U.S. Honey Crops and Markets

 U.S Honey Crops and Markets - May 2015

(excerpt)

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...