U.S. Honey Crops and Markets

 U.S Honey Crops and Markets - October 2014


The news of average or better than average honey crops in the big honey-producing states of North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana and Minnesota should raise the national honey crop predictions. Better honey crops in South Dakota alone could raise the national honey crop by as much as 10 million pounds. This increase, as well as average or good crops in the other three major honey-production states mentioned above should raise the 2014 U.S. honey crop from last year’s 150 million pounds to perhaps as high as 175 million pounds this year. That is quite a change from our prediction last month that the total crop would be about the same. Excellent moisture conditions created what many farmers and beekeepers called a “clover year” in the Upper Midwest.

Although cool, rainy conditions at times hurt honey production in parts of the West Central and East Central areas, the overall effect is that this added moisture allowed clover and alfalfa to bloom much longer than normal. Commercial migratory beekeepers brought strong colonies back from California and they were able to take full advantage of lush clover and alfalfa growth in the Midwest.

Although the Florida honey crop will again be down and the California honey crop will be dismal, both of these states did not have great honey crops in 2013, so their poor production will not affect 2014 honey crop estimates to any great degree. Honey crop reports from the rest of the Southeast and Southwest have been mixed due to either earlier erratic weather or later dry conditions. The Northeast and the Mideast should both have better honey crops due to good moisture conditions throughout the honey flow season. Honey production in the Intermountain states is also thought to be better this season, despite some locations having either mild or severe droughts.

Honey prices and demand for honey have remained excellent over most of the country, although some reporters were worried that news of better honey crops would hurt the wholesale market.

NORTHEAST—While some of our reporters said their areas had ideal honey flow conditions, others complained of too much rainy weather at the wrong time. The continuation of intermittent rains through August kept things very green and also allowed honey flows to last longer in the case of clover, alfalfa, buckwheat and various wildflowers. Beekeepers were also hoping that the extra moisture would mean longer goldenrod and aster flows. New crop honey is selling very well at both the wholesale and retail levels. A number of farmer’s markets and roadside stands were selling honey, as well as various fall festivals.
MIDEAST—Honey flow reports have been mixed. A number of reporters felt their honey crops were better this season, while others said that a combination of weak colonies and erratic weather combined to hurt their total honey yields. Intermittent rains kept the countryside green and extended flows from clover, thistle, wildflowers and sourwood. Some beekeepers in Virginia and Tennessee told us that their sourwood flow was their best flow this season. They were quite pleased since sourwood honey sells significantly above other varietal honeys.

Those beekeepers complaining about weak hives said that they had a high winter loss to replace and then a number of new queens were superseded, which further delayed their colony buildup. Since ground moisture conditions have remained good, beekeepers were hoping for better than average fall flows from late clover, goldenrod, aster, wingstem and assorted autumn wildflowers.

Beekeepers are finishing their extracting for the season, but have been busy selling their new crop honey at local farmer’s markets, roadside stands, fairs and festivals. Demand is excellent and most reporters felt that they would have no trouble selling their new crop honey for a good price.

Colonies should go into winter in better shape than they have for several years. Varroa mite numbers are down, as well as small hive beetle numbers.

SOUTHEAST—Florida honey crops were down, mainly due to poorer than expected flows from orange, gallberry, tupelo and wildflowers earlier in the season. Later flows from palmetto, cabbage palm, and melaleuca have been better. Unfortunately, these later honeys are darker and do not sell as high as orange and gallberry. However, beekeepers are happy to have the honey to sell since the market remains very strong for all grades of honey. Bees had been working crepe myrtle and kudzu, but by mid-September Brazilian pepper, goldenrod and aster flows should get underway.

Elsewhere in the Southeast beekeepers are predicting normal to slightly better than normal total honey crops from wildflowers and clover. At times, rainy weather was a problem for both the bees and beekeepers. Due to good ground moisture, bees continue to work late summer and fall wildflowers. Earlier in the summer, some beekeepers received average to good flows from cotton and soybeans. Fall flows will include Spanish needle, smartweed, goldenrod and aster.
Honey continues to sell very well in the Southeast at both the wholesale and retail levels. Prices are up.

SOUTHWEST—Major flows were winding down for the season. Reporters indicated that bees were still working late summer wildflowers in addition to irrigated crops such as cotton, alfalfa, cantaloupes and melons. Fall nectar sources include goldenrod, aster, Spanish needles and smartweed. Flow reports are mixed, but most beekeepers felt their crops would be about average or below average due to erratic spring and summer weather varying from bone dry to torrential downpours. Some locations reported fair flows from clover, alfalfa and soybeans earlier in the season.

EAST CENTRAL—Summer honey crops were much improved over parts of Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin. However, in Ohio the spring honey crops were said to be better than later crops due to erratic weather. Bees were making honey from clovers, alfalfa, knapweed, basswood, trefoil, loosestrife, mint and assorted wildflowers. Ground moisture has remained good, so plants have bloomed longer than normal in some cases. Prospects are also good for later fall flows from goldenrod, aster, loosestrife, Spanish needles, and smartweed. Some second-cutting alfalfa may also be available. Beekeepers are hoping for a late frost so that their colonies will be able to take full advantage of fall flows. Many beekeepers were extracting and bottling honey in anticipation of a busy sales season at roadside stands, festivals and fairs this fall. Demand and pricing remain excellent at both the wholesale and retail levels.

WEST CENTRAL—Many of our reporters were indicating good to excellent honey crops as the season progressed into September. Cool, rainy spring and early summer conditions allowed clovers, alfalfa, knapweed, sunflowers and wildflowers to bloom for an extended period of time. In some locations the rainy, cool weather hit during the clover, alfalfa and basswood flows and this actually hurt some honey crops since bees were not able to forage. Overall, the Dakotas and Minnesota will have improved honey crops this year and since all three of these states are huge honey producers, this will definitely boost the national honey crop total as well. Many of our reporters were calling this a “clover year” since yellow and white sweet clover were so abundant in the fields due to plentiful rain. Soybeans were also yielding nectar and will add to crop totals. With continued intermittent rains, beekeepers were hoping that second-cutting alfalfa, sunflowers, buckwheat, knapweed, goldenrod, aster and loosestrife would help provide some late summer or fall surplus honey, as well as good overwintering stores.

Some beekeepers who had to replace a lot of colonies this spring said that ...