U.S. Honey Crops and Markets

 U.S Honey Crops and Markets - September 2014


The “great unknown” in regard to this year’s honey crop remained just that as we went to press for the September issue. As we mentioned last month, this major unknown factor for determining the 2014 honey crop was the Upper Midwestern states of North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota, as well as the honey crop in the important Intermountain honey-producing state of Montana. These four states alone produced nearly half the total U.S. honey crop in 2013. The potential for good to excellent honey production in these states rested on the weather in mid to late summer. Spring and early summer weather was generally described as cool and wet. However, this weather had fostered excellent clover and alfalfa growth in these states, but warm temperatures were now needed to spur nectar production and bee foraging. Further delaying honey crop estimates in these states is the fact that the season was late in getting underway due to cool weather and then regular rainfall has kept pastures and fields greener much later into the summer than normal.
Although honey crops have been fair to good in the Northeast and Mideast, honey production is said to be average or below average for some states in the Southeast and Southwest. And, of course, the West Coast remains in the news as being in another very severe drought.

So, the U.S. honey crop will again total around 150 million pounds (give or take 10 million pounds), which has been described as the “new normal honey crop” in the United States. Losses of colonies and pasture land across country over the last 10 years have combined to reduce yearly honey production from its previous normal of around 200 million pounds. In addition, some commercial honey producers have now become full-time pollinators as the demand and payments for almond pollination have grown over the last few years.
The effects of shorter U.S. honey crops on the wholesale and retail markets as our population grows are obvious—prices and demand for U.S. honey will continue to remain strong. However, changes in our Chinese honey-dumping tariffs could alter this strong market overnight, so it is imperative that we continue to extoll the virtues of locally produced U.S. honey.

NORTHEAST—Continued regular rainfall throughout the summer allowed some honey plants to bloom for a longer than normal amount of time. These better flows, however, must be tempered with the huge winter colony losses that had to be recouped, as well as the cool spring, which held back early build-up in many cases. As this was written in late July, bees were continuing to work white Dutch clover, buckwheat, alfalfa and assorted wildflowers. Reporters were also hoping to obtain better than average late summer and fall flows from goldenrod, aster, Japanese bamboo and loosestrife. Earlier in the season some beekeepers reported swarming problems, while others said that their new queens were superseding within the first month of introduction.

MIDEAST—As we indicated last month, a number of beekeepers who had their colonies up to normal strength in time for spring and summer flows have made good honey crops this season. However, since winter losses were so high, quite a few beekeepers are still in a rebuilding mode, so will not make a lot of honey. Fair to good honey flows have come from tulip-poplar, sumac, wildflowers, thistle, assorted berries, clover, vetch, persimmon, gallberry and clover. In addition, the sourwood flow has started in the mountains, but this flow was still in progress. Since regular rains continued throughout July, plants have stayed greener and bloomed longer. If good ground moisture persists into late summer and fall, beekeepers may also obtain some fall honey from goldenrod, asters, loosestrife and knapweed. Beekeepers were in the process of extracting their spring honey crops and expect to have no trouble at all in selling this honey since demand remains excellent, especially for locally produced honey.

SOUTHEAST—Periods of heavy rain, alternating with hot, humid weather continued into July. Spring honey flows were down in some states due to earlier freezes or cool, rainy conditions during the flower-blooming period. However, this was not the case in Mississippi where spring and early summer honey flows were reported to be near average or better than average due to continued good soil moisture conditions. Honey flows mentioned in Alabama and Georgia included crepe myrtle, privet hedge, clover, sumac, basswood and chestnut. A spring cold snap hurt the normally good flows from blackberry and tulip-poplar. Chinese tallow flows along the Florida and Georgia coasts were fair, but at times rainy conditions prevented foraging or washed nectar out of the flowers. Earlier spring flows in Florida from orange, gallberry, palmetto and tupelo were spotty and the overall crops were below normal. However, beekeepers were still hopeful that continued regular rains would help later mangrove, melaleuca and Brazilian pepper flows in Florida.

As the summer progressed, more beekeepers were reporting increased problems with varroa mites and small hive beetles. Also, beekeepers continue to report problems with queen longevity. Honey extracting is continuing with well over half the crop now extracted. Honey demand remains quite strong at both the wholesale and retail levels. However, honey supplies are expected to remain below average due to continued predictions of another below normal crop in the Southeast.

SOUTHWEST—Honey crops reported thus far have been fair to good over much of Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas and Oklahoma. At times periods of rainy weather held back normal bee foraging. On the other hand, very hot weather was also hard on bees and plants. Dry weather in Arizona and New Mexico limited continued bee foraging to irrigated crops and scattered desert plants that were still blooming. Honey flows mentioned included brush, wildflowers, clover, alfalfa, privet and Chinese tallow along the Gulf Coast. Beekeepers in parts of Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas and Oklahoma anticipate that honey flows will last longer this season due to late rains in July. Demand for honey continues to be very good at both the wholesale and retail levels. Prices are also expected to remain high due to the continued shortage of locally produced honey.

EAST CENTRAL—Some of the best spring flow reports came from the southern parts of this area where temperatures were warmer and rainy conditions did not inhibit foraging as much. After a very long, harsh winter, many beekeepers are in a rebuilding mode, so will not make as much honey as they normally would when they have more and stronger colonies coming into spring. Earlier in the season, some growers had to scramble to find adequate numbers of colonies for pollination of their fruit and berry crops since winter colony losses were so heavy.

Cooler weather or rainy conditions hurt some of the earlier flows from black locust, wildflowers, and clover. On the other hand, some of our reporters said they had enough hot weather at the right time to provide some nice honey crops from clover and alfalfa. Flows were late in Wisconsin, Michigan and parts of northern Ohio due to the cool, rainy weather. However, ...