Drought is a Buzz Kill for California Honeybees

Drought is a Buzz Kill for California Honeybees

Honey bees have become the latest victim in the three-year drought in California, where more than 80 percent of the state is suffering from “extreme” or “exceptional” drought.

According to Gene Brandi, vice president of the American Beekeeping Federation, this year the honey bee colonies that he keeps in Los Banos have produced only about 10 percent of the honey they would make in a good year. “Our honey crop is severely impacted by the drought, and it does impact our bottom line as a business,” he lamented.

KSBW8 reported that since the drought began, California’s honey crop has taken a huge hit from 27.5 million pounds in 2010 down to 10.9 million pounds last year, based on numbers provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Moreover, the 2014 crop is predicted to be even worse.

In 2003, California led the nation in honey production, but since then it has fallen behind North Dakota, Montana, South Dakota, and Florida. Last year California honey yields dwindled to about 10 percent of the country’s $317 million honey crop. Many beekeepers in California are taking their hives to other states to compensate for the drought-related decline in farming.

At the heart of the issue is beekeepers make much of their income from pollinating crops such as almonds, cotton, alfalfa, and melons. A lack of water has forced farmers to plant less and in some cases leave their fields fallow. Consequently, there is drastically less need for bees to pollinate.

Napa Valley floral business owner, Amelia Barad-Humphries, who swallows a teaspoon a day of local honey for her allergies, says that she needs the honey bees to pollinate her backyard garden. She sighed, “We need honeybees for everything,… People should be paying attention.”