Large winter losses have been reported from beekeepers all over the country. Right now, we have lost one of five hives, which is not high, but there is still a lot of winter to go. We knew going into winter that the hive that died was likely not going to survive, but we were hoping for the best. It had queen issues in the fall and we were pretty sure it was not queen right (there was not a good laying queen) going into winter. Some people would have combined the hive with a strong hive, but we chose to take four strong hives and one questionable hive into winter instead of adding a weak hive to a strong hive, perhaps compromising the strong hive.
Beekeepers, who have sent their bees to pollinate the almond crops in California, have experienced alarming winter loss numbers. The article Massive Loss Of Thousands Of Hives Afflicts Orchard Growers And Beekeepers, published by NPR, is an excellent article that the explains what has happened in California and what the results of these high winter losses could have for orchard growers and consumers. We personally know some beekeepers who shipped their hives and are experiencing large winter losses. Due to the high losses, package bees will be more expensive. It is also likely that there will be fewer packages for sale and also fewer nucs available for purchase.
What does all of this mean for the consumer? Honey prices will go up because commercial beekeepers will be focused on getting their hive numbers back up not on producing honey. The honey market may see an increase of fake or mystery origin honey which makes it important to buy local honey from a local beekeeper. Prices for crops reliant on hives being brought in for pollination will rise. The consumer can expect to see prices for nuts and orchard fruits to go up.