Crop and Market – October 2023
Hot weather afflicted much of the nation this summer, and drought added insult to injury in some parts. But most of our contacts report average or better honey production — much of it coming before the summer swelter.
Honey markets in some places have leveled off a bit, though many beekeepers continue to raise prices to keep up with stubborn inflation, and to catch up with production and packaging increases they have had to absorb over the past year or so.
Pennsylvania saw optimum rainfall this spring and honey crops have been mostly above average, led by wildflowers in some area and black locust and basswood in others. Grocery honey prices seem to have dropped a bit in the northeast, though one retailer was selling truffle-infused honey from Italy at $28.00 for 250 grams. Roadside stands are effective sales tools, especially with signs posted directing consumers to them. Costs and selling prices continue to rise in most of the state.
New Hampshire’s Ag Commissioner issued a warning of tough times for the state’s farmers, after a February freeze wiped out peaches, a May frost did a number on apples, and heavy July rains hurt grain and vegetable producers. Impacts on beekeepers have been disparate; while wet weather necessitated pollen supplements for some, beekeepers in other areas are seeing plentiful pollen and above-average honey crops.
New York honey crops have been mostly up, due to a good mix of sun and rain. Clover and knapweed have been good producers, clover was still going strong in August, and goldenrod looked promising.
Maine had a very wet spring, which slowed honey production in some areas, but all that moisture has benefited late-summer buckwheat, goldenrod, mustard and vetch crops, and promises to also help with fall flows. More consumers seem to prefer their honey in glass, though glass prices continue to rise.
Maryland received lower rainfall in late spring. reducing the white clover flow, but adequate rain through summer meant sumac and soybean were good honey producers. Locust, tulip poplar, Russan olive and brambles have also been good.
Tulip poplar was down in central Tennessee, but was a bright spot in the northeast. Sumac and yellow clover have been mostly good producers. Wholesale prices are stable, and retail are up slightly.
Southeast Kentucky saw its first tulip poplar crop in six years due to a rare reprieve from sassafras weevil. The warm wet spring also was good for the sourwood bloom, but the overall nectar flow has been down by about half from last year. Fewer hayfields and pastures are also contributing to lower production. Retail prices are up in the state, from both inflation and higher demand, and the wholesale market is strong.
Bees have struggled in much of Florida, having come home late from California almonds to poor forage due to a late winter freeze and a wet gallberry season. The Gulf Coast did see its first good palmetto crop in years, though, possibly due to Hurricane Ian messing up the overwintering cycle of love bugs, which are fewer this year. Palm, tallow, white crepe myrtle and horsemint produced well during the summer.
Mites have had an impact on production in Georgia. Retail sales are down somewhat.
Alabama’s production is also down, as spring was cold and wet. Blackberry and privet hedge were disappointing, but clover was better. Vendor days at local stores are a good way to give taste samples to consumers.
East Texas honey production has been about the same as last year, which is to say not very good. With possible reasons ranging from housing development cutting into forage, the summer heat wave, a late winter freeze, and tallow still suffering from the harsh winter two years ago, could this be the new normal? Meanwhile, retail demand keeps rising, and more people are bringing in outside honey and labeling it “local”; new state legislation attempts to address this problem.
New Mexico has been too hot and dry to support good honey crops this year. The best flows have been Russian olive and Russian knapweed.
The cool spring resulted in poor honey crops in Louisiana, which has helped to drive up retail prices. Top producers have been tallow and vines, while clover has been poor.
A long spring drought put a halt to what initially looked like a promising year in northern Illinois. Black locust produced but the bees needed it for food. Mites are mostly under control, and many beekeepers are just hoping to get their bees into winter healthy.
Central and western Wisconsin saw fair to good honey crops. Packages were installed with snow on the ground, and early spring was wet, but then the skies cleared and and the nectar flow was on. Top producers included locust and basswood (as their long tap roots allow them to continue to thrive during dry spells), and alfalfa, which blooms heavily in the heat. There is a renewed interest in comb honey, as well as beeswax for candles.
Michigan crops are a bit low due to below-average rainfall in June and July. Basswood and clover did pretty well. Honey prices continue rising to catch up with market demand and fuel prices.
Indiana honey crops are well above average, as the warm dry weather boosted white clover and other crops. Even some colonies that swarmed recovered to produce nice surpluses.
Eastern Missouri has seen another excellent year for honey thus far. A late, wet spring gave way to sunshine, strong spring wildflowers and a rare bounty of black locust honey. A dearth of rainfall from early May to July shut down the clover flow, but supers were already full for those able to keep swarming in check. July and August rains bring hope of a good goldenrod/aster fall flow.
It’s been hot in Iowa, though “the bees seem to be taking it better than we are.” The summer flow was good, but the perfect weather that made that possible included no rain, so the outlook for a fall crop looks doubtful.
Northeast Kansas saw good rains and bumper honey crops, but much of the state is still in drought mode; yellow sweet clover was a major disappointment. Social media is filled with scammers selling nucs and queens.
Nebraska experienced very good honey production, as adequate rainfall has been good for clover and alfalfa especially.
North Dakota honey crops are up from last year, though still a bit below normal. Ground moisture has been better this year, and good producers include sunflower, alfalfa, and sweet clover. Imports continue to put downward pressure on prices.
Northwestern Colorado reports great improvement over last year, as a cool, wet spring fed wildflower growth and substantial honey crops. Wholesale and retail markets are up, in part due to higher-priced honey coming in from neighboring counties.
Nevada has had about an average year, with alfalfa leading honey crops. Retail and wholesale markets remain stable.
Washington’s honey season was about average thus far. Black locust and blackberry have been the most productive crops.
California’s wet winter and spring provided much-needed ground moisture for beekeepers there, but did not boost honey production as much as they hoped — in part because the rainy season disrupted normal bloom times. Cotton honey crops were also lowered by a heavy lygus bug infestation, and its associated pesticide applications. Sage, buckwheat, toyon and star thistle were among the top producers.
Oregon was down slightly, with hot, dry weather reducing maple, clover and blueberry crops. Farmers market sales have been up somewhat.
Alaska’s crop is down about 25%, and down in general in recent years, due partly to mosquito spraying, and to climate change. Demand for local honey is high.
Weather has been good in Hawaii. Honey crops have been good, but our reporter suffered losses due to pesticides from a neighboring farmer. Honey prices are up due to high gasoline and other expenses.