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Cold, wet winter effects local honey production
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The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported record high honey prices and a 20 percent increase in honey production across the country for 2010, however, at least one local beekeeper is finding 2011 a tougher year.

“In California, this will be an average or below average year,” said Matt Beekman of California Apiaries, located in Hughson. “Honey production (at California Apiaries) was half to two-thirds of what we were last year.”

Beekman attributed most of the disappointing honey production to the unusually cold and wet winter and spring seen in the Central Valley this year. Many beekeepers throughout the state have been forced to feed their hives far heavier after almond pollination this year than past years, reported the USDA.  Late spring rains have developed significant wild flower populations but cold weather has compromised nectar flows. 

While the weather has not been ideal for bees, continued problems with Colony Collapse Disorder are also to blame.

Since 2006, honeybees across the country have been  stricken with a mysterious ailment and disappearing at a rate that has the federal government and farmers alike concerned for the future of America’s crops. The phenomenon is called Colony Collapse Disorder and the exact cause behind it remains an unknown.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Apiary Inspectors of America reported total losses from managed honey bee colonies nationwide were 30 percent from all causes for the 2010/2011 winter, according to an annual survey.

This is roughly similar to total losses reported in similar surveys done in the four previous years: 34 percent for the 2009/2010 winter, 29 percent for 2008/2009; 36 percent for 2007/2008, and 32 percent for 2006/2007.

"The lack of increase in losses is marginally encouraging in the sense that the problem does not appear to be getting worse for honey bees and beekeepers," said Jeff Pettis, an entomologist with USDA's Agricultural Research Service who helped conduct the study. "But continued losses of this size put tremendous pressure on the economic sustainability of commercial beekeeping."

Beekeepers reported that, on average, they felt losses of 13 percent would be economically acceptable. Sixty-one percent of responding beekeepers reported having losses greater than this.  Average colony loss for an individual beekeeper's operation was 38.4 percent. This compares to an average loss of 42.2 percent for individual beekeepers' operations in 2009/2010.

“A lot of problems we’ve been experiencing haven’t gone away, we’re just better at dealing with them,” Beekman said.

To contact Kristina Hacker, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2004.