U.S. Honey Crops and Markets

 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 ...