It is estimated that honey production in Arkansas started in the early 20th century. In 2019 the state had produced 1,100,000 pounds of honey from 20,000 colonies in total. Arkansas mainly produces wildflower honey, but blackberry and clover honey are also popular in the state.
When Did Arkansas Begin Producing Honey?
Bees were already established in the wild shortly after settlers arrived in Arkansas, following the Louisiana Purchase. But early settlers didn’t use hives; instead, they took honey from the wild bees that build hives in hollow trees.
Although it’s not known exactly when Arkansans stopped robbing tree hives, an excerpt from the Congressional Record: Proceedings and Debates of the Second Section of the Sixty-Seventh Congress (May 1922) showed the following:
“Arkansas has the most inviting field for the apiarist. The clover pastures and wildflowers produce the best honey.”
It’s safe to estimate that Arkansans began to produce honey early in the 20th century – probably around the same time as other states began to take up the practice.
How Much Honey Does Arkansas Produce?
Within the state of Arkansas, there are a total of 3,233 registered beekeepers and 5,634 registered apiaries. Combined, Arkansas has a total of 48,514 colonies (2020).
As for honey production, the USDA shows, for its most recent reporting year (2019), that Arkansas had 20,000 honey-producing colonies that delivered 1,100,000 pounds of honey.
Is Arkansas Honey Produced All Year Round, or Is It Seasonal?
In Arkansas, the spring honey flow starts in April and runs through June, and the fall flow starts in August and runs through September if there is enough rain. The rest of the year is spent managing the bees.
For example, in September, beekeepers may need to re-queen or medicate their bees. During this time, they are also checking to make sure honey stores are ample for the winter months. In October, the bees may need to be fed, and should probably be fed “grease patties” that have ingredients to ward off varroa and tracheal mites.
In November and December, beekeepers may buy new equipment for the following year, if needed. When January arrives, it’s time to assemble new equipment or repair old equipment, as well as make a plan for the upcoming production year.
In February, it’s time to order new bees or queens, check up on the colonies to see if there are any dead bees and feed a sugar-water solution to the bees if necessary. March, April, and May are months when beekeepers are preparing for the honey flow that should arrive in June.
Are There Any Major Honey Farms or Apiaries in Arkansas?
Large apiaries and local honey suppliers include:
- Bemis Honey Bee Farm
- Brothers Honey Company
- Central Beekeepers Supply
- Honeycomb Ridge
- Arkansas Bees
- Honeyton Farms
- Northeast Arkansas Beekeepers Supply
- Prepper Bee Supply
- Richard’s Apiary
What Are the Main Types of Honey Arkansas Produces?
The majority of honey produced within Arkansas is Wildflower honey, but some apiaries do produce clover and blackberry honey.
Which Bees Create Arkansas Honey?
Like several other states in the American South, Arkansas has been invaded by “killer bees.”
These bees are of the species Apis mellifera, like other honey bees, but they were initially brought from Africa to Brazil to make the Brazilian honey bees better adapted to the tropical region. Eventually, after the African and Brazilian bees mated, some escaped, and are now causing problems for beekeepers in several U.S. states.
Known also as Africanized bees, they are more aggressive and will attack in greater numbers if they feel their hive has been threatened. Africanized bees were first detected in southeastern Arkansas in 2005, and are now present in ten Arkansas counties.
The University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture recommends that these bees be removed from hives and that colonies should be quickly re-queened with a non-Africanized source.
The honey bees Arkansas beekeepers prefer to work with are Italian honey bees (Apis mellifera ligustica)
Russian bees (Apis mellifera) that originated in the Primorsky Krai region of Russia.
Russian bees are known for their ability to successfully manage invasions of deadly mites like the varroa destructor, which is a growing problem for many beekeepers across the country.
Which Honey Bees & Plants Are Native to Arkansas?
None of the honey bees in North America are native to America.
Apis mellifera was brought to the country from Europe during the 1600s.
Some apiaries breed gentle honey bees of Italian stock and sell them locally, but other beekeepers may choose to purchase their bees from reliable vendors in nearby states.
What Arkansas Plants Attract Honey Bees
The University of Arkansas Extension recommended the following plants that should attract honey bees:
|Rosaceae||apples, peaches, crabapple, blackberry, hawthorn, pears|
|Fabaceae||alfalfa, clovers, redbud, soybean, black locust|
|Lamiaceae||mints, rosemary, sage, thyme, bee balm, basil, catnip|
|Brassicaceae||broccoli, turnip greens, canola, wild mustards|
|Asteraceae||sunflowers, dandelion, boneset, cosmos, echinacea, zinnia|
What Sort of Environment Is Needed to Produce Arkansas Honey?
The University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture neatly lays out what prospective beekeepers need to know about operating in the state.
First, the beekeeper must register their location with the Arkansas Plant Board. Permission is automatically granted if registering beehives at the primary residence. The Plant Board must be allowed to inspect the hives at any time in order to make sure there are no pests or contagious diseases spreading throughout the colonies.
Once the beekeeper passes inspection, he or she will be awarded a certificate that’s valid for one year and allows for hives to be moved within the state.
However, it’s illegal to locate a new apiary within three miles of an established one without the consent of that beekeeper. The law was put in place to protect bees from diseases and pests that can spread through drifting and hive robbing.
Once the beekeeper is registered and certified, the university extension provides some common sense recommendations, such as keeping the hives away from areas where family, pets, and neighbours convene.
There are local restrictions on the placement of hives, and beekeepers should make sure to keep apprised of those.
The extension suggests the environment surrounding the hives provide good foraging plants, and that it’s important to have enough water available – both for the bees and the plants.
They also warn beekeepers that in urban and suburban areas, many homeowners may use (and misuse) pesticides. To make sure that bees won’t be drawn to neighbourhood pools, birdbaths, fountains, or hot tubs on others’ properties, a good water source should always be available close to the hives.
They also suggest using rocks or wood pieces for bees to use as a landing point if an open watering container is used.
Once the bees are settled in their hives, they must be checked periodically – every 1 to 2 weeks – to observe their condition and temperament.
It is important that the bees are gentle to make the neighbours more secure, but it’s also necessary to check to see if your queen has been superseded by an Africanized queen or if she has left the hive in a swarm.
It’s a good idea to mark your queen so that if you notice she’s gone, you can immediately re-queen with a gentle one from a reliable bee seller.