Modern beekeeping and

Beekeeping and honey Production

Wells have actually run dry. Lawns have switched brown. Vegetables tend to be smaller and fewer. Alongside these sufferers of this year’s drought, add another: the autumn honey crop.

“Basically, the autumn crop ended up being a bust, ” stated John Cotter, who may have just wrapped up a season of contract act as bee inspector for Maine’s division of Agriculture.

Beekeepers – from hobbyist to mid-size to commercial functions – report fall honey harvests down anywhere from one half to complete manufacturing, though several included that good springtime flows assisted even out the season. The problem is most unfortunate in southern Maine, specifically York and Cumberland counties, which may have endured extreme drought problems.

Portland beekeeper Erin MacGregor-Forbes, who sells honey from the woman 150 hives beneath the label Overland, says she’d usually harvest 2, 000 to 3, 000 weight of honey into the fall. This present year? “No autumn harvest after all, ” she said, a gross reduction she estimated at $20, 000.

In accordance with the Maine division of Agriculture, there are 8, 500 hives and 1, 000 beekeepers in Maine. The state’s largest commercial beekeepers – and there aren’t many – come in the north, therefore the great news usually Mainers are not likely to run off local honey before the next removal, after that summer.

Not very quick – followers of local honey in many cases are geographically exacting, seeking out honey made in their very own county, city, even independently road. Such hyper-local products might operate short.

Their state does not hold information regarding the complete honey collect, and national figures reveal bit in a situation mostly made up of tiny manufacturers, relating to Lincoln Sennett of Swan Honey in Albion, Maine’s biggest retail honey producer. “There’s not any data to go to, ” he stated.

Sennett’s very own hives in central Maine yielded just half the honey of an ordinary year, some 40 pounds per hive. But their hives in northern Maine made-up for that, he said, “so general we have been OK.”


To produce honey, honeybees gather nectar from flowers, carry it to their hives and evaporate out the liquid by fanning their particular wings. The bees use the ensuing honey for food, amply revealing any leftovers with people. This year, there clearly was a hitch: The drought slowed blossoms’ nectar production to a trickle.

Maine beekeepers typically eliminate honey from their hives twice a year. They harvest the spring honey in July, the fall honey in mid-September. The flavor varies by period; spring honey is moderate and pale, while fall honey – coming primarily from goldenrod and aster – is dark and sturdy.

“July ended up being an excellent collect. Every person was only happy, ” stated Meghan Gaven, which is the owner of The Honey Exchange in Portland together with her spouse, Philip. “And it ended raining. Flowers require water to make liquid. Without liquid in surface, flowers can’t produce nectar and without nectar, bees can’t create honey.”

Typically, the fall honey crop in Maine could be the larger definitely, Philip Gaven stated. In 2010, the reverse ended up being real.

The couple keep 20 hives by themselves, a couple of in Portland, many in Willard Beach in Southern Portland, their current address. Their particular honey take this current year had been 100 pounds total, “significantly not even half of everything we would anticipate in a typical year, ” Philip Gaven stated, “and a typical 12 months is approximately half of a beneficial year.”


Putting away honey-loving people, just what did the drought mean for the bees? In a nutshell, it managed to make it harder for them to get ready for cold weather. Bees need about 80 pounds of honey on a hive to endure the lengthy Maine winter season. In the event that nectar shortage suggested they are able ton’t make sufficient, or if beekeepers removed too-much honey before realizing the extent of drought, then bees are dealing with a food shortfall. And that's why many beekeepers in Cumberland and York counties are feeding their bees sugar syrup since belated summer time.

“It’s never as good for all of them as nectar, nonetheless it’s a lot better than hunger, ” stated Karen Thurlow-Kimball of the latest Moon Apiary, which keeps 59 hives in Yarmouth, North Yarmouth, Freeport, Durham and brand new Gloucester. Her very own autumn crop ended up being down by about two-thirds.

Thurlow-Kimball has been raising bees for 40 years, so she’s comfortable making corrections for whatever nature delivers the woman method. But she yet others stated it is not too possible for Maine’s new beekeepers. There are a great number of those – the number of beekeepers features significantly more than doubled in only the past decade, according to figures from the state Department of Agriculture.

“Beekeepers that do not have that knowledge, if they are going by the book – feed now, bring your supers (boxes that hold excess honey for personal consumption) down today – they’ve missed the boat, ” Thurlow-Kimball said, “because you can’t standardize beekeeping.”

She’s had a few phone calls from new beekeepers just this week asking the woman simple tips to rescue starving bees. She fears it's already far too late. “Starvation happens means before you notice it, ” she said. “If you find it, it is beyond bad.”

Even less extreme situations enchantment trouble. Hives that don’t head into winter with strong, stout bees most likely won’t succeed to spring.

Just how had been her very own season? “we call it an excellent 12 months because my bees had been healthy. They all survived, ” Thurlow-Kimball said. And her honey take? “It ended up being poorer than normal, or I’ll be poorer than normal, ” she laughed.

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