U.S. Honey Crops and Markets – July 2017
Poor honey flow and beekeeping conditions in Florida have curtailed honey production in this huge beekeeping state. The terrible drought is blamed for poor honey crops in many instances, but other problems such as the extensive wildfire along the Florida-Georgia border, loss of bee pasture, varroa and small hive beetles are also high on the list of problems that Florida beekeepers often cited. On the other hand, beekeepers over much of the rest of the Southeast have reported normal or good honey crops this season. The Southwest has had better honey crop conditions, but at times erratic weather has hurt crops in this area as well. Earlier this spring more rain in Arizona and New Mexico helped deserts to bloom into a “sea of wildflowers” at times.
Farther north, honey flow conditions look fair to good. At times erratic spring weather hurt colony development and foraging. Ground moisture is adequate in most northern areas, but there are some dry locations in the Upper Midwest and Intermountain states. The Dakotas and Montana are three of the largest honey-producing states in these two areas, so good crops in these states often determine whether the U.S. honey crop will be better or worse.
Some of our reporters felt that wholesale honey demand and prices would be on the increase this season, after larger beekeepers have weathered a couple years of declining packer interest due to the ready availability of cheaper foreign honey. Retail honey sales continue to be strong over most of the country.
Many of the main honey flows began in May and early June. Bees were still working numerous blooming wildflowers, trees and shrubs, including clover, black locust and sumac. Some beekeepers have also reported bees working tulip-poplar trees in their area. Unfortunately, at times rainy, cool weather has interrupted or stopped some of these important flows. Overwintered colonies had filled their first supers, while divides, nucs and packaged bees were still working on their second hive bodies in most cases. A few reporters continue to indicate problems with new queens disappearing or becoming drone layers. This disrupts colony growth until a new queen can be installed and starts laying. Colony losses were still fairly high in many area states due to a long, harsh winter. Little new crop honey was available for sale yet. Many beekeepers were sold out of last year’s honey supplies. Commercial beekeepers were doing quite a bit of pollination on apples, various brambles and cranberries.
The mild winter and early spring helped both bee development and early honey flows. In addition to various wildflowers, trees and shrubs, beekeepers said honey flows were coming from brambles, black locust, holly, blueberries, sumac, tulip-poplar, tupelo and clover. In some cases swarming was heavier than normal due to the early spring and improved colony overwintering. At times, rainy, cool weather has delayed or interrupted spring honey flows. However, beekeepers seemed to be optimistic about obtaining good honey crops. Quite a few beekeepers were also involved with pollinating area orchards, brambles and then cotton later in the season. Demand for honey remains strong, but few beekeepers had any significant stocks remaining from last season.
Florida is the big disappointment in the Southeast this season due to extreme dry, hot weather. The orange flow was rated at 20% of normal, while later wildflower flows have been quite spotty, depending on soil moisture. Gallberry provided some of the best flows, but has been spotty in its honey production. Palmetto, mangrove, sea grape and tupelo flows have been only fair or poor for much of the state. Some of the best honey surpluses seem to be coming from beekeepers in the Panhandle area of the state. Horrific wildfires along the Georgia-Florida border have taken their toll on honey production. In many cases beekeepers had to move colonies due to the fires and so missed honey flows. In other cases, beekeepers lost entire beeyards to wildfires.
Reports from Georgia have been mixed—near the Florida border dry weather and the wildfire took a toll on honey production, but in other parts of the state reports regarding flows from tulip-poplar, privet hedge, locust, brambles, wildflowers and clover have been more encouraging. In addition, honey flow reports from Mississippi and Alabama have also been more encouraging. These states have had more moisture and also had the added benefit of a mild winter and early spring which gave bee populations a real boost. Excessive swarming was a problem at times earlier in the season. Beekeepers reported honey flows from wildflowers, black locust, brambles, tallow, privet hedge, tulip-poplar and clover.
Little new crop honey has been marketed yet, but new crop orange honey is said to be receiving quotes of $2.70 to $2.80 per pound at the wholesale level since the amount produced was so meager. Other new crop honey is also selling well at both the wholesale and retail levels. Beekeeper pollination revenue continues on the rise as more beekeepers look for alternative sources of income in this traditional honey production area. Prices on blueberries were quoted at $60 to $90 and $45 to $75 per colony for various row crops.
Spotty honey flows have been reported in a number of states. Last winter was mild and spring came early over much of this area. In Texas and Louisiana honey flows came early, but erratic weather at times interfered with foraging. Above average swarming was also a problem in some locations. Early flows mentioned included wildflowers, fruit trees, brush, alfalfa, clover and Chinese tallow. As this was written, we had not received word yet on how the tallow flow along the Gulf Coast developed. This is a very important flow for commercial migratory beekeepers who often obtain two or more supers from the bloom. In parts of Arizona and New Mexico, good early rains brought on tremendous desert wildflower flows over parts of these two states. Irrigated alfalfa and cotton should also provide honey flows this summer.
In addition to weather problems, some beekeepers also had problems with queen loss or supersedure this spring. This set back colony development at a crucial time of the season. Migratory beekeepers had moved their colonies back to their northern locations in the Dakotas, Montana and Minnesota. Most were happy about colony overwintering and buildup in the South.
Remaining honey inventories in the Southwestern states were …