U.S. Honey Crops and Markets

 U.S Honey Crops and Markets - August 2014


Honey crops reported thus far in the Southeast, Southwest and West have not been encouraging due to either erratic weather earlier in the season or later dry, hot weather. The Mideast and the Northeast have actually had some of the best early honey crop reports, but colony numbers may still be down due to very heavy winter colony losses. The East Central, West Central and Intermountain areas were still big question marks, partly due to the lateness of the season. Some of the states in these three areas are traditionally very large honey producers. Although the harsh winter and cool spring in the East Central and West Central areas got bees off to a slow start, once honey flows began, colonies were able to make up for lost time. Both the clovers and alfalfa bloomed later than normal and this gave colonies a little extra time to build up. In addition, ground moisture in a number of these Midwestern states remained plentiful well into summer due heavier than normal rains in June. This allowed honey plants such as clover and alfalfa to bloom longer than normal.

Bee health reports have generally been encouraging. Varroa and small hive beetle numbers have been low, but later summer and early fall is often when these two pests become problematical for bees and beekeepers.

Demand for honey at both the wholesale and retail levels remains strong and packer inventories of domestic honey are quite low. Honey prices are expected hold their own or even increase as new crop honey starts coming onto the market.

NORTHEAST—After getting off to a slow start due to heavy winter losses and cool spring weather, beekeepers were more optimistic about the remainder of the honey production season. Bee populations exploded in June and some beekeepers were worried about swarming problems. Others were quickly adding supers in an effort to keep up with fast-growing colonies. Beekeepers have reported fair to good flows from black locust, honeysuckle, sumac, brambles and clover. Plentiful moisture is expected to keep honey plants blooming longer into the late summer, which should help surplus honey crops. Earlier spring pollination work went well with the exception of a few cold spells which slowed bee flight temporarily.

Honey supplies are very low in the Northeast and beekeepers are anxious to resupply their regular customers who have been asking to buy honey. The market is expected to remain quite strong for honey sales at both the wholesale and retail levels.

MIDEAST—Early spring honey flows were at times held back by cool, wet weather. This was the case in Kentucky, for example, where black locust flows were shut down in many parts of the state. However, later in the spring beekeepers along the Atlantic Seaboard reported fair to excellent honey flows from black locust, sumac, clover, honeysuckle, thistle, persimmon, privet, tulip poplar, tupelo, huckleberry and brambles. Ground moisture and temperatures remain optimal, so beekeepers are hoping for continued good flows in July and August. One factor that may lower total honey crops is if beekeepers were not able to recoup their colony losses from the severe winter. Beekeepers were beginning to extract and bottle this year’s first honey. They anticipated that the honey would sell quickly because of the strong market.

SOUTHEAST—Florida honey crop reports were mixed, but can generally be classified as below normal due to poor earlier flows from orange, gallberry and tupelo. Later palmetto, wildflower and cabbage palm flows were better in parts of Florida and Georgia. Bees were still working tallow along the Gulf Coast and crop reports were good. In Georgia, bees also obtained flows from blackberry, wildflowers and clover. In Mississippi, beekeepers report flows from privet hedge, clover and wildflowers. Reporters from Alabama have mentioned fair to good flows from privet hedge, sumac, clover, mimosa, cotton and magnolia. In some cases heavy rains ruined flows and caused localized flooding in the Southeast. Colonies have generally been in good health this season, but as we went to press, some beekeepers were reporting increased small hive beetle activity.

New crop honey is being sold about as quickly as it is put into the barrel or bottle. Demand remains very strong for most types of the honey with the lighter honeys being offered the highest prices per pound.

SOUTHWEST—Although erratic spring weather made for spotty early honey flows, once weather conditions began to stabilize, colonies were able to start producing surplus honey. Another problem in some Southwestern states was the higher than normal number of winter-killed colonies that had to be replaced. Numerous wildflowers, privet hedge, hairy vetch, horsemint, sumac, tallow, clover and alfalfa were all mentioned as providing significant honey flows in various parts of the Southwest. However, by June some reporters were indicating that dry conditions, as well as hot temperatures, were taking their toll on plants in some locations. On the other hand, some states had received sufficient rain to keep nectar flowing. Those beekeepers taking their colonies to the Gulf Coast for the Chinese tallow flow report two to three supers of honey being taken from most colonies for extraction.
Honey demand and prices remain very good. This area, like much of the country, continues to experience a shortage of locally produced honey. When new stocks are offered for sale, they are often sold quickly at a premium price. This is especially the case for varietal favorites produced by regional beekeepers.

EAST CENTRAL—This area remained about two to three weeks behind normal well into late spring and early summer. First of all, many beekeepers had a huge number of deadouts to replace, in addition to weak colonies to rebuild. At the same time, cooler than normal temperatures, often accompanied by rain showers, continued throughout the spring season forcing beekeepers to feed their colonies longer. The cool, wet weather often disrupted important build-up and surplus honey flows from fruit bloom, wild mustard, assorted wildflowers and black locust. Then, ...