Nebraska Honey

Nebraska Honey
Nebraska Honey - Credit: Prairie River Honey Farm

For over a century, Nebraska was considered an ideal place for honey bees not only to produce honey but also to rest, recuperate, and pollinate. There are plenty of floral sources for the bees to forage on which makes Nebraska an excellent place for pollinators and beekeepers alike.

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    When Did North Nebraska Begin Producing Honey?

    Honey bees were first brought to North America in the 1620s with the arrival of European settlers. By the start of the eighteenth century, honey bees had spread up and down the coastline and followed wherever the colonists went.

    During the 1880s-1980s Nebraska quickly became one of the major honey-producing states in the country. In the 1880s, the Nebraska Beekeepers Association was formed, and it was a time when the Missouri River Valley was becoming famous for its swarms of black honey bees. What began as a few hundred beekeepers in the state eventually became thousands over the course of the century.

    How Much Honey Does Nebraska Produce?

    According to the USDA reports, in 2019 Nebraska produced 2.03 million pounds of honey from 39,000 honey-producing colonies. While many states throughout the country would undoubtedly be quite satisfied with those numbers, in the case of Nebraska, it’s more of a story of ‘how the mighty have fallen.’ The total value of honey production in 2019 was $2.96 million which is down 38 percent from the previous year.

    Honeybee Pollinating Alfalfa Flower
    Western honey bee collecting alfalfa nectar in order to produce Nebraska honey

    What Are the Main Types of Honeys Nebraska Produces?

    With all of the different types of flora on which honeybees can forage in Nebraska, there are bound to be all different types of flavors and flavor combinations. Some of the most common ones include wildflower honey, linden honey, alfalfa honey, and clover honey.

    Is Nebraska Honey Produced Seasonally, or Is It Produced All Year Round?

    Nebraska honey flow is seasonal and typically begins in Springtime. Beekeepers normally begin to harvest their colonies in late July and the beginning of August. After the summer months, nectar sources will begin to disappear and bees are gathering nectar in order to store food for the winter months.

    Which Types of Honey Bees Produce Nebraska Honey?

    Nebraska honey is primarily produced by subspecies of the European honey bee (Apis mellifera).

    Scatter Joy Acres have been keeping Italian honey bees for the past two years.

    Nebraska Honey Inspection
    Beekeeper inspecting the hive, checking for queen and brood - Credit: Prairie River Honey Farm

    What Native Plants and Are Beneficial to Pollinators in Nebraska?

    While Nebraska has had its share of inconsistent weather that has unfortunately affected a number of its flora, the state is still home to a lot of different flora and fauna on which honey bees can feed. The following is a list of some of the more common flowers that contribute to feeding both the commercial honey bees and the wild bees. There are, however, many, many more:

    Agricultural Crops Alfalfa, Vetch & Clovers, Fruit trees, Melons & Cucumbers, Squash & Pumpkins, Berries, Sunflowers, Field peas, Soybeans, Dry beans
    Lawn Plants Common Blue Violet, Common Dandelion, Lance Selfheal, White Dutch Clover
    Spring Garden Plants Blackberry, Red Raspberry, Wild Strawberry, Winged Lythrum
    Spring Woody Plants Black Cherry, Box Elder, Currants, Black Locust, Honey Locust, Ninebark, Northern Catalpa, Prairie Crabapple, Standing Sweet Pea, Wild Plum, Willow
    Summer Garden Plants Anise Hyssop, Bee Balm, Cup Plant, Fireweed, Milkvetch, Milkweeds, Mountain Mint, Purple Giant Hyssop, Purple Prairie Clover, Rocky Mountain Bee Plant, White Prairie Clover, Wild Golden Glow, Yarrow, Yellow Bee Plant
    Summer Woody Plants American Persimmon, Buttonbush, Linden, Ninebark, Sandcherry, Sumac
    Fall Garden Plants Asters, Autumn Fire Sedum, Cowpen Daisy, Culpers Root, Goldenrod, Indian Blanket, Maximilian Sunflower, Partridge Pea, Smartweed, Sneezeweed, Sunflower, Wingstem
    Fall Woody Plants Russian Sage, Witch Hazel

    Are There Any Major Farms or Apiaries in Nebraska?

    Nebraska is considered a prominent state for US honey production and has several major apiaries and honey farms across the state. 

    Below is a list of some of the popular honey farms and apiaries in Nebraska:

    • Bountiful Blossoms Bee Company
    • Scatter Joy Acres
    • Gibbons Honey Farms
    • Pine Ridge Apiaries
    • Prairie River Honey Farm
    • Valhalla Bee Farm
    • It’s All About Bees
    Nebraska Honey Farm
    Nebraska honey farm located on pollinator habitat near the Loup River - Credit: Prairie River Honey Farm

    What Environment Is Needed to Produce Nebraska Honey?

    With the exception of December, beekeepers are busy throughout the year. Here is what they do in order to provide the best environment for bees to produce honey.

    January: January is one of the coldest months in Nebraska, and it is also the time when beekeepers should re-stock on bees and equipment.

    February: as the days are getting longer and warmer, the queen is starting to lay significantly more eggs. Beekeepers should open up the hive and without removing any frames, carry out the first inspection of the year. 

    March: after the winter months bee population would have significantly dropped due to low food levels and the cold weather. Beekeepers should carry out emergency feeding if needed and continue to inspect the hive. March is also a great time to prepare the hive for brood raising by cleaning the hive and getting rid of dead bees.

    April: This month is the start of the busiest season for beekeepers. They should continue to inspect the hives and feed the weaker hives in order to help the progress of heavy nectar flow. As bees usually swarm in April, it is time for beekeepers to implement a swarm management strategy.

    Nebraska Honey Beekeeper
    Beekeeper inspecting the brood - Credit: Prairie River Honey Farm

    May: By this time, bees should be in full operation and not have to be fed anymore. As bee swarming continues throughout May, beekeepers should provide extra room in the hive, or even consider having an empty hive at hand.

    June-July: In June bees can still swarm, so beekeepers should keep an eye out for swarms. Towards the end of June, the major nectar flow will start to disappear, and bees are gathering nectar in an effort to prepare for the winter months. At the end of July, beekeepers should start extracting honey and carry out mite inspections.

    August – September: As the colder months are approaching, honey bees are making final efforts to store up for the winter. August is considered to be the beginning of the beekeeper’s year as to how they prepare at this time will influence the outcome the following year. In September beekeepers should continue to prepare the hive for the winter, carry out mite inspections.

    October- November: As bees are shifting to winter mode, they will begin to cluster for the winter. They may still leave the hive on warmer but will re-cluster at night. Beekeepers should feed the bees and finish up the winterization of the hive.

    December: December is a quiet month for beekeepers. They should plan ahead for the following Spring, place orders for bees and equipment, and take the time to relax after a busy season.

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