U.S. Honey Crops and Markets
U.S Honey Crops and Markets - February 2016
What kind of weather winter will bring has been anyone’s guess, but long-range forecasts have predicted a continuation of milder weather with short periods of much colder and sometimes snowy conditions. The fall was mostly mild over much of the country, but sometimes quite stormy. The rain was welcome to replenish ground moisture, except in parts of the Southeast and Southwest that experienced flooding and property damage. In the Intermountain and Western parts of the country, both needed rains and snow have helped states that were quite dry. Better snowpacks in the Sierras were especially welcome because they will help provide needed water for crops this spring and summer.
Reports on colony conditions going into winter were mixed—some beekeepers said colonies were strong, had low mite levels and satisfactory winter stores, but the opposite story came from other reporters. In the case of higher mite levels and/or low stores, beekeepers were forced to do late mite treatments and to continue feeding well past the time they normally do so. Fortunately, in a lot of cases, the mild fall allowed outyard bee work to continue until late in the year. Migratory beekeepers were also beginning to check colonies in January for colony strength in preparation for pollination season.
Many beekeepers had sold most if not all their crop. Prices and demand have remained good for small-lot wholesale honey purchases, but larger lot honey sales were continuing to face increased competition from larger amounts of cheaper foreign honey being brought into this country. In these cases, packer offering prices had dropped to between $1.60 and $1.80 per pound. Most reporters continue to indicate a strong retail honey market.
NORTHEAST—As this was written in late December, beekeepers had been commenting on the mild fall. Many were also hoping for a mild winter, but others said too much warm weather might cause bee clusters to consume their stores too soon. Many colonies went into winter in average to excellent condition with good bee populations and adequate winter stores. Some reporters also said that they wrapped their colonies, either individually or in 4-packs on pallets. A few beekeepers said that they had been taking advantage of the warmer weather and were feeding colonies before temperatures plummeted this winter.
Interest in hobby beekeeping remains strong if early bee class registration reports are any indication. Meanwhile, beekeepers also continue to indicate excellent retail demand for honey. Small-lot wholesale honey demand and prices also remain good.
MIDEAST—This area too had been experiencing a mild fall. Rain came to the area also and has been mostly welcome to replenish ground moisture. However, little snow had been received yet. The mild weather allowed some extra time for winter stores feeding, but many colonies went into winter strong. Demand for package bees and queens is expected to be strong again this spring due to the continued interest in starting beekeeping. Bees will also be needed to replace winter deadouts or for those beekeepers making plans to expand their operations. Better honey crops for beekeepers in some Mideastern states provided a nice surplus of honey available for a honey-starved public seeking locally produced brands and varieties to replenish their stocks. Sourwood honey remains in short supply, however, as is normal for this sought-after honey.
SOUTHEAST—The fall and early winter were warmer than normal. Parts of Florida were also dry, but some of the other Southeastern states had received nice rainfalls. Reporters said that maples would start blooming in Florida in January. This nectar and pollen is needed because colonies have been quite active and were using their stores faster than normal. The citrus flow that comes in March is questionable due to citrus greening and grower spraying. Beekeepers are very concerned and some have abandoned their old citrus outyards in favor of other flows or staying longer in California after almond pollination. Some migratory beekeepers may also be planning to go to other pollination jobs before returning to their home states, thereby bypassing the entire citrus bloom.
Colonies were generally in good condition over much of the rest of the area, but some beekeepers are still feeding since early pollen and nectar flows have not started yet. Package bee and queen producers have been especially busy feeding colonies in an attempt to produce the most bees in the least amount of time. Demand for bees and queens is expected to continue to be strong during the 2016 season. Some companies had already reported heavy orders by early January.
Wholesale market reports continue to be mixed due to imported honey competing for large-lot sales, while smaller packers and other local users are still paying well. Retail sales continue to be very good, but local honey supplies are starting to run short due to poor 2015 honey crops.
SOUTHWEST—Some beekeepers were still moving their colonies to California for almond pollination. Other commercial beekeepers were gearing up for the new season by feeding colonies heavily, especially those that were low on stores. The weather has been sporadic with occasional periods of heavy rain or snow. Migratory colonies being built up will be split to sell nucs or will be moved to northern states later for honey flows. Beekeepers are hoping for better honey flows in 2016 since prices and demand for honey remain good to excellent. A few commercial beekeepers continue to encounter sales resistance at the wholesale level, but most of the 2015 crop has been sold by now.
EAST CENTRAL—The fall was mild and bees had frequent cleansing flights. In addition, beekeepers were able to do some bee work that they had not finished earlier, including feeding and medicating. Some reporters felt that their bees were using fewer stores due to the warmer weather, while others disagreed and said their bees were eating stores more quickly because they were more active. Other beekeepers have moved colonies to California for almond pollination or to southern states for early spring buildup and honey flows. What the winter weather will bring is anybody’s guess at this point, but earlier predictions were for a milder than normal winter. Demand for bees is expected to be strong again this spring.
Most of the 2015 crop has been sold, but some beekeepers have said that larger lots of honey were still encountering increased competition from imported...