idea on how their apiaries are overwintering. Honey supplies remain low with prices at both the wholesale and retail levels reaching record levels in some locations. Some packers have been scrambling to find sufficient supplies of honey to last until the new crops start coming in 2015.
WEST CENTRAL—The Dakotas did better than most of the other states as far as honey production was concerned. Honey production in Minnesota was generally down, as was production in Iowa, Missouri, Kansas and Nebraska. Honey reports from Minnesota seem to have been the worst, but beekeepers elsewhere had very poor crops in some cases due to the cool, wet spring and summer. Meanwhile, wholesale and retail demand for honey continues to skyrocket due to shortages around the globe. Those beekeepers lucky enough to produce a crop have enjoyed record prices at both the wholesale and retail levels.
November was colder than normal, which at times caught beekeepers by surprise who were still preparing colonies for winter or had still not moved their bees to the South or California. Snowfall has been heavy at times ...
U.S Honey Crops and Markets - January 2015
NORTHEAST—Feeding colonies short on stores continued well into December in some apiaries, but some reporters said that they had switched to sugar patties or candy boards due to the colder weather. Some beekeepers are also adding winter wraps of one kind or another for added protection from the cold temperatures and winds. Feeding was difficult to impossible in some apiaries due to heavy snow accumulation in parts of the Northeast. Beekeepers in some locations were already measuring their snowfall in feet rather than inches! One bright spot is that a few reporters suggested that the snow cover will provide good insulation to overwintering hives. On the other hand, migratory beekeepers had long since moved their colonies to Florida or California for the winter months where they will be built up in order to provide pollination or to make divides. Demand for honey continued to be quite strong during December, due to both cooler weather and the holiday season.
MIDEAST—Honey crops were quite spotty in this area in 2014. As a result, many beekeepers quickly sold out their inventory to the public and small area packers. In addition, a number of reporters said beekeepers were feeding a lot of sugar syrup last fall. Demand for replacement package bees, nucs and queens is expected to be very heavy again this spring, even though beekeepers don’t know how bad their winter losses will be yet. A lot depends on the severity and length of the winter season. Fall weather had already produced snows and unseasonably cold temperatures followed by a return to milder temperatures. Early maple, skunk cabbage and other sources should begin blooming in February, but beekeepers will not be doing much actual bee work until a little later in the season. However, some beekeepers said that they were continuing to feed sugar patties or candy boards to colonies.
SOUTHEAST—Colonies went into winter in generally good condition. Beekeepers treated for mites and added new beetle traps. At times this last fall beetle populations became quite high before colder weather returned and knocked down populations. Some beekeepers are continuing to feed bees, especially if they plan to make divides or sell nucs this spring. Bees and queens are expected to be in great demand again, so package bee and queen producers will be very busy for the next few months.
Honey crops were quite spotty in this area, which further aggravated the honey shortage for packers and consumers. In many cases the results were quite predictable--prices jumped up considerably at both the wholesale and retail levels. Beekeepers lucky enough to produce fair to good Brazilian pepper crops this last fall have been selling this amber honey at record prices. Most varieties of honey produced earlier in the 2014 season have long since been sold. Many commercial colonies are currently in California in preparation for almond pollination.
SOUTHWEST—By early December most colonies were in cluster during cold snaps, but still had cleansing flights during warm-ups. Beekeepers continue to feed colonies, especially in locations that had poor crops in 2014. In some states small hive beetles were quite bad this fall and caused loss of hives. Beekeepers are experimenting with various control methods including some of the new traps being advertised. With an early spring and seasonal rains, beekeepers should be able to bring most of their colonies through the winter alive. Many colonies will be split or used for California almond pollination in February and March. Migratory beekeepers will be feeding and making their splits in these southern states before returning to their northern home states in April and May for honey flows. Package bee and queen producers in this area are gearing up for what they believe will be another very busy season.
Demand for honey at both the wholesale and retail levels remains excellent, but most stocks of unsold honey have been gone for several months, especially the varietal favorites produced in smaller quantities.
