It's Honey Month in the Beehive State

Sep 4, 2012

September is National Honey Month - and Utah beekeepers say it's been a year full of challenges, both for professionals and hobbyists.

The hot, dry weather has meant fewer and less healthy crops and flowers in some areas, which are necessary for the pollination process and as food the bees use to make honey. Steve Stoddard of Delta transports his bee colonies from California to South Dakota to pollinate crops. He says almost everywhere they went was drier than normal, and his home turf of west central Utah was the exception.

"We did OK in Delta, Utah, but some of the other places in Utah didn't do very well. Probably less water this year to water their crops. Along the Wasatch Front, Nephi to Logan, they did hurt for water up there this year."

The summer wildfires have also been a concern. Lee Knight, a beekeeper in Lehi, says bees depend on rabbitbrush for pollen in the fall, and many acres of it have burned. He says bees also forage in places such as ditch banks and on roadsides, and there's been fewer wildflowers because of the dry weather.

"We just harvest the surplus of the honey that they don't need to survive through the winter. So, if they don't make a surplus of honey and there's not a lot of moisture out there to keep nectar in a flower that's a good honey-producing flower, it's hard to make much honey."

Not all the challenges are weather-related. Knight says beekeeping is a growing hobby in Utah, but some cities are passing ordinances to restrict where hives can be kept. He thinks if more people understood the importance of bees in the food chain, they might reconsider.

The Beekeepers Association will have an exhibit at the Utah State Fair, which starts on Thursday.