Michigan honey production drops, winter bee deaths climb

April 8, 2013

From: MLive


By Rosemary Parker


HOPKINS, MI — A U.S. Department of Agriculture report that Michigan has dropped from 7th to 9th nationally in honey production stings.


But for Kenneth Hoekstra of  Hopkins, who raises bees, so does the news that only four of  the 10 bee hives he had going into winter have survived.


How bad was the winter, and how hard have Michigan beekeepers been hit by the mysterious combination of maladies that seem to be killing more honeybees than ever?


Beekeepers are just this month participating in a survey to get a clearer picture of that, said state apiary inspector Mike Hansen.


From March 29 to April 15 beekeepers are being asked to participate in a survey about the number of hives they maintain and their management practices, Hansen said. The annual survey is the third of a five-year study by the Bee Informed Partnership, funded by a grant by USDA and University of Maryland.


“The survey results are used to gauge the overall health of honeybee colonies, to create a baseline disease level,” and to help guide  further research studies, according to the group’s website.


Help can’t come fast enough, Hoekstra said.


First came parasitic  mites that have nearly wiped out wild honeybees. Commercial beekeepers have developed a variety of treatments for the mites, but the timing of their use is critical, Hansen said, and adds to the cost of beekeeping.


There are new diseases, too, and widespread use of pesticides that may be linked to bee die-off.


Colony collapse disorder, a sudden, unexplained disappearance and presumed death of bees, is thought to be caused by a combination of factors, but its cause and prevention have proven elusive.


“Everything adds up, and next thing know, you’ve got problems,” Hoekstra said.


“Everybody’s got ideas and none of them seem to help us. I lost everything in 1985. That’s when mites first came in,” he said.


Now, Hoekstra is just a hobbyist, collecting swarms of bees in the spring. “I don’t buy bees any more,” he said. The cost has risen dramatically, to about “$80 for one package, twice what they were 10 years ago,” Hoekstra said.


He’s not alone in downsizing his operation, it seems.


According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s most recent report on honey production, released last month, Michigan honey production for 2012 dropped 8.5 percent from 2011, to 4.33 million pounds, an estimate that included honey from producers with five or more colonies.  Yields from Michigan’s 76,000 colonies producing honey averaged 57 pounds in 2012, compared with 64 pounds the previous year.


The Michigan honey price averaged $2.03 per pound, up 22 cents per pound from the previous year. Value of production totaled $8.79 million, up 2.6 percent from 2011.

Leave a Comment

(not required for anonymous comments)

(optional; will not be published)

Please Answer: *


Submit a Post

Upload Files