EAST CENTRAL—With the onset of cold weather, many commercial beekeepers had moved their bees to the South or California. Non-migratory beekeepers were doing their best to prepare bees for a long winter. Some were still feeding, while others had wrapped hives for extra winter protection or had provided windbreaks. A few early reports of colony starvation had beekeepers concerned, especially in locations which had poor summer and/or fall flows.
Honey crops were quite variable this year due to erratic weather. However, most beekeepers were able to sell their honey for top dollar at either the wholesale or retail level due to the continued shortage of locally produced honey. Some beekeepers did not even have enough honey left to sell gift packs for the holiday season since demand had been so strong earlier in the fall.
WEST CENTRAL—Most beekeepers finished their extracting in October. In addition, a number of reporters said beekeepers were feeding colonies, especially in the locations which had poor crops. As in other areas, migratory beekeepers have moved many truckloads of bees to mostly California, but some truckloads are also still going to southern states. These colonies will continue to be fed and medicated until the almond pollination season starts in February. Recent rains in California have increased optimism that bees will have some forage to build up on. Cold weather and scattered snowfall began in November and have continued. More beekeepers seem to be providing winter wraps or windbreak protection in order bring colonies through the winter successfully.
Many beekeepers had already ...
U.S Honey Crops and Markets - December 2014
With the return of cold weather, beekeepers in most northern states had finished their beeyard work and were concentrating on finishing extracting, bottling and marketing of their honey crops. Many migratory beekeepers had moved their colonies to California holding yards and were feeding syrup and pollen sub to these colonies. They will need continued feeding until they are moved into the California almond groves in late January or early February. In the northern half of the country, some beekeepers are worried about colonies having enough winter stores due to poor honey crops in their states. Many beekeepers had fed colonies heavily this fall, but they will need additional syrup in February in order to prevent starvation. On a positive note, many beekeepers tell us that their colonies went into winter in excellent shape despite a shortage of stores. Cluster sizes seemed to be normal or larger than normal to insure an adequate population of bees to survive the winter.
With confirmation of another short honey crop over much of the country, honey packers are trying to lock-in sales of available honey for their inventories. Prices and demand at both the wholesale and retail levels remain strong.
NORTHEAST—Beekeepers had finished most of their outyard work with colder weather returning. Some beekeepers had already started feeding where flows were poor, but in other cases nice fall flows from goldenrod and other sources provided good winter stores. A lot will depend on how long and severe the winter is. Regular cleansing flights are also a must to insure best winter survival. Migrators had left the northeast for southeastern wintering locations or were moving colonies directly to California holding yards for almond pollination. Beekeepers were busy selling their honey and preparing for holiday sales if they had enough surplus left. Honey demand and prices remain excellent.
MIDEAST—Reporters said colonies went into colder weather with good bee populations and stores, except where the season had been poor due to unfavorable weather. However, most colonies were doing well, although beekeepers had reported that some weak or dead colonies had problems with wax moths or small hive beetles. The first part of fall was mild, so beekeepers were able to finish their winter hive preparations. Later cold weather had put colonies into cluster, although some beekeepers were still trying to feed colonies syrup or sugar patties. Honey crops were generally average or better this season for a number of beekeepers, but remaining surplus honey is selling quickly and demand is expected to continue to be brisk through the holidays.
SOUTHEAST—Parts of Florida were producing honey in October from Brazilian pepper primarily, but some melaleuca, goldenrod and aster was still blooming as well. Elsewhere in the Southeast fall flows were coming to a close and beekeepers were finishing their field work before colder weather set in. Colonies can survive on fewer stores in many of these states, but beekeepers sometimes extract all honey and then feed back sugar syrup to their bees. Often, feed containers will be left on colonies continuously through the winter months unless bee yards are moved. Commercial beekeepers will be moving colonies to California holding yards soon for almond pollination in early 2015. On the other hand, some northern beekeepers are completing their move to Southeastern states to overwinter. Colonies coming from the north often are short on stores and sometimes have high mite counts, so must be treated.
