Davis: Texas honey production affected by heat and drought | Way of life

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Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service expert says Texas honey production is expected to be below average this season due to lack of soil moisture and extreme heat across the state.

Molly Keck, AgriLife Extension entomologist and Beekeeping 101 Instructor, Bexar County, said key wildflower bloom times in parts of the state are being delayed by lack of soil moisture and forage for plants. bees, associated with the early onset of extreme heat.

Studies have shown that bee foraging activity decreases when temperatures reach 100 degrees, Keck said. The low volume of nectariferous plants available and inefficient foraging ability due to high temperatures resulted in low honey production.

Keck said this season’s low production was likely compounded by the long-term recovery of Texas hives from winter storm Uri in February 2021, followed by severe drought.

“Parts of the state received rain at the right time, but in most parts of the state the bees had no nectar to bring in and store for honey,” she said. declared. “The rains of the last few months could bring an autumn honey flow, which should happen now, but we suspect that honey production has fallen again this year.”

Keck said an accurate assessment of Texas honey production is difficult, particularly this year due to a lack of available information, but official reports indicate production has fallen in 2021.

The 2020 U.S. Department of Agriculture Honey Report showed there were 157,000 honey bee colonies in Texas producing 8.9 million pounds worth $17 million for the global production of the United States. Total production in the United States was 147.5 million pounds, worth over $299 million.

The USDA reported that 7.6 million pounds of honey were produced in 2021 by 137,000 Texas-based colonies. Despite the lower production figure, the honey was valued at $17.6 million in the 126.4 million pounds of honey produced domestically valued at $321.2 million.

In the September 28 Honey Report, the USDA reported that too little information was available to make an assessment of the 2022 season in Texas. Extreme heat and drought across the state was the main reason for the lack of activity and reporting, according to the report.

The report said truck availability was not an issue due to lack of honey supply. Keck said there are also fewer COVID-related issues, such as equipment and container shortages this season.

Keck said strong sales of core hives, or nucs, which are smaller hives made up of a queen and worker bees that can be integrated into production hives, are a good sign that Texas production is picking up. straighten.

“I think we’ve had two tough years for bees and beekeepers due to an extreme cold event in 2021 and extreme heat and drought this year,” she said. “Commercial growers are expecting to sell bees, so that’s a good sign.

I hope they can bounce back, but it will all depend on the management of the beekeepers during the winter and the rain in the spring.

Texas beekeepers fall into three categories: hobbyists, misfits and commercial growers, Keck said.

Hobbyists are backyard beekeepers who raise bees, usually less than 10 hives, to meet the Texas agricultural exemption for property taxes and/or to produce honey for their household, to share and/or to sell locally. Sideliners typically have 50-250 hives, but also maintain full-time employment.

Keck said recent interest in hobby beekeeping has increased due to COVID-19 and the use of beehives to obtain property tax exemptions for small plots of land.

The Texas Apiary Inspection Service only tracks beekeepers with 400 or more hives. Keck said the inability of hobbyists and sideliners to participate in reporting makes it difficult to estimate total statewide honey production.

Commercial beekeepers keep 500 colonies or more. Their livelihoods depend on raising bees and moving large numbers of beehives around the state and country to pollinate crops and/or produce honey.

For example, a commercial grower in Texas may deliver hives to the Rio Grande Valley to pollinate watermelon fields before moving those same hives to the plains of Texas to pollinate cotton later in the growing season. Then, during summer heat waves, they may move their colonies to South Dakota or North Dakota for clover honey production.

“You have to deal with issues like varroa mites all year round and make sure the hives have enough food, but most importantly overwinter after a summer like this,” she said. “Beekeepers will close the hives around Thanksgiving and reopen them around Valentine’s Day, and we can only hope that we open the hives to better conditions for a spring bloom.”

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