TRAVERSE CITY — Julius Kolarik has seen sweet years in his long beekeeping career. In other years he's been stung.
2014 happened to be a pretty good one, at least better than 2013. The 71-year-old Northport beekeeper had 500 hives last year, and maintains a serene outlook on harvest time.
"A crop is a crop, and what's in the bank is in the bank," he said.
Michigan honey production was up 23 percent in 2014, according to a USDA release. The report, which only included production from beekeepers with five or more colonies, said an estimated 5.73 million pounds of honey was produced from state hives.
Michigan's 91,000 honey-producing colonies averaged 63 pounds of honey in 2014, compared to 55 pounds the year before. The state ranked eighth in honey production in 2014. It was ranked ninth in 2013.
Kolarik said interest in beekeeping spiked in recent years, especially from hobbyists. Kolarik began beekeeping as a hobby too, when he picked up a hive from his neighbor about 50 years ago.
"I guess that kind of started it," he said. "You got one, you might as well get two, then 10."
Honey prices increased to a record high last year, reaching $2.16 per-pound in 2014 compared to $2.14 per pound in 2013.
Kolarik said running an apiary is costlier now than it was years ago, because mites and viruses are common in honeybee colonies. Beekeepers have to treat bees in the spring, then again after honey harvest.
Kolarik's bees spent the winter in warmer climates with another beekeeper. He expects them to be shipped back in mid-April.
"I'm going to try it again this year," he said.