Spring freeze took its toll on 2016 honey production in Virginia

Spring freeze took its toll on 2016 honey production in Virginia
RICHMOND—Freezing temperatures in Virginia late last spring had a chilling effect on Virginia honey production in 2016.

According to a recent report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2016 Virginia honey production was down from 2015. Honey production from producers with five or more colonies last year totaled 190,000 pounds, down 17 percent from 2015.

“Freezing temperatures throughout much of Virginia just when major nectar- producing plants such as locust and tulip poplar trees were blooming reduced honey production in 2016,” explained Virginia State Apiarist Keith Tignor. 

“This late season freeze hit when most honey production occurs and when honeybees collect most of the nectar needed to make honey. Consequently, there was a significant decrease of available nectar. Beekeepers struggled the rest of the year to keep the population going, but the bees made less honey.”

The value of Virginia honey production in 2016 was $1.1 million, down 12 percent from 2015. However, the amount of honey harvested per colony averaged 38 pounds, equal to 2015’s yield.

U.S. honey production was up 3 percent from 2015.

Tignor pointed out that the declining number of honeybee colonies last year also accounted for the reduction in honey production. Honey producing colonies fell to around 5,000 in 2016.

“We are losing honeybees at a very high rate. More than 32 percent of the honeybee colonies were reported lost by beekeepers in Virginia during the winter of 2015-2016,” he noted.

Honeybee losses are of concern not only to beekeepers, but also to farmers who rely on them for crop pollination.

“Honeybee pollination helps boost farm and garden yields,” said Tony Banks, a Virginia Farm Bureau Federation commodity marketing specialist. “Honeybee pollination is estimated to contribute over $16 billion in the value of U.S. crops each year. Virginia crops such as apples, pumpkins, cucumbers, squash and blueberries are dependent on pollinators to fully develop their fruits. Production of other crops such as soybeans, sunflowers and even peanuts can benefit from pollination by honeybees and other insect pollinators.”

Tignor said beekeepers are like any other farmer because they also rely on the weather. “We hope to see much better weather to provide nectar flow for honeybees so that honey production will go up this year.”

Media: Contact Banks at 804-290-1114 or Tignor at 804-786-3515. 


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