California is being scorched by the worst drought in recent history and honey lovers’ are reaching deep as the price continues to reach new heights. California, usually the state to produce the largest amount of honey, has taken a back seat to states like South Dakota and Montana. In 2013, the Golden State only produced about a tenth of the normal amount of honey and the price has gone up substantially in the last few years, more than 60 percent according to the National Honey Board.
Without rain wildflowers are not as plentiful and bees, unable to get the nutrients needed from pollen, cannot produce as much honey. Some beekeepers are attempting to provide supplemental nutrients but it is an expensive effort with little return. As a result, honey prices have soared in the last three years and beekeepers are feeling the sting but that is not all beekeepers have to contend with.
For honey bees there are some risks in addition to drought. The U.S. honey bee population has been decreasing in the last couple of years from pesticides, from parasites and from something called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). CCD is characterized by the sudden disappearance of the worker bees from the colony. When the queen bee and the younger members of the colony are left behind without the worker bees the colony cannot thrive. The odd thing is that the bodies of worker bees seem to just vanish. Researchers are hard at work trying to determine the cause of CCD, but so far pesticides and parasites are taking the blame.
For many Californians, however, the demise of the honeybee may not be foremost in mind. While prices reaching new heights is cause for concern for honey lovers all over the country, for many in California the overall scorching effects of the drought are more concerning. The drought, now in year three, has been called the worst in California history. As lakes dry up and shorelines recede many are fearful of what the future brings.
Although drought is not a stranger to California, officials are so worried that the governor called a State of Emergency back in January. Residents are being assessed a $500 fine if found guilty of wasting water and celebrities like Conan O’Brien and Lady Gaga are joining the effort to urge California residents via public service announcements to conserve water. In addition, a number of YouTube videos give advice to residents about using less water for everyday things like taking baths and washing clothes.
As California struggles to find solutions to an unprecedented drought situation farmers are struggling to maintain their crops. Wildflowers and bees impact the production of honey but other crops are in jeopardy as well. Many farmers are just as concerned about making a living as beekeepers are.
In the meantime, California government officials are working diligently to find solutions. Residents are coming together to preserve water as best they can. Although the honey prices continue to reach new heights, California residents are more concerned about the drought that continues to scorch their land like never before.
By Constance Spruill