U.S. Honey Crops and Markets

 U.S Honey Crops and Markets - July 2014


As this was written in early June, many of the main honey flows were either just starting or had not started yet in the Midwest and Northeast. White Dutch clover was just starting to bloom in many cases and quite a few of our northern reporters said they had not seen a lot of yellow sweet clover yet. Cool and/or wet conditions continued into mid-May and many beekeepers said both their colonies and the surrounding forage were running two to three weeks behind normal. Many beekeepers were still rushing to make up winter losses, which were significantly above the reported USDA bee loss survey national loss figure put a 23.2%--many were 50% or higher, according to our sources. Some of our reporters said they will make little or no honey this season since they will be rebuilding their beeyard colony numbers.

So why were the USDA national bee survey colony loss figures so much lower than those reported by many beekeepers in the Midwest and Northeast? Of course, the national figure takes into account beekeepers in the western and southern U.S. where winter losses were not nearly as bad. In addition, many of the larger migratory beekeepers overwinter in the South or California, so their bees did not have to endure the relentless cold winter.
Honey flows have been fair to good over much of the Southeastern United States, but erratic weather or dry conditions have hurt some of the major Southwestern U.S. honey flows. California early season honey crops were fair to good, but once the severe drought took hold, remaining non-irrigated plants dried up quickly.

Honey remains in very short supply around the country and the rest of the world, so offering prices at both the wholesale and retail levels are expected to remain strong throughout the rest of the year. Beekeepers in the Midwest and Northeast are hoping for a long summer with adequate rains so they can salvage some of their main honey crops from clover, alfalfa, soybeans and other sources. Intermountain state beekeepers are hoping that they will have enough ground moisture and/or irrigation water to produce good honey crops from clover and alfalfa.

NORTHEAST—Despite the return of warmer temperatures during the last half of May and early June, many colonies are still in a rebuilding mode and have not made appreciable honey crops from the early fruit tree and wildflower sources. Some beekeepers have declared this a rebuilding year after suffering devastating winter colony losses. Others are busily preparing for major flows from black locust, honeysuckle, sumac, clover and various wildflowers. Many of the traditional spring honey flows were late, but then they often came all at once catching beekeepers off guard. Fruit tree and berry crops also bloomed late and this gave beekeepers a little extra time to rebuild their colonies before needing to move them into orchards. As we reported earlier, some beekeepers were not able to purchase all the packages, nucs or queens that they wanted due to the heavy demand. Moisture conditions are still mostly adequate, but reporters in some locations said they could use some good showers to replenish ground moisture. By early June more seasonable temperatures had returned. Several reporters said that they are trying to produce some surplus honey, despite the late season, since local honey stocks were so depleted in the region.

MIDEAST—Beekeepers were scrambling earlier in the season to rebuild weak colonies or repopulate deadouts before the major flows started. Winter losses were very heavy and a number of beekeepers had trouble securing all the bees or queens they needed on time due to heavy orders and cooler weather in some of the southern bee production states. Buildup flows came later than normal due to the cool spring. However, by May many fruit trees and wildflowers were in full bloom. A number of nectar sources were mentioned including berries, wildflowers, flowering trees, black locust, persimmon, honeysuckle, holly, raspberries, blueberries, sumac, tulip-poplar, tupelo gums and clover. Honey stocks remain very low in this area, but some beekeepers are worried about being able to produce much surplus honey due to weak colonies.

SOUTHEAST—Honey flows in April and May were fair to good from of number of spring flowers and tree bloom. In Florida beekeepers had made good crops from gallberry, palmetto, mangrove and tupelo, although the earlier orange flow was a disappointment. In Georgia bees had been working tulip-poplar, palmetto, blackberries, and clover. Earlier in the season, some commercial beekeepers had transported semi-loads of bees to northeastern states for blueberry and cranberry pollination. Beekeepers within Florida and parts of Georgia also pollinated cucumbers and watermelons. In Alabama, a late, cool spring caused bees to have a slow build up, but once warmer weather started, they had been making up for lost time with good flows reported from blackberries, privet hedge, clover, and assorted wildflowers. Stormy early spring weather in Mississippi had held up foraging, but once the weather calmed, good flows were reported from berries, privet hedge, yellow top, vetch, tulip-poplar and clover. In some cases, heavy swarming caused problems for beekeepers and weakened colonies.

Beekeepers were starting to remove surplus supers and were extracting honey. This area is very short on locally produced honey, so beekeepers know they will have no trouble selling this year’s crop at good prices at either the wholesale or retail levels.

SOUTHWEST—Flows were a bit slower than normal, but beekeepers were reporting better flow conditions in May. In Texas, beekeepers reported bees working yaupon, red clover, wildflowers, horsemint, privet hedge, tallow and brush. In Louisiana beekeepers mentioned tallow, wildflowers and clover as major sources for nectar. In Arkansas and Oklahoma bees were working wildflowers, vetch, blackberries, clover and alfalfa. Dry weather was slowing remaining flows in parts of Texas, Arizona and New Mexico from assorted wildflowers. Irrigated crops like alfalfa should still be able to produce fair to good flows. Swarming was mentioned as a problem by some of our reporters. Some beekeepers had begun to extract supers of honey. There is a shortage of honey in this area and demand is very strong for new crop honey.

EAST CENTRAL—As we indicated earlier, colony losses were quite high in this area, so package bee, nuc and queen demand was very strong. Unfortunately, many beekeepers were told by bee companies that they were booked solid until summertime. ...