U.S. Honey Crops and Markets

 U.S Honey Crops and Markets - December 2014


With the return of cold weather, beekeepers in most northern states had finished their beeyard work and were concentrating on finishing extracting, bottling and marketing of their honey crops. Many migratory beekeepers had moved their colonies to California holding yards and were feeding syrup and pollen sub to these colonies. They will need continued feeding until they are moved into the California almond groves in late January or early February. In the northern half of the country, some beekeepers are worried about colonies having enough winter stores due to poor honey crops in their states. Many beekeepers had fed colonies heavily this fall, but they will need additional syrup in February in order to prevent starvation. On a positive note, many beekeepers tell us that their colonies went into winter in excellent shape despite a shortage of stores. Cluster sizes seemed to be normal or larger than normal to insure an adequate population of bees to survive the winter.
With confirmation of another short honey crop over much of the country, honey packers are trying to lock-in sales of available honey for their inventories. Prices and demand at both the wholesale and retail levels remain strong.

NORTHEAST—Beekeepers had finished most of their outyard work with colder weather returning. Some beekeepers had already started feeding where flows were poor, but in other cases nice fall flows from goldenrod and other sources provided good winter stores. A lot will depend on how long and severe the winter is. Regular cleansing flights are also a must to insure best winter survival. Migrators had left the northeast for southeastern wintering locations or were moving colonies directly to California holding yards for almond pollination. Beekeepers were busy selling their honey and preparing for holiday sales if they had enough surplus left. Honey demand and prices remain excellent.

MIDEAST—Reporters said colonies went into colder weather with good bee populations and stores, except where the season had been poor due to unfavorable weather. However, most colonies were doing well, although beekeepers had reported that some weak or dead colonies had problems with wax moths or small hive beetles. The first part of fall was mild, so beekeepers were able to finish their winter hive preparations. Later cold weather had put colonies into cluster, although some beekeepers were still trying to feed colonies syrup or sugar patties. Honey crops were generally average or better this season for a number of beekeepers, but remaining surplus honey is selling quickly and demand is expected to continue to be brisk through the holidays.

SOUTHEAST—Parts of Florida were producing honey in October from Brazilian pepper primarily, but some melaleuca, goldenrod and aster was still blooming as well. Elsewhere in the Southeast fall flows were coming to a close and beekeepers were finishing their field work before colder weather set in. Colonies can survive on fewer stores in many of these states, but beekeepers sometimes extract all honey and then feed back sugar syrup to their bees. Often, feed containers will be left on colonies continuously through the winter months unless bee yards are moved. Commercial beekeepers will be moving colonies to California holding yards soon for almond pollination in early 2015. On the other hand, some northern beekeepers are completing their move to Southeastern states to overwinter. Colonies coming from the north often are short on stores and sometimes have high mite counts, so must be treated.

Currently, wholesale and retail honey sales are very good. Retail sales are expected to continue strong through the holiday season, but a number of our reporters thought they might run out of honey before then.

SOUTHWEST—Coming into the winter season, beekeepers were finishing feeding and medicating colonies. Most of the fall flows had come to an end, but many beekeepers will probably still need to feed their colonies before spring. Local colonies were mostly in good health with large clusters. However, some migratory beekeepers reported that the colonies they were bringing from northern locations will need some attention in order to survive. Rains had come to a number of dry locations in Arizona and New Mexico and this has partially relieved the drought. It will also help early wildflower flows in the desert during the spring of 2015. Honey crops were spotty over this region. However, both white and amber grades of honey continue to sell quite well at both the wholesale and retail levels. In early January beekeepers will start moving colonies to California for almond pollination. Pollination rental prices have remained profitable.

EAST CENTRAL—Honey crops were somewhat spotty with some beekeepers indicating better than normal total production, while others said that they had too much rain during clover and alfalfa flows. Some additional honey was made from goldenrod, but most beekeepers left it on their hives for stores. Some of the best honey crop reports came to us from Michigan and Wisconsin. Flows in Ohio, Indiana and Illinois were spotty, with the northern parts of these states appearing to have the best crops. Beekeepers have been finishing their mite treatments and fall feeding. The first hard frosts have come to much of the area, so most beekeeping work is done for the winter. Migratory beekeepers have either already left their home states for the South or California or will be doing so shortly. Bee clusters are large going into winter. Some reporters thought that was a good sign, while others said if populations are too large, colonies will exhaust their stores too quickly.
Honey is selling extremely well at both the wholesale and retail sales. Many beekeepers expect to sell out during the holiday season.

WEST CENTRAL—Honey crops were spotty in this area also due to erratic spring and summer weather. Cool weather or too much rain were blamed for below normal crops. Nevertheless, some beekeepers still managed to produce much better crops this year than last year. Despite cool, wet weather at times, which limited foraging, the Dakotas still produced better crops than last year when drought was the culprit. Minnesota crops were generally disappointing due to cool, wet erratic weather. One disappointed beekeeper in Iowa summed up his season like this, “This year has been bears, beetles, mites and poor flows. But next year will be better!”

Fall flows were not particularly good either, but some colonies were a ...