Connecticut Honey

connecticut honey
Connecticut Honey - Credit: Cedar Lane Apiaries

In 2009, entomologists at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station admitted that most of the beekeepers in the state are hobbyists with only a couple of hives. This could be the reason why the USDA does not report financial output regarding honey production in the state of Connecticut.

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    When Did Connecticut Begin Producing Honey?

    Records show the presence of honey bees in Connecticut as early as 1644, and honey bee colonies began appearing in the 1650s.

    The 1918 bulletin, Beekeeping For Connecticut, stated, “Beekeeping has never been properly developed in Connecticut. There are many beekeepers, each with a few colonies, but in most cases, the bees are left to shift for themselves.”

    How Much Honey Does Connecticut Produce?

    The real value of pollination in Connecticut is its benefit for agricultural crops. On average, honey bees contribute around $15 million in pollination services each year for apple, peach, and pear crops. Entomologists at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station say that local beekeepers meet all the pollination needs for the state.

    Mark H. Creighton, an apiary inspector at the Agricultural Experiment Station in New Haven, revealed in March 2020 that Connecticut had 568 registered beekeepers and 6,000 colonies.

    Although he said registration was down from four years ago, he thinks that a decrease is due to the state’s switch to an electronic registration process. He does not believe the decline is due to less interest in beekeeping.

    Which Are the Main Types of Honey Connecticut Produces?

    Although one honey retailer offers a wide variety of honey, most other honey-sellers offer wildflower honey, clover honey, and buckwheat honey, as buckwheat grows abundantly in the state.

    Buckwheat Honey
    Buckwheat honey

    Is Connecticut Honey Produced Seasonally, or Is It Available Year-Round?

    In Connecticut, the honey harvest usually occurs around July. During the earlier months of the year, beekeepers are preparing their bees for the eventual nectar flow. Preparation includes feeding bees a sugar solution if necessary. Checking the weight of the hive indicates whether or not supplemental feeding is necessary.

    Around March, bees should be checked and treated for mites. In April, it’s time for a full inspection of the hive to see if the queen is laying eggs and that the worker bees are bringing pollen to the hive.

    In May, bee activity should be at its peak, and beekeepers should remain vigilant to prevent swarming. After the harvest in July, beekeepers must take steps to avoid honey-robbing and should consider closing their hives to keep yellowjackets from invading their hives and stealing honey.

    In September, a smaller honey flow may occur, but right before the fall is the time to ensure the bees have enough honey to last through the winter. Beekeepers should continue to check for adequate food stores throughout the fall and also be on the lookout for pests. As December approaches, it is time to close off the hives until early Spring.

    Which Bee Species Create Connecticut Honey?

    Connecticut beekeepers primarily use Italian honey bees (Apis mellifera ligustica) and Carniolan bees (Apis mellifera carnica) in their hives. Carniolan bees are often selected because they are productive in northern climates.

    Connecticut beekeepers are increasingly including Saskatraz bees in their operations. The Saskatraz project was initiated to develop a breed of bees – using Canadian, German, and Russian bees – that had better resistance to diseases and mites, as well as a superior wintering ability and a gentle temperament. They are also found to be good honey producers.

    Italian Honey Bee Feeding on Bee Balm
    Italian honey bees are a popular choice amongst Connecticut beekeepers
    Carniolan Honey Bee (Apis Mellifera Carnica) On Violet Bloom
    Carniolan bees can also be found in many Connecticut honey farms

    Are There Any Major Honey Farms or Apiaries in Connecticut?

    Some of the honey sellers and apiaries listed on the state’s website include:

    • A&Z Apiaries
    • Monkey’s Pocket Apiary
    • Red Bee Honey in Weston
    • Full Bloom Apiaries
    • Jones Apiaries
    • Cedar Lane Apiaries LLC
    • Stonewall Apiary
    • The Humble Bee Honey Company
    • Hilltop Apiaries
    • Three Sisters Farms

    Which Honey Bees and Plants Are Native to Connecticut?

    None of the honey bees used to produce commercial honey in Connecticut are native to the state. In fact, Apis mellifera is not native to any U.S. state and was brought to the country by European settlers in the 1600s.

    The Xerces Society publishes regional lists of native plants attractive to pollinators, including bees. For the Northeast region, which includes Connecticut, these are some of the flowers, shrubs, and trees they recommend for a pollinator garden:

    Blue vervain Boneset
    Swamp milkweed Ninebark
    Calico aster Gray goldenrod
    Buttonbush American basswood

    Back in the early days of honey production, a bulletin published in 1918 entitled, Beekeeping For Connecticut, recommended some of the plants listed above, as well as sweet clover, locust, sumac, and maple trees.

    What Sort of Environment Is Needed to Produce Connecticut’s Honey?

    As much as Connecticut is dependent upon its bees to pollinate agricultural crops, it is not necessarily a good state for producing honey. According to the University of Connecticut’s professor emeritus of ecology and evolutionary biology, the state is just too “green.”

    Mark Creighton, the state’s apiary inspector, agreed. Too many of the flowering plants are weeds that are killed by pesticides, he said. And seasons of drought have made it difficult for the bees to find reliable foraging material.

    But despite the fact, there are fewer commercial honey producers in Connecticut than in other states, beekeeping as a hobby has really taken off.

    In order for hobbyist beekeepers to produce a successful crop, they need to be educated about their responsibilities as beekeepers and take the job seriously. The first step they must take is to register with the state and agree to periodic inspections to ensure both the bees and the neighboring communities are safe.

    Apiary Positioned Within A Meadow
    Apiary positioned within a meadow

    The biggest threat to Connecticut honey bees is the deadly varroa destructor, which invades hives and feeds on the bees’ fat bodies. Beekeepers must adhere to a regular inspection schedule to ensure their bees are treated for this mite.

    The Bee Institute, working with Bayer’s Animal Health Division, has created a varroa “gate” that is placed at the hive’s entrance and works similarly to a dog’s tick collar. A safe chemical provides protection to the bees as they enter the hive.

    Another dangerous mite is the Tracheal mite (Acarapis woodi), which disrupts honey bees’ respiration. But diseases like American foulbrood are also a major problem in Connecticut, and the epidemic continues to grow. Although beekeeping is referred to as a “hobby” for most of the honey producers in the state, it is a hobby that requires a great deal of responsibility.

    Other than treating mites and looking out for pests, beekeepers need to make sure their bees have enough food and feed them if there is a chance they’ll starve. Of course, there must be access to foraging material and a good source of water nearby.

    And since many of the beekeepers live in residential areas, they must learn to be good neighbors. They need to keep their hives away from main streets and thoroughfares, and to do all they can to prevent swarming in the Spring.

    The bulletin mentioned earlier, Beekeeping For Connecticut, stressed the importance of location when determining where to place hives. The bulletin recommended that beekeepers choose a sheltered area that is protected from wind and should position the bees facing southward if possible.

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