Wet spring good for honey, other factors holding production back

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TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) A wet spring creates vast spring foliage, which bodes well for bees.

“You just have to have flowing nectar to produce honey,” said Heidi Tubbs, who raises bees. “That’s what bees need, and they need a lot of it.”

This is just one necessary aspect for a good honey season, and it seems to be the only one Twin Falls area can look forward to.

This past winter, keepers lost 40 percent of their bees. Thirty percent is normal.

Tubbs attributes this to two main plagues: wasps and pests.

Wasps attack bee hives fairly frequently. When bees are lucid, they have a system to fend off the attacker. With a warmer-than-average fall, wasps stayed out longer, though bees still clustered for winter, which allowed wasps to enter hives and attack bees without retribution.
The other pest is a mite, which causes disease in the colony.

Tubbs said these losses might not be detrimental, depending on how keepers react. They can either leave the colony alone, or introduce new bees to help boost the population.

She considers the latter to be the better option.

“If people lost a lot of hives, and they don’t repopulate those hives, then yes, honey production in this area will go down,” she said.

A bigger issue has been looming in the area that goes beyond this past winter: agriculture.

“Several decades ago this was known as a great honey-producing area,” Tubbs said, “but as the dairies moved in, we started cutting alfalfa before it blooms because it makes better food for the cows.”

Without blooms, bees cannot use the alfalfa plant for sustenance. If that is their main food source, the bee population with suffer.

Another issue in agriculture is field maintenance.

“We like really clean fields around here,” Tubbs said. “We don’t have the weeds in the ditch bank; we don’t have the weeds in the roadways, and that’s where actually a lot of honey comes from.”

Before the changes in agriculture, Tubbs said this area was great for honey production. She defines great as 100 pounds of honey per hive.
Now it’s more like 20 to 30 pounds per hive, she said.

Tubbs said this isn’t necessarily a problem.

It’s just what it is, she said.

“There’s lots of great things about living here,” she said, “huge honey haul is not going to be one of them.”

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