Currently, wholesale and retail honey sales are very good. Retail sales are expected to continue strong through the holiday season, but a number of our reporters thought they might run out of honey before then.
SOUTHWEST—Coming into the winter season, beekeepers were finishing feeding and medicating colonies. Most of the fall flows had come to an end, but many beekeepers will probably still need to feed their colonies before spring. Local colonies were mostly in good health with large clusters. However, some migratory beekeepers reported that the colonies they were bringing from northern locations will need some attention in order to survive. Rains had come to a number of dry locations in Arizona and New Mexico and this has partially relieved the drought. It will also help early wildflower flows in the desert during the spring of 2015. Honey crops were spotty over this region. However, both white and amber grades of honey continue to sell quite well at both the wholesale and retail levels. In early January beekeepers will start moving colonies to California for almond pollination. Pollination rental prices have remained profitable.
EAST CENTRAL—Honey crops were somewhat spotty with some beekeepers indicating better than normal total production, while others said that they had too much rain during clover and alfalfa flows. Some additional honey was made from goldenrod, but most beekeepers left it on their hives for stores. Some of the best honey crop reports came to us from Michigan and Wisconsin. Flows in Ohio, Indiana and Illinois were spotty, with the northern parts of these states appearing to have the best crops. Beekeepers have been finishing their mite treatments and fall feeding. The first hard frosts have come to much of the area, so most beekeeping work is done for the winter. Migratory beekeepers have either already left their home states for the South or California or will be doing so shortly. Bee clusters are large going into winter. Some reporters thought that was a good sign, while others said if populations are too large, colonies will exhaust their stores too quickly.
Honey is selling extremely well at both the wholesale and retail sales. Many beekeepers expect to sell out during the holiday season.
WEST CENTRAL—Honey crops were spotty in this area also due to erratic spring and summer weather. Cool weather or too much rain were blamed for below normal crops. Nevertheless, some beekeepers still managed to produce much better crops this year than last year. Despite cool, wet weather at times, which limited foraging, the Dakotas still produced better crops than last year when drought was the culprit. Minnesota crops were generally disappointing due to cool, wet erratic weather. One disappointed beekeeper in Iowa summed up his season like this, “This year has been bears, beetles, mites and poor flows. But next year will be better!”
Fall flows were not particularly good either, but some colonies were a ...
U.S Honey Crops and Markets - November 2014
Our hope and prediction that the total U.S. honey crop would see a significant upswing due to bumper clover and alfalfa honey crops in the Dakotas, Minnesota and Montana seem to have been premature. Although crops were better in the Upper Midwest due to plentiful clover and alfalfa, they were not as good as some beekeepers had earlier forecast. In addition, late summer weather turned wet and cool in many of these states which shut down foraging earlier than normal on remaining alfalfa, knapweed, sunflower, goldenrod and aster flows. Elsewhere in the country, production has not lived up to hopes due to erratic weather, varying from too cool and rainy to dry and hot. California’s third straight drought-induced poor honey crop may actually drop below the 10 million pound level for the first time in a number of years. So, what will the crop be in 2014? We still believe it may be above last year’s 150 million pounds, but probably less than 165 million pounds.
One optimistic note that seems to be prevalent over much of the country is colony health. Bees seem to have good populations going into the autumn months and we have not heard of large amounts of colony dwindling or deadouts. Mite and small beetle levels seem to be mostly manageable with beekeeper treatments. One major caution for beekeepers will be to watch winter stores. With poor crops in many locations, beekeepers have already started feeding colonies in many instances. The strong honey market may also have tempted some beekeepers to take a little more honey than the might have.
With honey remaining in short supply in many parts of the country, both wholesale and retail honey demand and prices have been excellent.
