New Mexico Honey

Sage Honey
New Mexico produces a variety of different kinds of honey such as sage honey

In addition to their natural pollination functions managed honey bees do produce New Mexico honey for commercial purposes. They pollinate and gather nectar for their own survival. Pollen is vital for bees’ brood development and is also a critical source of protein for members of the hive.

Nectar is turned into honey, which bees then use as an energy source to survive. Honey is then stored in a comb so that it can be used for sustenance during the months when bees are not foraging.

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    When Did New Mexico Begin Producing Honey?

    Although native bees have lived in New Mexico for thousands of years, honey bees have only been present in New Mexico since the sixteenth century.

    They were brought with the earliest Spanish missionaries and settlers, who brought European bees that had been selectively bred for hundreds, if not thousands of years to pollinate, produce wax, and of course, to make honey. Given this historical record, honey has been produced in New Mexico for hundreds of years.

    How Much Honey Does New Mexico Produce?

    Thousands of pounds of New Mexico honey is being produced each year. Although individual data is not available due to privacy restrictions, the USDA reported that New Mexico, along with Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, and Rhode Island, had collectively produced over one million pounds of honey in 2018.

    This is despite the fact that there were only 36,000 honey-producing colonies between these ten states.

    What Are the Main Types of Honey Produced in New Mexico?

    New Mexico produces a variety of different kinds of honey. When it comes to local floral sources, popular honey includes cat claw, clover, and purple sage. In addition to that, many New Mexico beekeepers make use of floral life from out-of-state, such as wildflowers from Missouri and plants from other more temperate regions.

    Cat's Claw Flower
    Cat's Claw is a pollinator-friendly native plant to New Mexico

    Is New Mexico Honey Produced Seasonally, or Is It Produced All Year Round?

    Like other warm states, honey is produced in New Mexico year-round due to the generally warm, temperate weather conditions and the lack of true winter. The heat can pose issues to honey bee’s productivity; however, European honeybees (Apis mellifera) bees were originally native to tropical regions, so the generally dry environment of New Mexico can pose issues.

    In particular, one of the major factors affecting New Mexico honey production is the seasonal shortage of nectar-producing plants in dry seasons, during which plants die due to the lack of rainfall and leave bees without a reliable food source. However, as mentioned earlier, this can be mitigated with smart preparation on the part of the beekeeper.

    What Species of Bees Create Honey in New Mexico?

    New Mexico Honey is produced by European honeybees (Apis mellifera). These bees are members of the diverse Apidae family and consist of dozens of different subspecies, of which the most common in New Mexico is A. mellifera ligustica, the Italian honey bee.

    Other varieties of A. mellifera include the Carniolan honey bee (A. mellifera carnica) and the German honey bee (A. mellifera mellifera). Another familiar subspecies of the honey bee in New Mexico is Apis mellifera scutellata, known more commonly as the Africanised honey bee.

    Which Honey Bees and Plants Are Native to New Mexico?

    New Mexico is home to a diverse population of native bees, which stand out from other species of bees due to their grey and black coats. However, honey-producing bees are not native to New Mexico or to any U.S. state. Rather, they were brought to the Americas by European colonisers in the sixteenth century. Honey bees have been present in New Mexico for hundreds of years.

    There are numerous native New Mexico plants that are attractive to pollinators. These include the following:

    Baileya multiradiata - known as Desert Marigold Penstemon eatonii - known as Firecracker Penstemon
    Achillea millefolium - known as Common Yarrow Gaillardia aristata - known as Common Gaillardia
    Sphaeralcea ambigua - known as Desert Globemallow Helianthus maximiliani - known as Maximilian Sunflower
    Forestiera neomexicana - known as New Mexico Olive Fallugia paradoxa - known as Apache Plume
    Rhus trilobata - known as Three Leaf Sumac Nepeta racemose - known as Raceme Catnip
    Whitestem Paperflowers
    Whitestem Paperflowers
    Common Blanketflower
    Honey Bee Pollinating Common Gaillardia (Blanketflower)

    Are There Any Major Honey Farms or Apiaries in New Mexico?

    New Mexico boasts of a small handful of small to midsize honey farms and apiaries. Some of these have been in business for decades, whereas others are relatively new and small family-owned companies. They include Hays Honey Farm in Bosque Farms (in business since 1970), and Altura Honey in Albuquerque, among others.

    What Sort of Environment Is Needed to Produce New Mexico Honey?

    It is legal to practise beekeeping in all parts of the state except for within Alamogordo city limits. In all other parts of New Mexico, it is legal to keep bees, as long as the possession is within the stipulations of New Mexico Statutes Chapter 76 Section 9, known as the Bee Act.

    This act establishes an annual inspection of every apiary in the state to ensure that the bees are being kept in good health and in compliance with the Bee Act. It requires that beekeepers maintain the health of their bees and treat them immediately if they are infected with a contagious disease.

    It also stipulates that no commercial apiaries can be set up within a mile and a half of one another. This is in order to prevent competition between bee populations for precious resources. Nectar sources are scarce in New Mexico, so every bee population should be guaranteed access to sufficient quantities of pollen and nectar to survive.

    Weather Conditions and Beekeeping

    Due to the generally dry weather in the state, New Mexico beekeepers need to ensure that they plant bee-friendly plants near their colonies immediately whenever weather conditions are favourable. Because the optimal rain season is relatively short, beekeepers must take advantage of this window of opportunity at the start of every fall, or just before it.

    Africanised Honey Bee on White Dahlia Flower
    New Mexico honey farms need to be wary of the presence of Africanised bees

    Threats to Local Bee Populations

    One of the most important things that beekeepers have to keep track of is their local population of Africanised honey bees. In addition to their scientific name (Apis mellifera scutellata), Africanised bees have earned the nickname of “killer bees” due to their aggressive behaviour.

    These especially aggressive bees were imported from Africa to Brazil in the late 50s, with the goal of developing a bee that was suited to more tropical climates. These bees eventually escaped Brazil in the 70s and began working their way up through South America to the Southwest United States, taking over many bee colonies along the way.

    These bees are a common threat in the warm-weather Southwestern states near the Mexican border. Africanised bees are significantly more territorial than their docile and domesticated European counterparts, meaning that beekeepers must watch to make sure that they do not overtake their own colonies.

    Like other subspecies, Africanised bees only sting once. A single sting from an Africanised bee will likely not be more than an annoyance unless the victim is allergic. However, these bees breed significantly faster than other species, meaning that when they are aggravated, a swarm as large as 500 bees can attack and sting the supposed threat all at once. Such swarms can be lethal; it is estimated that Africanised bees are responsible for 1,000 deaths worldwide.

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