U.S. Honey Crops and Markets

 U.S Honey Crops and Markets - June 2015

(excerpt)

UNITED STATESInitial honey crop reports coming from the Southeast, Southwest and Western reporting areas have not been encouraging due to weather extremes. In the Southeast and Southwest, stormy weather interrupted normal important spring honey flows over many states. Then, in California the drought continues to curtail major honey flows in that state. The torrential rains in parts of Texas and Oklahoma in May caused extensive damage not only to residences, but many thousands of agricultural acres were devastated as well. No doubt many colonies were lost to floods and honey crops in these flooded locations will be severely curtailed.

Meanwhile, early flows reported in parts of the Northeast, Mideast, East Central and West Central areas have been fair to good. Rainy weather at times curtailed early important flows from sources like black locust, wild mustard, tulip poplar and clover. With the good rains, however, later clover and alfalfa flow prospects had improved, provided the weather turns sunny and warm. The continuing loss of pastures to row crops remains a major problem in the Midwest and honey crop averages have suffered as a result. Colonies that had to be replaced or were weak coming out of winter were still in a build-up mode during much of the spring season, so no surplus honey had been obtained from them.

The honey market continues to be strong over much of the country at both the wholesale and retail levels. Unfortunately, little new crop honey had been extracted yet, so domestically produced honey stocks remain scarce.

NORTHEAST—Beekeepers were busy supering overwintered colonies. On the other hand, others were still feeding their divides, packages and nucs that were installed this spring to replace deadouts. Beekeepers experienced a harsh winter causing higher than normal winter colony losses in a number of cases. Then, spring was slow in coming, causing beekeepers to feed surviving colonies. Warmer temperatures finally returned in May, allowing beekeepers to fulfill their pollination contracts, as well as build up other colonies for later honey flows. Black locust, sumac, tulip poplar, honeysuckle, wildflowers and early clovers were mentioned as important nectar sources in May and June. Some reporters were worried about swarming if many nectar flows came on at the same time June. At times, frequent rains prevented bee foraging on the many spring flowers in bloom.

MIDEAST—Although rainy cool weather had delayed colony buildup earlier in the spring, by May bees were able to do more foraging. Colonies showed explosive growth in May as many different nectar and pollen sources came into bloom simultaneously. Bees had been working black locust, clover, tulip-poplar, sumac, canola, assorted berries, privet hedge, wildflowers and early tupelo. Sporadic rains continued to interrupt foraging, but beekeepers said the moisture would be beneficial for later flows from clover and other sources. In addition to many deadouts being restocked this spring, reporters also felt that many new beekeepers were continuing to start up with packages or nucs they had purchased locally.

No new crop honey was available for sale yet as this was written, but beekeepers were planning to start extracting in July and August. Most old-crop honey supplies have been exhausted by now.

SOUTHEAST—One reporter described the Florida honey crop thus far as possibly the “worst honey year in Florida for the last 50 years.” Granted, this assessment is coming from only one part of the state, but most beekeepers would agree that not a lot of honey has been made thus far in the season due to erratic weather conditions. Estimates on the orange flow have varied from 25 to 75% of normal. Unfortunately, later important flows from gallberry, tupelo and palmetto have also been or the sparse side. Beekeepers were hoping that weather conditions would clear up soon enough to catch to tail end of these flows, as well as later Brazilian pepper and remaining wildflower flows.

Stormy weather has also been blamed for a slow start to honey flows in Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama and South Carolina. However, now bees were building up quickly on numerous wildflowers, fruit trees and berries, in addition to privet hedge, dogwood and azaleas. Later flows were also expected from clover growing in the pastures and along roadsides. In some cases, the stormy weather caused excessive swarming as colonies were confined to their hives for days at a time. Then, once sunny weather returned, swarms issued from hives all at once.

Some honey had been extracted and sold in Florida, but most new crop honey was still setting on hives as this was written. However, many beekeepers were planning to start extracting soon after the major flows were over. Honey remains in short supply, but in some cases commercial beekeepers are still complaining about competition from cheap imported honey. New crop orange honey is selling at a premium and we have heard of prices as high as $3.00 per pound for honey in the barrel. Retail sales also remain strong, but not a lot of new crop honey had been put on the market yet. Some beekeeper/packers who are having short crops are buying from other beekeepers, so they will be able to pack enough honey for their regular customers.

SOUTHWEST—Earlier this spring colonies were building up well on numerous wildflowers, brush and trees. However, in May back to back storms rumbled through Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana, often producing record rainfalls and stormy weather. As a result, some of the main honey flows that normally occur in May were shut down due to bees being unable to forage. As this was written, more rains were on the way. Flooding has been severe in some parts of Texas and Oklahoma, but as this was written, we had not yet received any reports of colony losses. This is quite a contrast from some previous years when drought was the worry rather than too much rain. Earlier, migratory beekeepers had returned their colonies from pollination work in other parts of the country and were hoping to obtain surplus honey for the remainder of the season. Some good flows were being reported in locations where the rainy weather has not been continuous. We have not heard yet how the important Chinese tallow flows did along the Gulf Coast. Elsewhere in the area, if more seasonal sunny, warm temperatures return, colonies could still make some good honey crops from remaining flows.

Little new crop honey had been extracted yet ...