NORTHEAST—Mixed reports are coming in from beekeepers. In New England, honey flows from clover, wildflowers, basswood, alfalfa and buckwheat have been fair to good except in locations where rainy, cool conditions had interrupted flows. Later flows from knotweed, smartweed, goldenrod, knapweed, loosestrife and aster have been adding some surplus, but mostly the honey is going into the brood nest. While some beekeepers were still holding out for later surplus honey, many reporters said that they had removed supers and were in the process of treating for mites.
Honey sales have been excellent for those beekeepers selling their new crop at local markets and festivals. A good part of the honey produced in the Northeast is consumed locally rather than being sold to larger packers.
MIDEAST—After producing fair to good spring and early summer honey crops from wildflowers, sumac, tulip-poplar and clover, bees were idle until goldenrod, aster, wingstem, Spanish needles and other late summer and fall flows began. Beekeepers who took colonies to the mountains for sourwood produced some good crops from this premium honey source. Early reports from other beekeepers indicated good goldenrod flows, some of which will be harvested, but most of this surplus will be left with the bees for winter stores. Earlier in the season commercial pollinators took colonies to cotton, cucumber and pumpkin fields. Most beekeepers had begun their mite treatments before the beginning of September. Small hive beetle numbers were generally low, according to most of our reporters.
Beekeepers were having no trouble selling their new crop honey locally at farmers’ markets, roadside stands and late summer/early fall festivals.
SOUTHEAST—Final honey crops were not very good over much of this area. Erratic weather, often hot and wet, did not allow bees to forage as much as they normally do. In addition, some of the main flows were late and short-lived. There were a few bright spots such as the sourwood flow in the Georgia mountains. Unfortunately, traditionally sought-after honeys such as orange and tupelo were a big disappointment for many beekeepers. Honey flows in Alabama and Mississippi were thought to be only 60 to 75 percent of normal. Beekeepers said colonies were continuing to work fall sources such as goldenrod, aster, Spanish needles, kudzu and assorted late season wildflowers. In Florida, bees had made some honey from melaleuca, but no great surpluses. Beekeepers still had hopes that Brazilian pepper would yield one last crop before the cooler winter months began.
With honey crops being harder to obtain, but the price of honey at record prices, more and more commercial beekeepers are extracting all surplus honey and then feeding bees syrup all winter to keep colonies alive. Demand remains strong for all grades of new crop honey, but the lighter grades are selling at a premium price. Local consumer demand for honey remains very strong.
SOUTHWEST—In late summer, hot, dry weather set in drying up many of the remaining nectar sources except in irrigated locations. However, by September several storm systems had passed through the area at times creating local flash flooding. Some goldenrod, aster, Spanish needles, and other fall sources were still providing a little nectar in some locations. With honey still in short supply, demand remains quite strong for locally produced varieties. Prices are expected to remain strong through the remainder of fall and winter. Many local beekeepers producing short crops have already sold out.
EAST CENTRAL—Too much rainy weather lowered honey flows for many beekeepers in this area. Earlier in the season, the area had great potential, but when unrelenting rains continued through July and August, bees were not able to do their normal foraging on clover and alfalfa. The southern parts of Ohio, Indiana and Illinois often recorded better crop averages because flows occurred earlier in the season before rainy weather set in. Another problem cited by beekeepers was the lack of colony strength due to the large winter losses that had to be made up by beekeepers. Reporters suggested that many colonies had to build up on the flow rather than make surplus from the relatively short-lived honey flows. Bee populations have built up well this season, despite the relatively sparse honey flows. Most beekeepers began mite treatments in August or early September. Some also began feeding colonies that were short on stores. Bees were continuing to work goldenrod, knapweed, black-eyed Susan, Spanish needles and snow aster.
As might be expected, honey is again in short supply and prices have remained high at both the wholesale and retail levels. In an effort to take advantage of the strong market, some beekeepers may have taken too much honey and will need to feed extra sugar syrup and corn syrup.
WEST CENTRAL—Despite better honey crops in the Dakotas and parts of Minnesota, some reporters said that...
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.