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Honey horror: 2013 crop is lowest production in history

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Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets,Agriculture,EPA,Energy and Environment,Bees,Insects

Honey production from the nation’s troubled bee industry has nosed-dived again this year, leading officials to predict that 2013 will record the smallest honey crop in history — and higher prices as a result.

The experts said that the nation's beekeepers are likely to produce as little as 96 million pounds of honey, a 35 percent drop from 2012's 147 million pounds, which was less than in 2011.

The industry trade magazine, Bee Culture, said: “The U.S. honey crop according to Bee Culture Magazine's sources will fall between 96 million and 132 million pounds, without a doubt the smallest honey crop every recorded.”

Editor Kim Flottum told Secrets that the blame goes to bad weather, shrinking numbers of beekeepers, and other woes. “Cold and wet, and hot and dry, depending on where you are,” he said. The three major honey production areas, North and South Dakota, California and Florida got whacked by bad weather, he said. “Those are the biggies, and they are way down.”

In Washington, the historically low honey crop is renewing calls for greater research into diseases-killing bees and pesticides approved by the Environmental Protection Agency that beekeepers believe are wiping out hives.

Key among those are the family of U.S.-made bug killers called neonicotinoids, a new wave of pesticides used on corn and soy, two major crops visited by honey bees. While the EPA is sticking with their use, Canada is questioning the spraying of neonicotinoids.

Flottum said that in addition to the problems hurting bees, there are fewer hives in the nation. He said that there are about 2.4 million hives, some 300,000 less than last year, and about half of what the nation had decades ago.

Paul Bedard, The Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at pbedard@washingtonexaminer.com.