Maryland Honey

European Honey Bee Pollinating Avocado Flower
European honey bee pollinating avocado flower in order to make avocado honey for Maryland honey producers

Maryland honey is produced primarily by European honey bees and mainly for commercial purposes. In 2018 the state had produced over 100,000 pounds of honey from a variety of flowers such as clover, aster, buttonbush, and more.

During the winter months no excess honey is being produced due to the low temperatures. Commercial honey is harvested in the late spring and early summer months as well as end of summer and early autumn period.

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    What Is the History of Maryland Honey?

    Honey has a long history in the northeastern states. The first honey bees arrived in Massachusetts in 1622 with English settlers, and honey production had spread up and down the coast by the end of the seventeenth century. Since then, honey production has grown in popularity throughout the state.

    How Much Honey Is Produced in This State?

    Bees produce Maryland honey for commercial purposes. However, in addition to that, they have their own motivations for pollinating and gathering nectar. In the natural world, pollination is a matter of survival.

    Pollen is a vital resource for developing bees and the growth of the brood, while also serving as a valuable source of protein for the whole hive. Nectar is then converted to honey, which mature beads rely on as their primary food source.

    Any excess honey is stored in combs, so that way, bees can return to it during hard times when they are either unable to forage for themselves or when food is scarce.

    Maryland produces not inconsequential amounts of honey every year. In 2018, the USDA reported that Maryland, along with Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Rhode Island, had produced over one million pounds of honey. Out of this, Maryland alone produced over 100,000 pounds of honey.

    What Are the Main Types of Honey This State Produces?

    With its varied native floral plant life, Maryland honey farms and apiaries produce a wide variety of different kinds of honey. Some of the most common kinds include various strains of clover honey, such as Sweet, Red, and White Dutch. At the same time, Maryland beekeepers also utilise floral sources from surrounding states to produce diverse kinds of honey.

    Some get their clover from relatively distant states like South Dakota and Florida, where they get flowers to produce distinct honey varieties such as orange blossom honey and avocado honey.

    Others go closer to home and source their honey from neighbouring states like New Jersey, where they get blueberry honey, cranberry honey, and South Jersey Pine Barren honey, and Maine, where they can produce raspberry honey. Of course, some beekeepers also opt to use a mixture of floral sources, creating wildflower honey.

    Orange Blossom Honey
    Maryland honey farms produce a variety of specialty honey including orange blossom honey - Credit: Honey Pacifica

    Is Honey Produced in Maryland All Year Round, or Is It Seasonal?

    Because of the low temperatures, bees do not produce much excess honey during winter months in Maryland. Honey primarily flows in the late spring and early summer, depending on the specific weather conditions that year and area of the state. It then ceases towards the end of July and can pick up again in August and continue through September to October.

    Which Bees Create Honey in Maryland?

    Honey in Maryland is primarily produced by the European honey bee (Apis mellifera), also known as the Western honey bee, and its various subspecies. The most popular subspecies is the Italian honey bee (Apis mellifera ligustica), which is commonly sold to beginning beekeepers due to its more docile temperament that makes it easier to raise.

    Other species sold in the state include Carniolan honey bees (Apis mellifera carnica) and Russian honey bees.

    What Native Plants or Trees Are Friendly to Pollinators?

    Over 400 species of bees are present in Maryland. Many of these are native to the state, such as several species of bumblebees (in the Bombus genus) and the large carpenter bee (Xylocopa virginica). Out of these, the European honey bee is one of the more familiar species, although it is not native to the state.

    Honey bees are not native to North America in general; rather, they were first introduced to the Americas in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries with the arrival of European settlers.

    Even though honey bees are not native to the region, there are nonetheless many native Maryland plants and trees that are friendly to pollinators. A few of these include:

    Symphyotrichum novae-angliae - known as New England aster Physocarpus opulifolius - known as Ninebark
    Rosa virginiana - known as Virginia rose Cephalanthus occidentalis - known as Buttonbush
    Salix discolor - known as Pussy Willow Ziza aurea - known as Golden Alexanders
    Tradescantia virginiana - known as Spiderwort Pycnanthemum tenuifolium - known as Narrowleaf mountain mint
    Cirsium discolor - known as Field Thistle Verbena hastata - known as Blue Vervain
    Geranium maculatum - known as Wild Geranium Gentiana clausa - known as Bottle Gentian
    Solidago rugosa - known as Wrinkleleaf Goldenrod Lobelia cardinalis - known as Cardinal Flower
    Asclepias incarnata - known as Swamp Milkweed Tilia americana - known as American basswood
    Honeybee Harvesting Orangeblossom Nectar
    Honeybee Harvesting Orangeblossom Nectar
    Bee Pollinating Red Clover
    Red clover is a common choice for pollinators in Maryland

    Are There Any Major Honey Farms or Apiaries in Maryland?

    Maryland is home to dozens of apiaries and honey farms of all sizes. While much of its honey does come from larger companies, a large proportion comes from local hobbyists and smaller, family-owned businesses.

    Some of the more notable honey farms in the state include Hays Apiary in Smithsburg (in business over 40 years), McDaniel Honey Farm in Manchester (in business over 40 years), and BannerBee LLC with apiaries across the state (in business over three generations).

    What Sort of Environment Is Needed to Produce Honey in Maryland?

    Many northeastern states are subject to extremely cold temperatures, and Maryland is no exception. The frigid weather discourages bees from going out and foraging on their own, meaning that bee colonies require significant attentiveness during the winter months to survive.

    Beekeepers need to provide their bees with plentiful food in the form of sugar syrup or candy sugar, for example. Bees should also be sheltered from heavier winds or rains. Bees will be able to forage more when spring begins, but that does not mean that they are completely safe.

    Once the weather gets warmer, Maryland beekeepers must monitor their hives’ population of varroa mites. These pests can be incredibly destructive, such that they can obliterate an entire colony in a matter of weeks if not kept in cheque.

    When varroa populations exceed a given threshold in a bee colony, pesticides or natural treatments must be administered immediately before serious issues arise. Although their presence is currently not extremely notable, beekeepers in Maryland must still be wary of the appearance of Africanised honey bees (Apis mellifera scutellata).

    Africanised Bee Pollinating Lavender
    Africanised honey bees are still present in Maryland state. Althoguh in small numbers, beekeepers must still be wary of them

    These bees are more commonly known by their title, “Killer bees,” because they are extremely aggressive and territorial, much more so than other bees. Killer bees were first brought to Brazil in an effort to develop a tropics-friendly honey bee, but once it escaped that region, it began mating with other honey bees along the way and became highly territorial, such that they can swarm and attack any perceived predators.

    Their stings are not deadly on their own, but during a swarm, hundreds of simultaneous stings can be fatal. They are primarily an issue in southern states like Texas and Arizona, but they are gradually spreading north, such that Maryland beekeepers should make sure that they appropriately deal with Africanised honey bees.

    Of course, those looking to keep bees in Maryland must comply with local state laws. They must get officially licenced and register their apiaries with the state.

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