Honey production down across U.S., but increases in NW

Annual beehive maintenance at Hiatt Honey Co., Ephrata, Wash. Honey production in the Northwest increased 22 percent last year, according to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service.

While honey production across the U.S. declined 9 percent in 2017 year over year, it increased 22 percent in the Northwest.

Fewer colonies nationwide and a decrease in yield per colony led to the nationwide decrease, the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service reported.

The biggest issue last summer was drought in the Midwest, said Chris Hiatt, vice president of the American Honey Producers Association and a beekeeper who operates with his four brothers in California, Washington and North Dakota.

About 80 percent of the nation’s bees spend the summer in the Dakotas, Minnesota, Montana and other Midwestern states, he said.

While his bees pollinate almonds in California and apples in Washington, they summer in North Dakota after that work is done. Last year, he only got about half his usual honey production, he said.

North Dakota lost 30,000 colonies year over year, bringing its colony count to 455,000. Total honey production there was down 6.36 million pounds.

Nationwide, the colony count was down 4 percent to 2.67 million. Average honey yield per colony decreased 5 pounds to 55.3 pounds, and total production came in close to 148 million pounds.

In addition to drought, the colony decline is also attributable to mite problems and colony rebuilding, Hiatt said.

Honey production fared better in the Northwest, increasing by 1.9 million pounds, or 22 percent, to 10.8 million pounds.

The combined colony count in Idaho, Oregon and Washington declined by 5,000, but honey yield per colony was higher in all three states. Yields per colony were up 10 pounds in Idaho and Washington and 5 pounds in Oregon.

Idaho’s production was up 27 percent to 4.18 million pounds. Oregon increased production 20 percent to 3.12 million pounds, and Washington bumped production 18 percent to 3.47 million pounds.

“Overall, it was a good year,” said Paul Anderson, a beekeeper in the Portland area and past president of the Oregon State Beekeepers Association.

It was a good spring for honey production, and pollination crops were good. His honey production was up 20 percent to 25 percent, he said.

“There’s nothing you can really put your finger on, just a lot of things came together,” he said. Weather has a lot to do with it. Rain that provides moisture to produce nectar, and sequential bloom that spreads out the nectar flow provide good conditions for honey production, he said.

While honey prices were up an average of 4 cents per pound nationwide to nearly $2.16 a pound, the decline in production lowered total value 7.8 percent to $318.3 million.

Value of production was higher in the three Northwest states, however.

Prices were an average of 16 cents a pound higher in Washington year over year, and total value was up 33 percent to $7.8 million.

While prices were 3 cents per pound lower in Idaho and 2 cents lower in Oregon, the total production value was up 25 percent in Idaho to $7.48 million and up 19 percent in Oregon to $5.9 million.

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