U.S. Honey Crops and Markets

 U.S Honey Crops and Markets - January 2015


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  ...