U.S. Honey Crops and Markets – May 2021
Winter weather is well past us now, and spring blossoms beckon our bees into the fields. “Lord willing, and the creek don’t rise,” the COVID-19 winter will also soon be melting away.
Pennsylvania saw high winter losses, but spring buildup looked good as of late March, and ground conditions were about normal.
New York exerienced a “real winter,” with parts of the Finger Lakes region seeing snow on the ground continuously from December through February for the first time since 1994. Retail sales have bounced back some from the fall, but are still somewhat sluggish due to the continued pandemic.
New Hampshire’s small hobbyists appear to have experienced significant losses compared to the average. There is resulting strong demand for package bees. Winter/early spring feeding was needed, but spring buildup is progressing well. One reporter wonders whether the current campaign against fraudelent “honey” will translate to higher retail prices.
Winter losses were very high in Maine this year. Both glass jars and plastic bottles continue to be in short supply. Spring colony buildup is fair to good.
Losses were as high as 75% in northern Virginia, and package demand is high, but soil moisture is good and early wildflowers were abundant. In the Blue Ridge Mountains, winter losses were closer to 10%, but it’s been a cold, wet spring thus far.
Southern Kentucky saw two weeks of hard freeze and damaging ice storms in early February, followed by a historic flood in late February/early March. But losses stayed within about 25 percent, and surviving colonies are building up well.
Losses approached 50% in parts of Tennessee, with most dying in February and early March. Spring buildup has been fair. The sassafras beetle has been harmful to the tulip poplar crop in recent years.
Losses were high in Alabama (around 40%), but it was an early spring. The dandelion crop was bountiful, spring buildup has been good and the outlook is promising for tulip poplar and clover crops.
Florida losses ranged from about 20-40%. Honey inventories were low coming out of winter, and mostly Brazilian pepper. Spring buildup was fair. Prospects for the orange crop looked good on the Gulf coast, but poorer in the northeast.
Honey stocks were higher in southern Georgia, where it was a colder-than-average winter. Spring buildup was progressing well, and prospects were good for the orange crop.
Louisiana’s losses were around 10-15 percent, though some feeding was necessary. Beekeepers are increasing colony numbers, and the outlook for spring looks good, with fair to good soil conditions. Demand for queens and packages is about normal, and retail sales continue strong, with roadside stands quite effective.
The severe winter storm that caused massive power outages in Texas also stressed honey bee colonies. Some commercial beekeepers were fortunate to have their bees in California before then, but unfortunately the freeze-out also caused severe damage to citrus and vegetable crops.
New Mexico saw losses around 40 percent, and soil moisture was low in early spring. Demand remains high for local honey, and inventories are running low.
Arizona temperatures have been slightly below normal. Drought conditions continue throughout most of the state, and the main nectar crops in February were desert plant bloom, alfalfa and citrus (primarily oranges and lemons. Demand for honey is high.
The February cold snap had a hand in bumping Wisconsin’s loss percentage into the 40s; strong colonies made it, but weak ones did not. UW-Madison is preparing a winter beekeeping course for January 2022, featuring interactive conversations with commercial and sideline beekeepers. Spring buildup has been good, and many operations are expanding their numbers to meet the continued high demand for honey at both retail and wholesale outlets.
That “polar vortex” also weeded out the weak colonies in Illinois, and some larger beekeepers in the northeast reported losses upwards of 70 percent. But spring temps and good soil moisture will help some to make up these losses with agressive splitting. Nuc sales are also up over 50 percent. COVID shutdowns continue to affect some retail markets.
Northern Indiana reports that it was overall an “excellent” winter for the bees, with losses around 10-20 percent. They were a bit higher (around 35%) in the west, but spring buildup has been good. Nucs have gained popularity over packages in recent years, and they are in good supply. Retail sales have also remained strong.
Michigan survival rates varied, with a central reporter citing losses as high as 60 percent, while other areas were much lower. Temperatures reportedly dropped below zero most nights in February.
Kansas saw winter losses in the 30-50% range. Some were by hobbyists sending small clusters into winter and not seeing them survive a cold February where overnight temps dropped to -20 over a two-week stretch. But many beekeepers reported that their normal mite-control methods were not as effective last fall. Package bees are more and more being superseded by nucs, and though nuc demand is high, supply is even higher; a Facebook post seeking nucs is generally met with 10-15 suppliers vying for the business — even at $180-220 apiece — though delivery of those nucs may be delayed due to the harsh winter.
North Dakota saw about 20 percent winter loss, while South Dakota’s was higher (about 50%). Spring buildup is fair. Honey inventories are low, as both retail and wholesale markets remain strong.
Losses were higher than normal in Missouri, where many of those iffy colonies sent into winter did not survive February’s cold spell (4-5 consecutive nights of sub-zero temps — a rarity in this state). Honey is still moving well both retail and wholesale.
Iowa reports 40-50 percent losses, attributed mostly to mites. Says one reporter, “I am certain that we will get [the varroa problem] figured out. Just hope I live long enough to see it happen.” Wholesale and retail markets continue strong in this state.
Nebraska also saw a tough winter, with higher-than-usual losses. Retail sales are good, and the wholesale market is fair.
Colorado reports lower winter losses, and good spring buildup. Both wholesale and retail markets are doing well.
Nevada saw about 50 percent winter losses. Spring buildup is good, and the wholesale market is strong here.
Winter losses were about 20-25 percent in Washington, and spring buildup is good. COVID has increased demand for honey, and some beekeepers are expanding to meet it.
Sales continue strong in Oregon, with “porch pickup” a popular option due to the pandemic. Winter losses ranged from 25 to 40 percent, but spring buildup has been strong. Soil moisture is good in the northwest, but it’s drier in the south.
Hawaii sees minimal winter loss, as there is no winter as we know it, and there are no mites. Feeding is not normally necessary, as there is plenty of pollen and nectar all year.
A reporter on Kauai says the biggest problem there by far is thieves — “they are like wax moths, lurking about, siezing every opportunity to walk off with our hives.” Honey crops include coconut, Java plum, citrus and papaya. “I have never seen a honey bee on a mango flower.”
Madadamia nut is a good nectar source on the “Big Island” of Hawaii.