U.S. Honey Crops and Markets

 U.S Honey Crops and Markets - November 2014


Our hope and prediction that the total U.S. honey crop would see a significant upswing due to bumper clover and alfalfa honey crops in the Dakotas, Minnesota and Montana seem to have been premature. Although crops were better in the Upper Midwest due to plentiful clover and alfalfa, they were not as good as some beekeepers had earlier forecast. In addition, late summer weather turned wet and cool in many of these states which shut down foraging earlier than normal on remaining alfalfa, knapweed, sunflower, goldenrod and aster flows. Elsewhere in the country, production has not lived up to hopes due to erratic weather, varying from too cool and rainy to dry and hot. California’s third straight drought-induced poor honey crop may actually drop below the 10 million pound level for the first time in a number of years. So, what will the crop be in 2014? We still believe it may be above last year’s 150 million pounds, but probably less than 165 million pounds.

One optimistic note that seems to be prevalent over much of the country is colony health. Bees seem to have good populations going into the autumn months and we have not heard of large amounts of colony dwindling or deadouts. Mite and small beetle levels seem to be mostly manageable with beekeeper treatments. One major caution for beekeepers will be to watch winter stores. With poor crops in many locations, beekeepers have already started feeding colonies in many instances. The strong honey market may also have tempted some beekeepers to take a little more honey than the might have.

With honey remaining in short supply in many parts of the country, both wholesale and retail honey demand and prices have been excellent.

NORTHEAST—Mixed reports are coming in from beekeepers. In New England, honey flows from clover, wildflowers, basswood, alfalfa and buckwheat have been fair to good except in locations where rainy, cool conditions had interrupted flows. Later flows from knotweed, smartweed, goldenrod, knapweed, loosestrife and aster have been adding some surplus, but mostly the honey is going into the brood nest. While some beekeepers were still holding out for later surplus honey, many reporters said that they had removed supers and were in the process of treating for mites.

Honey sales have been excellent for those beekeepers selling their new crop at local markets and festivals. A good part of the honey produced in the Northeast is consumed locally rather than being sold to larger packers.

MIDEAST—After producing fair to good spring and early summer honey crops from wildflowers, sumac, tulip-poplar and clover, bees were idle until goldenrod, aster, wingstem, Spanish needles and other late summer and fall flows began. Beekeepers who took colonies to the mountains for sourwood produced some good crops from this premium honey source. Early reports from other beekeepers indicated good goldenrod flows, some of which will be harvested, but most of this surplus will be left with the bees for winter stores. Earlier in the season commercial pollinators took colonies to cotton, cucumber and pumpkin fields. Most beekeepers had begun their mite treatments before the beginning of September. Small hive beetle numbers were generally low, according to most of our reporters.

Beekeepers were having no trouble selling their new crop honey locally at farmers’ markets, roadside stands and late summer/early fall festivals.

SOUTHEAST—Final honey crops were not very good over much of this area. Erratic weather, often hot and wet, did not allow bees to forage as much as they normally do. In addition, some of the main flows were late and short-lived. There were a few bright spots such as the sourwood flow in the Georgia mountains. Unfortunately, traditionally sought-after honeys such as orange and tupelo were a big disappointment for many beekeepers. Honey flows in Alabama and Mississippi were thought to be only 60 to 75 percent of normal. Beekeepers said colonies were continuing to work fall sources such as goldenrod, aster, Spanish needles, kudzu and assorted late season wildflowers. In Florida, bees had made some honey from melaleuca, but no great surpluses. Beekeepers still had hopes that Brazilian pepper would yield one last crop before the cooler winter months began.

With honey crops being harder to obtain, but the price of honey at record prices, more and more commercial beekeepers are extracting all surplus honey and then feeding bees syrup all winter to keep colonies alive. Demand remains strong for all grades of new crop honey, but the lighter grades are selling at a premium price. Local consumer demand for honey remains very strong.

SOUTHWEST—In late summer, hot, dry weather set in drying up many of the remaining nectar sources except in irrigated locations. However, by September several storm systems had passed through the area at times creating local flash flooding. Some goldenrod, aster, Spanish needles, and other fall sources were still providing a little nectar in some locations. With honey still in short supply, demand remains quite strong for locally produced varieties. Prices are expected to remain strong through the remainder of fall and winter. Many local beekeepers producing short crops have already sold out.

EAST CENTRAL—Too much rainy weather lowered honey flows for many beekeepers in this area. Earlier in the season, the area had great potential, but when unrelenting rains continued through July and August, bees were not able to do their normal foraging on clover and alfalfa. The southern parts of Ohio, Indiana and Illinois often recorded better crop averages because flows occurred earlier in the season before rainy weather set in. Another problem cited by beekeepers was the lack of colony strength due to the large winter losses that had to be made up by beekeepers. Reporters suggested that many colonies had to build up on the flow rather than make surplus from the relatively short-lived honey flows. Bee populations have built up well this season, despite the relatively sparse honey flows. Most beekeepers began mite treatments in August or early September. Some also began feeding colonies that were short on stores. Bees were continuing to work goldenrod, knapweed, black-eyed Susan, Spanish needles and snow aster.

As might be expected, honey is again in short supply and prices have remained high at both the wholesale and retail levels. In an effort to take advantage of the strong market, some beekeepers may have taken too much honey and will need to feed extra sugar syrup and corn syrup.

WEST CENTRAL—Despite better honey crops in the Dakotas and parts of Minnesota, some reporters said that...