Arizona Honey

Honey Bee Pollinating Buckwheat
Honey bee pollinating buckwheat

“During the most recently recorded year (2019), Arizona produced 1,058,000 pounds of honey – up from 912,000 pounds in 2018.”

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    Arizona Honey Overview

    Arizona had a booming honey industry before the mid-1990s. Up until that point, there were more than 20,000 beekeepers in the state. But in 1993, Arizonans saw an influx of the aggressive Africanized honey bees that terrorized the state’s residents and led many beekeepers to either close down or move their businesses to other states.

    Africanized honey bees (Apis mellifera scutellata) – also known as “killer bees” – are the result of a 1956 experiment in which Brazil tried to develop a honey bee that was better adapted to tropical regions. Unfortunately, some of the African bees escaped and bred with the Brazilian bees.

    The hybrid bees then began migrating to other areas and wound up in areas of the United States, such as Arizona. There they mated with European honey bees and began to take over colonies in the state. Africanized honey bees mate much more often than European honey bees, so their offspring are more populous, and they use aggressive tactics to take over a hive.

    They also will aggressively defend their hives, so if they sense any disturbance, multiple bees will be summoned to sting the intruder. It’s possible for a victim to be stung as many as 500 times during an attack. To overcome this problem, Arizona beekeepers order European queens for mating and seek help to remove Africanized bees from their hives.

    Honeybee Pollinating Alfalfa Flower
    Honey bee pollinating alfalfa flower

    When Did Arizona Begin Producing Honey?

    It’s difficult to find documentation that describes precisely when European honey bees made their way to the American Southwest. It’s known that bees were shipped to California from the Eastern states in the 1850s and that these bees likely made it to Oregon and Washington either in swarms or were carried in by migrating settlers.

    Since no dependable records are stating how the bees spread to the Mountain states, most historians agree that it was similar to how Oregon and Washington became honey bee populated – by swarming and through settlers. Beekeeping probably became prevalent in the early 1900s because Arizona’s state entomologist appointed an apiary inspector in 1913.

    Inspectors were required to look for bee diseases, parasites, and pests, and local beekeepers needed to receive a certificate of inspection if they wanted to order bees from outside states.

    There were also restrictions as to the use of secondhand equipment. Most of these rules were updated in 1933, and then the state deregulated – at the request of beekeepers – in 1994. There are still strict laws regulating beekeeping, and they vary by municipality.

    How Much Honey Does Arizona Produce?

    During the most recently recorded year (2019), Arizona produced 1,058,000 pounds of honey – up from 912,000 pounds in 2018.

    The number of honey-producing colonies in 2019 was 23,000, down from 24,000 colonies in 2018. 

    What Are the Main Types of Honey Arizona Produces?

    The most common honey sold in Arizona is mesquite honey, which is sourced from 40 species of small trees.

    Other popular honey varieties in the state include alfalfa honey, orange blossom honey, cactus honey, desert flower honey, and wildflower honey.

    Is Arizona Honey Seasonal?

    Even though the weather is warm in Arizona, there isn’t sufficient nectar during the winter months for honey bees to forage.

    The honey plants are dependent on irregular rain patterns in the spring and a monsoon season around July or August.

    Luckily, there’s usually enough rain for a large honey flow in the spring, and there may be a smaller flow after the end of monsoon season – which can sometimes last through September. By the time fall comes around, beekeepers are trying to plan for winter management.

    Benefits of Honey?

    Healing Wounds and Burns There has been positive effects of using raw honey on wounds & burns reported.
    Reducing The Duration of Diarrhoea According the NCBI consumption of raw honey has been shown to reduce the severity & duration of diarrhoea.
    Preventing Acid Reflux Research has shown that with honey lining the oesophagus and stomach, it actually can reduce the upward flow of undigested food and stomach acid.
    Fighting Infections Scientists in 2010 reported that honey through its protein (defensin-1) has the ability to kill bacteria.
    Relieving cold and cough symptoms Its been proven that honey may prove beneficial in relieving cold and cough symptoms. The World Health Organisation actually recommend honey as a natural cough remedy.
    Rich In Antioxidants High quality raw honey contains many helpful antioxidants. These include phenolic compounds like flavonoids and organic acids.
    Can Lower Triglycerides Triglycerides are associated with insulin resistance and are a major driver of type 2 diabetes. Multiple studies have linked regular honey consumption with lower triglyceride levels, especially when it is used to replace sugar.

    This is based on raw honey. Filtered or pasteurised honey will break down and diminish these benefits.

    Which Bees Create Arizona Honey?

