BEULAH — Michigan honey production grew 12.4 percent in 2013, but those rosy numbers resulted from a tough 2012 season, said Nathon Lane of Sleeping Bear Farms.
“The year prior was devastated by the drought,” he said. “The honey crop in the entire country was in a state of emergency for that year. You hoped there was no place to go but up from there.”
Michigan honey producers made 4.68 million pounds of honey in 2013, compared to 4.33 million in 2012 and 4.74 million in 2011. A severe drought in 2012 meant fewer plants bloomed for bees to gather nectar.
Honey prices were up by 10 cents in 2013, which Lane also attributes to low production in 2012 because farmers ran out of honey in the early summer before they could catch up with the 2013 harvest.
“When we got into those months of summer when we’re still operating on the prior year’s honey harvest, everybody around the country that was so impacted by the drought started running out,” Lane said.
Trouble with bee health and a decline in bee populations, possibly resulting from pesticide use, lack of crop diversity, parasites and more, also means beekeepers must focus on building hives rather than making honey.
“Sick bees don’t make as much honey as healthy bees in the first place,” Lane said. “If all the beekeepers are spending their time building up the bees, that’s going to affect the honey production flow.”