Iowa honey production up despite fewer hives

Iowa honey production increased last year and the value of the crop rose from 2016 despite a drop in the number of colonies, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture?s National Agricultural Statistics Service.

Honey production from producers with five or more colonies in Iowa totaled 2.03 million pounds in 2017, up 14 percent from 1.78 million pounds produced in 2016.

The number of honey-producing colonies in the state decreased from 37,000 colonies in 2016 to 35,000 in 2017.

The figure does not include producers with fewer than five colonies or those who did not harvest honey.

Yield per colony in Iowa averaged 58 pounds, up from 48 pounds per colony in 2016. Iowa remains ranked 19th nationally in honey production, unchanged from 2016.

The state?s 2017 honey crop was valued at $4.51 million, up 22 percent from $3.69 million the previous year. The average price per pound for all marketing channels in Iowa was $2.22, up 14 cents from 2016.

Prices were based on retail sales by producers and sales to private processors and cooperatives.

In his quarterly report issued on March 8, State Apiarist Andrew Joseph said the winter has been pretty rough for bee colonies.

?I?ve gotten very mixed reports of winter survivorship,? Joseph said. ?This wasn?t an extreme winter by any measure, though we have had some serious cold from time to time.

?If the bees were of compromised condition last fall, they probably aren?t around anymore, and it?s time to try again. This seems to be more true each year.?

Shane Bixby of Marion, district director with the Iowa Honey Producers Association, said it is too early to know the extent of winter colony losses.

?This time of year is when a lot of colonies can starve if they don?t have enough resources because beekeepers were not able to get in to feed them,? Bixby said. ?When we get a couple of really warm days and then it gets cold again, they tend to not cluster as tight and they die from the weather.

?Warm weather is a blessing, but it?s also a curse. It?s better if it gets cold and stays cold or gets warm and stays warm.?

After enduring years of losses due to bee-killing insects and inclement weather, Iowa honey bee producers with five or more colonies reported an increase in the number of colonies in 2016. Honey production in Iowa hit its lowest level, 1.51 million pounds, in 2015, and began to recover in 2016, according to the USDA.

Honey production from producers with five or more colonies decreased nationwide 9 percent, to 148 million pounds, in 2017 from 161.8 million pounds in 2016. The number of honey-producing colonies fell 4 percent, to 2.67 million colonies, from 2.77 million colonies in 2016.

Yield per colony averaged 55.3 pounds nationally, down 5 percent from the 58.3 pounds in 2016.