U.S. Honey Crops and Markets

 U.S Honey Crops and Markets - March 2015

(excerpt)

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  ...