U.S. Honey Crops and Markets

 U.S Honey Crops and Markets - April 2015


Early reports coming from California indicated a successful almond pollination season. Several reporters told us that growers in their area had released colonies earlier than normal. This will allow them to get an earlier start on making nucs and divides or moving on to other pollination jobs or honey flows.

The Southwest and Intermountain areas had a rather mild early winter, but February was at times harsher with reports of snowstorms and colder than normal temperatures. Since a number of western states have been on the dry side, the added snow cover or rain were very welcome. Meanwhile, the West Central and East Central areas experienced a very cold February and several major snowstorms, contrasting with the earlier mild weather in December and January. The Northeast has won the dubious honor this winter for having the most severe winter. The Mideast and Southeast experienced early mild winter conditions, but in February several cold snaps set back colony development and bee work for several days at a time.

Colony loss reports took a turn for the worse after beekeepers peeked into their hives in late February. The February extreme cold was just too much for many colonies that succumbed to the harsh weather. Early reports from Northeastern sources suggest as much as a 50% colony loss for a number of beekeepers. Survival of remaining colonies rests on the severity of March weather.

NORTHEAST—Beekeepers have been busy checking colonies on warmer, sunny days. As of early March, some reporters were saying that their colonies had not had cleansing flights for one to two months. Beekeepers in some states are reporting losses as high as 50%. This area has probably had one of its snowiest winters on record. However, what has been most damaging to colonies has been the unrelenting cold weather. One Nor’easter after another has hit these states. Beekeepers were hoping that March would bring some cleansing flights and also allow beekeepers to check and feed colonies. Package bees, nucs and queens will be in very high demand again this season. Locally produced honey supplies are exhausted until new crop honey starts being produced in May and June.

MIDEAST—Beekeepers have been busy feeding colonies and cleaning up deadouts in preparation for packages, nucs or making divides. This has been a long and often severe winter for beekeepers in the Mideast. Despite continuing cold weather, on some warmer days bees had been gathering pollen from maple, alder, elm, willow and skunk cabbage. Brood rearing was starting to gear up in overwintered colonies. Beekeepers were hoping for warm weather and no late devastating frosts. Honey flows will start in late April and early May in some portions of this area. Most of our reporters said that they were mostly sold out of honey, but were still receiving regular calls from customers looking for honey.

SOUTHEAST—The spring season is well underway, despite some late February cold snaps which slowed colony activity and hurt some of the early wildflower bloom. Maples, alder, elm, oak, willow, quince, jasmine, dandelion, henbit and wild mustard are just a few of the many nectar and pollen sources which were in bloom. Major flows in Florida from orange, gallberry and wildflowers will start in March. Orange flow prospects are only fair due to a combination of pesticide fears keeping some colonies out of the groves, as well as a number of sickly trees. The sick trees bloom at odd times rather than all at once and this hurts the intensity of the flow. According the February USDA National Honey Report, an estimated 125,000 to 150,000 hives in Florida out of the state’s 400,000 were shipped to California for almond pollination work.

Beekeepers in Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina and Mississippi are still feeding colonies due to cold, erratic late winter weather. However, colonies are beginning to show good growth now that nectar and pollen is becoming more plentiful. Demand for package bees, nucs and queens is expected to be very heavy again this season. Some package bee and queen companies were booking up quickly for the spring delivery season.
Honey demand at both the wholesale and retail levels remains excellent, but stocks are mostly exhausted until the new crop starts coming in later this spring.

SOUTHWEST—Colonies were building up well, but cool weather and snow storms at times delayed colony expansion. Trees and early wildflowers have begun to bloom. Moisture conditions are adequate to good for the present. Beekeepers will need to be alert to colony expansion to prevent excessive swarming where possible. Some beekeepers are making divides or will sell nucs from their excess bees. Commercial bee work in the area was minimal due to many of these hives still being in California for pollination work. Main honey flows should start in March and April from brush, wildflowers, alfalfa and clover. Demand for honey remains strong, but supplies are very limited for the present.

EAST CENTRAL—Beekeepers tell us that a lot of colonies were lost in mid to late February due to the bitterly cold weather. In some years, bees have good cleansing flights in February and sometimes begin early foraging on maple if conditions remain mild for several days at a time. Unfortunately, that was not the case this season. A number of beekeepers tried feeding colonies with mixed results. In some cases conditions were just too cold for colonies to break cluster and feed on sugar patties or candy boards. In some states bees were able to get out for brief cleansing flights, but for the most part, they remained in tight clusters. March weather will determine whether heavy bee losses continue or subside. Beekeepers were hoping that warmer temperatures would return as soon as possible.
Beekeepers have continued to sell some honey, but most large stocks have long since been sold. Demand remains good for honey at both the wholesale and retail levels.

WEST CENTRAL—Many commercial colonies were still in California or the South, but will be returning in April for spring buildup. December and January winter weather was on the mild side, but then a bitterly cold February took a heavy toll on some apiaries with beekeepers reporting heavy losses due to extended bitterly cold temperatures resulting in starvation. Some beekeepers tried feeding with mixed results due to the cold temperatures preventing colonies from being able to break cluster to feed on beekeeper provided candy boards or sugar patties. A few beekeepers reported that ...