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Wisconsin Honey Production Up More Than 20 Percent

Wisconsin Ranks 11th In Nation For Honey Production

Photo: Siona Karen (CC-BY)

Wisconsin bees produced 3.48 million pounds of honey in 2015 — an increase of more than 20 percent from the year before, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Honey Report.

Wisconsin now ranks 11th in the nation in honey production, up from 15th in 2014. All of Wisconsin’s honey is made between mid-June and late July.

“That’s a very small window. You better believe it is,” said Gordon Waller, president of the Wisconsin Honey Producers Association. He has worked with bees for more than 60 years, and he said good summer weather led to a strong honey harvest.

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“We didn’t get much rainy weather during the day. Our rains came in the night, so the bees had all day to work in the sun,” he said.

Despite the boom in honey production, Waller said “America’s Dairyland” lags far behind compared to high-yield states like North Dakota and Montana.

“We’ve lost our pastures, and that’s been a tremendous loss for the beekeepers. We used to pasture our cows every summer,” he said. “There’d be little pasture plants that bee could forage from. Now they plow up all that and planted corn and soybean.”

Waller said the use of pesticides like Roundup on industrial crops has gotten rid of weeds and other plants that bees forage on.

“So, if you’re in a corn or soybean area, we call it a ‘mono-cropping’ area, you might as well move because there’s nothing there for the bees,” he said.

While Wisconsin production was up, nationwide honey yield dropped more than 10 percent. Waller sees a strong future for local honey in the Badger State.

“In fact, it’s gotten to be so much of an issue that some people even put their zip code on their label,” he said, with a chuckle.

The average honey price saw a small dip from $2.17 in 2014 to $2.09 in 2015.