    The species of bees most often selected for honey-producing are:

    Italian bees (Apis mellifera ligustica)

    European Honey Bee (Apis Mellifera) Pollinating Apple Tree Flowers
    European Honey Bee (Apis Mellifera) pollinating apple tree flowers
    Close Up Of Western Honey Bee (Apis Mellifera) Pollinating
    Close up of Western Honey Bee (Apis Mellifera) pollinating

    Carniolan bees (Apis mellifera carnica)

    Carniolan Honey Bee (Apis Mellifera Carnica) Resting Inside A Parnassia Palustris Blossom
    Carniolan Honey Bee (Apis Mellifera Carnica) resting inside A Parnassia palustris blossom
    Carniolan Honey Bee (Apis Mellifera Carnica) On Violet Bloom
    Carniolan Honey Bee (Apis Mellifera Carnica) on violet bloom

    Russian Bees are known to be resistant to deadly varroa mites.

    Which Honey Bees & Plants Are Native to Arizona?

    There are no native honey bees in North America. Originally, they were imported from Europeans in the 17th century. Today, Arizona honey producers import their bees from around the U.S. and Europe.

    They’ll work mostly with Italian honey bees, Carniolan honey bees, or Russian hybrids.

    Some beekeepers are trying to manage hives that have become “Africanized,” meaning that they are trying to manage the problem of Africanized bees by mating them with the more gentle imported queens.

    The top producers in the state sell honey made from desert floral sources like:

    • Acacia Bush
    • Buckwheat
    • Cactus
    • Catclaw
    • Mesquite
    • Orange Blossom
    • Palo Verde
    • Prickly Pear
    • Various other desert shrubs and wildflowers.
    Honeybee Harvesting Orangeblossom
    Honey bee harvesting orangeblossom nectar

    Are There Any Major Honey Farms or Apiaries in Arizona?

    The largest honey sellers or apiaries in Arizona include:

    • Arizona Apiaries LLC
    • Honey Hive Farms
    • Crockett Honey Co (in business since 1945)
    • H&H Honey
    • The Honeyman
    • Rango Honey
    • True Love Honey

    What Sort of Environment Is Needed to Produce Arizona's Honey?

    In general terms, “it’s up to the beekeepers to provide the right habitat for bees,” says Derek Abello, a beekeeper from Phoenix. This means that bees should live in an environment similar to their natural state, where possible. He feels strongly that bees should eat their own honey instead of being fed sugar for supplementation and that the bees be far removed from any pesticide use.

    Others reiterate the common knowledge that honey bees need a variety of plants to remain healthy and that beekeepers must ensure that they’re raising bees in a proper habitat. But what are the unique challenges of keeping bees in the desert?

    Summer sun and excessive heat mean that bees should be shaded during hot weather. There should also be an adequate water source nearby, proper ventilation, and some have suggested that beekeepers insulate hives to help the bees with temperature regulation.

    Generally, winter protection is not necessary for the warmer portions of the state.Even though it’s quite dry in southern Arizona, the late summer rains provide enough water for spring vegetation to grow and for honey to flow during the late spring.

    Most rain occurs after the main honey flow, but there’s still time for additional plant growth. In August, the bees will still have time to forage so they can make enough honey for winter stores while also providing a surplus for the beekeepers.

    Honeybee Pollinating Orangeblossom Before It Becomes An Orange
    Honeybee pollinating orangeblossom before it becomes an orange

    In Central Arizona, the temperatures are cooler, and even though it doesn’t get cold enough to freeze, bees may be in danger of dying from the cold. That’s because bees are constantly trying to maintain an ideal temperature inside the hive, which causes heat and moisture to rise.

    When that warm, moist water mixes with cold temperatures, it condenses and essentially rains in the hive. That kind of cold and wet environment can be lethal for the colony. Beekeepers must be on top of weather conditions so that they can appropriately manage their hives.

    Northern Arizona is even cooler, but that can be an advantage for beekeepers who want to try to manage the Africanized bees since they produce more honey, are more resilient, and can be more docile in a cooler climate. Because it may be too cool for the Africanized bees to take over, they will mix with the European bees, and the two species generally learn to live with each other.

    Northern Arizona beekeeping practices are ultimately more dangerous than in other regions of the state due to the unpredictable and aggressive nature of Africanized bees. But before you can even start beekeeping in Arizona, you must be aware of the zoning regulations that are applied differently in various parts of the state.

    For example, in Phoenix, you’ll need more than 1,700 square feet of land if you want to keep bees. The hives must also be further back than 5 feet from the property line. Other cities and towns have similar ordinances that mandate specific distances from other property owners.

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