U.S. Honey Crops and Markets

 U.S Honey Crops and Markets - April 2014


The first part of the almond pollination season went quite well in California. However, by early March unrelenting rains were preventing normal bee foraging, as well as knocking some of the blossoms from the trees. The rains were badly needed in this drought-stricken state, but when they came all at once like this, they also caused flash flooding and mudslides. Beekeepers and almond growers were hopeful that the weather would clear in time to salvage the remaining almond pollination season. On the plus side, the badly needed ground moisture may help California wildflower honey flows which have been severely curtailed by drought over the last couple of years.

Wave after wave of cold weather, often accompanied by snow or ice, continued to be a major beekeeper concern in the Midwest and Northeast. Oftentimes, maple and other early pollen and nectar sources are in bloom by late February or early March, but that was certainly not the case this year. Up until the first half of March, beekeepers were lucky to have a day now and then that was warm enough to allow bee cleansing flights. Many beekeepers were afraid their bees were running out of stores, so they were adding sugar patties or pollen supplements to their hives. In the Mideast and parts of the Southwest, temperatures were still colder than normal, but they had warmed enough to allow beekeepers to feed syrup and start some beeyard work. Meanwhile, southern and California bee breeders were busy trying to raise bees and queens in preparation for a hectic spring shipping season. As we indicated last month, many bee breeders booked up early since northern beekeepers were worried about being able to replace their winter colony losses. Breeders were hoping that they could avoid a late season severe frost which would delay package bee and queen deliveries.

The Florida orange flow was just getting started as this was written in early March. Beekeepers were hoping for a good flow, but some had decided to skip this major flow for fear of suffering devastating spray losses again as happened to a number of beekeepers last year.

NORTHEAST—In early March beekeepers and bees were still confined to their dwellings for the most part. Continued blasts of cold weather, often accompanied by snow or freezing rain, were making spring seem far off. Nevertheless, package bees, nucs and queens have been ordered and beekeepers were preparing their equipment for the new season. Many of our reporters felt that winter losses would be higher than normal, but thought that the first few weeks of March would tell the story. Some beekeepers were continuing to feed winter sugar patties or candy fondant to bees, but others hesitated to disturb colonies during such cold temperatures. However, they were planning to begin feeding as soon as the temperatures warmed some. With the heavy snowfall in some locations, beekeepers are hoping that honey plants will have plenty of moisture for normal growth once spring arrives. Many of the best honey flows in the Northeast take place during May or early June. Demand for honey continues to be strong at the wholesale and retail levels.

MIDEAST—Beekeepers were hoping that by the time this report is printed that their cold weather problems would only be a memory. They have had to contend with a very harsh winter to date—much cold weather, often accompanied by snow or ice. In early March, colonies are often starting to build up in this area, but not this year! Beekeepers were continuing to feed colonies, but were having difficulty reaching some outyards due to either deep snow or muddy conditions. Winter cleansing flights have also been few and far between, which is unusual for this area. Beekeepers are now assessing their apiaries to determine colony losses, as well as weak and starving colonies. Package bee, nuc and queen demand are expected to be heavy this spring. Some beekeepers said that they were worried that late freezes in March and April could be devastating. On the bright side, the added ground moisture should be very helpful to wildflowers and row crops.

Although honey demand remains strong, very little locally produced honey remains unsold at this late date. Beekeepers are looking forward to having supplies of new crop honey later this spring.

SOUTHEAST—Erratic late winter weather was making bee buildup difficult. Periods of nice, warm weather were being interspersed with cold, stormy weather in the form of rain, sleet and snow. Many beekeepers in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and northern Florida were still feeding colonies. Some producers report rather high winter loss rates, while others have said their colonies came through winter fine. Maple, willow, elm, elder, henbit and other early sources were providing pollen and nectar for brood development during warm periods. One nice thing about all the extra moisture is that it should help later spring and summer honey flows. If the weather cooperates, the gallberry and palmetto flows in Georgia and northern Florida look encouraging. The orange flow was just getting underway, but some beekeepers were a bit pessimistic due to previous major problems with citrus greening and resultant heavy insecticide use that killed or crippled a number of colonies last season. Some Florida migratory beekeepers, who transported their colonies to California, may try to get back to their home states in time for the orange bloom, but others have elected to stay in California for colony buildup and then return in time for gallberry and palmetto flows.

Many new hobbyists continue to swell the ranks of bee clubs and some reporters said short courses in their states were filled to capacity. Meanwhile, demand for honey at both the wholesale and retail levels remains strong. Unfortunately, most beekeepers were sold out and will not have any new crop honey until later this spring.

SOUTHWEST—Cool, wet weather prevailed over much of the eastern half of this area in February and early March. Even West Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, which had been bone dry, received some nice soaking rains in early March. These rains made current bee work difficult and limited foraging, but the added moisture was very welcome since it will help spring and summer plant growth. Migratory operations were still in California when this was written. However, colonies remaining in the Southwest were working maple, elm, oak and early wildflowers. Some beekeepers were still feeding colonies due to the late spring. Colonies generally wintered well, but need plenty of warm weather to build up in time for important spring honey flows from wildflowers, brush, clover and alfalfa.

Interest in beekeeping remains excellent. Honey demand is also very good, but little honey remained unsold. Local honey enthusiasts are waiting for their favorite local varieties of honey to be placed on the market.

EAST CENTRAL—The winter has been what one reporter called an “old-fashioned” winter with significant snowfall and long periods of very cold weather. At first glance, this sounds like a disaster for many beekeepers and it will be for those who did not leave adequate stores. On the other hand, other reporters said that the extremely cold weather has kept colonies in a tight cluster and they have not used as many stores as they might have if the winter had been warmer. Lack of cleansing flight days was a very real concern, however, and beekeepers were thankful for any days that were sunny and warm enough to allow bees to get outside of their hives for a while. Deep snows were a mixed blessing. The snow has helped insulate colonies from the cold and provided needed ground moisture, but it has also made outyard work such as feeding difficult if not impossible. Preorders of package bees, nucs and queens have been very heavy.

Packers are looking for any remaining supplies of honey, but few are still available. Demand for honey at both the wholesale and retail levels remains excellent.

WEST CENTRAL—Colonies returning from California will be stronger this year. Meanwhile, weather conditions in this area have been quite harsh with extended periods of cold, windy weather and in some cases heavy snow. On the other hand, other reporters were wishing for more snow or rain to replenish very short ground moisture conditions in parts of the Dakotas and Nebraska. The season is getting off to a slower start due to the late spring. Maple and willows often start blooming by early March, but that was not the case this season. However, many beekeepers had already begun to check and feed colonies where they could reach outyards. Demand for package bees, nucs and queens is