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Experts say February's winter storm slowed Texas honey production

A bee on a honeycomb.
Experts say the winter storm's delay of wildflower bloom and drought conditions in the spring likely lowered the honeybee population.

Drought conditions in the spring further stressed bee populations, and that could drive up honey prices.

The deadly winter storm had a significant impact on the lives and homes of millions of Texans. Experts say it also took a toll on the state's honey industry.

The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service reports a drop in production and in bee colony numbers this year. Experts say the winter storm delayed wildflower bloom and likely lowered the honeybee population. Drought conditions in the spring further complicated production.

Molly Keck, an entomologist and beekeeping instructor with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension service, said for the bees that remained, finding blooms to build colonies around was difficult.

“We did not see the same amount of wildflowers coming out in the spring that we like to see, which allows for those colonies to build up nice and big," Keck said. "When you have a nice big colony, then you have lots of foragers out there picking up pollen and nectar later on in the spring and into the early summer."

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports Texas had 157,000 honey-producing bee colonies in 2020, which contributed $17 million to production across the U.S. This year, with lower production, Keck says honey could sell for a higher retail price.

Keck says backyard beekeepers may not have seen a difference in production, but commercial beekeepers, who have at least 500 colonies, have been hit harder.

Keck advises beekeepers to keep hives healthy ahead of the cold winter months.

“So that involves making sure that the queen is laying right and that she's present in the colony," Keck said. "Otherwise that colony will die before spring comes around. Also, making sure that they have plenty of food to make it through the winter time... and then checking and managing mites."

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Haya Panjwani is a general assignment reporter for KUT. She also served as a legislative fellow for The Texas Newsroom during the 2021 legislative session.