The origins of the production of Louisiana honey are currently unknown, however, the popularity of beekeeping has grown so significantly in the past few decades that in 2018 the state produced 3,735,000 pounds of honey from a total of 45,000 colonies.
When Did Louisiana Begin Producing Honey?
No honey bees are native to Louisiana; the first honey bees arrived in North America in 1622, when English settlers brought honey bees to Virginia Colony. After that point, bees began to spread up and down the east coast, and gradually moved into the interior along with settlers.
Although the exact origins of honey production in Louisiana are unknown, the first documented appearance of honey in Louisiana comes in 1804. Since then, the popularity of making honey has continued to grow in the state, strongly continuing even to this day with the state’s major annual yield of honey.
How Much Honey Does This State Produce?
Louisiana honey bees pollinate and produce honey for commercial purposes when managed by beekeepers. However, they also do so for purposes of their own survival. Pollen is a critical resource for bees’ development, and it is a vital protein resource for hive members.
Nectar becomes honey, which the bees depend on as an energy source. Bees store this honey in combs so that they can use it during dry months when food is scarce. Of course, in addition to this, honey bee populations managed by beekeepers do produce honey for commercial purposes.
Louisiana is a major honey producer in the United States. The USDA reported that in 2018, Louisiana honey bee colonies had produced more than 3 million pounds of honey with a total value of more than 7 million dollars.
What Are the Main Types of Honey Produced in Louisiana?
With its high level of floral diversity, honey farms and apiaries in Louisiana produce a wide variety of different kinds of honey based on local flowers.
Some of the more popular honey varietals include clover honey, white dutch honey, buckwheat honey, citrus honey, and of course, wildflower honey when apiaries instead opt to incorporate a multitude of floral sources.
Is Louisiana Honey Produced Seasonally, or All-Year-Round?
The season of honey production varies depending on the specific region of Louisiana. It generally occurs sooner in southern Louisiana, whereas it might be delayed a few weeks in the colder northern regions.
This is because colder temperatures discourage bee productivity, so it takes longer for bees to produce significant amounts of money in the colder north than it does in the warmer south.
Honey is typically produced in the early summer months after the high productivity and activity of the preceding spring months. Again, honey flow begins sooner in the southern parts of the state, where it may commence as soon as late May or early June. Meanwhile, it can occur later in the summer in the north.
Either way, honey typically stops flowing in October in both areas of Louisiana. The rest of the year outside of this time is dedicated to the survival and gathering food and resources for honey production.
Are There Any Major Honey Farms or Apiaries in Louisiana?
Louisiana owes its significant annual commercial honey production to over 45,000 bee colonies throughout the state. While many of these are housed in large commercial businesses, much of the state’s honey is produced by hobbyists or small and local family-owned businesses.
There are nonetheless a handful of major honey farms and apiaries across Louisiana, some of which have been in business for decades. These include Ponchatoula’s Best Honey in Ponchatoula (in business over 30 years), Hummer and Son Honey Farm in Bossier City (in business over 30 years).
Which Species of Bees Create Louisiana Honey?
While there are many species of bees worldwide that create honey, most of the honey produced in Louisiana comes from the Western honey bee (Apis mellifera), also known as the European honey bee.
There are several different subspecies of the Western honey bee, the most popular of which is the Italian honey bee (Apis mellifera ligustica), which is sold throughout Louisiana as a docile and easy bee for beginning beekeepers to raise.
Other subspecies of the Western honey bee in Louisiana include the Carniolan honey bee (A. mellifera carnica) and the German honey bee (A. mellifera mellifera).
What Native Plants and Trees Are Beneficial to Pollinators?
Many species of bees are native to Louisiana. Some of these include the carpenter bees of genus Xylocarpa and the American bumblebee (Bombus pensylvanicus). Out of all these, the most familiar bee in the state is the honey bee, despite the fact that it is not even native to the state.
Honey bees are native to Europe, Northern Africa, and the Middle East, and were only brought to the Americas in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries with the arrival of European settlers.
There are numerous native plant species that are beneficial to pollinators in Louisiana. Below is just a selection of the pollinator-friendly native plant life in the state:
|Zizia aurea - known as Golden Alexanders
|Asclepias tuberosa - known as Butterfly Milkweed
|Coreopsis lanceolata - known as Lanceleaf coreopsis
|Monarda fistulosa - known as Wild Bergamot
|Eutrochium fistulosum - known as Joe Pye Weed
|Liatris spicata - known as march Blazing Star
|Eryngium yuccifolium - known as Rattlesnake Master
|Crataegus crus-galli - known as Cockspur Hawthorn
|Vaccinium corymbosum - known as Highbush blueberry
|Cercis canadensis - known as Eastern Redbud
|Cephalanthus occidentalis - known as Buttonbush
|Passiflora incarnata - known as Purple Passionflower or Maypop
In addition to these native plants, some beekeepers and gardeners in Louisiana use introduced plant species to support their local pollinators. Some of these plants include X and Y.
What Sort of Environment Is Needed to Produce Honey in Louisiana?
Bees thrive in temperate conditions where they are free to forage nearby pollinator plants and gather nectar. The ideal climate for bees is in mid-range temperatures that are neither chilly nor hot. In Louisiana, bees experience this environment in the springtime, and occasionally in warmer winters as well.
As in many other states, the weather is a major factor to consider when keeping bees in Louisiana. Cold winds can prevent bees from going out and foraging for themselves, and furthermore, the weather conditions might be unfavourable to pollinator plants in the first place, meaning that bees can be low on food.
During these conditions, beekeepers should provide protection from heavy winds and rains, and should likewise feed bees with sugar syrup to keep them going. Such periods of relative inactivity can be perfect breeding grounds for disease and mites.
Another thing that Louisiana beekeepers must remain aware of is the numerous diseases that can affect bees in the state. Two of Louisiana’s most prominent bee diseases are European foulbrood (caused by Streptococcus pluton) and American foulbrood (caused by Bacillus larvae), both of which can destroy developing bee brood and cripple bee populations.
Like the rest of the country, those wanting to practise beekeeping in Louisiana will have to register their apiaries with the state and get officially licenced before they can legally own bee colonies. They must also comply with a number of laws concerning the appropriate treatment, transportation, and regulation of bee populations.