Report: Freezing temperatures in 2016 impacted Virginia honey production
Virginia honey production in 2016 declined compared to 2015 due to freezing temperatures. According to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), 2016 honey productionfrom producers with five or more colonies totaled 190,000 pounds, down 17 percent (38,000 pounds) from 2015.
“Continued high winter colony losses and a late spring freeze reduced honey production in 2016,” said State Apiarist Keith Tignor. “Over 32 percent of honey bee colonies were reported lost by beekeepers in Virginia during the winter of 2015-2016. Freezing temperatures throughout much of the Commonwealth when major nectar producing plants, such as locust and tulip polar trees, were just coming into bloom, knocked back many of the blossoms honey bees rely on for honey production. Poor nectar sources continued into the summer when high temperatures prevented many flowers from producing nectar.”
The value of Virginia honey production in 2016 was $1.1 million, down 12 percent from 2015. Honey was harvested from 5,000 colonies. The yield of honey harvested per colony averaged 38 pounds, equal to the yield in 2015. Producer honey stocks were 30,000 pounds last December, down 40 percent from 2015.
Pollination provided by honey bees is an integral part of the agricultural industry and honey production is a byproduct of this pollination. 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 receive benefit from pollination by honey bees and other insect pollinators.
Individuals in urban or rural areas can help to attract, protect or sustain the Commonwealth’s honey bee population by doing the following:
- Plant a pollinator garden with a diversity of nectar and pollen sources.
- Become a beekeeper. Beginner classes are sponsored by a number of local beekeeper groups around the state. The Virginia State Beekeepers Association can help by suggesting a local group to answer questions or mentor a new beekeeper.
- Build a nesting site for native bees.