February winter storm made for an un-bee-lievably bad Texas honey season

Texas

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Texas honey production dipped slightly along with bee colony numbers during 2021, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service expert.

Molly Keck, an AgriLife Extension entomologist in Bexar County, said Winter Storm Uri in February and drought conditions in early spring negatively impacted honey production.

“Even coming into the winter storm, I think, a lot of regions in Texas were considered in a drought or more dry,” said Keck. “They had not some good rains and fall wildflowers, then we go into the winter when there’s nothing blooming, and everything started to bloom a month later.”

Texas A&M surveyed all of the registered Texas bee keepers, and about 37% of them said they lost hives due to the winter storm.

This weather phenomenon is causing many beekeepers across Texas to tell last year to buzz off, because of the un-bee-lievably bad season.

“For us, on a honey production level… we ended up making barely one-sixth of the total honey production we would have made for the year,” said John Swan, owner of Wicked Bee and The Hive Jive podcast.

Swan has 46 bee hives that distribute honey to local mom and pop shops across Austin. This year he only lost two bee hives, but it was the whirlwind that happened afterwards: the lack of food for bees to pollinate.

“It’s really hard to be able to say, ‘yeah I can provide a gallon of honey a week for your restaurant,’ when you don’t have much honey to go around,” said Swan.

Keck says in folks in south Texas were hit the hardest, because that area is not acclimated to deep freezes.

David Holdman, owner of Holdman Honey in Sequin, says he usually produces 100-140 pounds of honey a year from his 3,000 beehives, but this year he only produced about 27 pounds.

In Corpus Christi, Bee-Grateful Honey lost several of its hives.

The normal honey harvesting season begins in April. There’s hope for a normal season next year, but right now local production is short until then.

“2022 should be fine, but it’s just going to be bridging that gap until about summer of next year,” said Swan.

Swan says you can plant native wildflowers in your backyard to make sure the bees keep on buzzing next year.

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