Rhode Island Honey

Wildflower Honey
Rhode Island honey farms produce a variety of different kinds of honeys including wildflower honey

It is thought that the production of Rhode Island honey began in the late 1600s in small numbers. Despite the decrease of honey farms in the state these past few years, in 2017 the value of honey production has become four times larger than in 2012 totalling $442,000.

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    When Did Rhode Island’s Honey Production Begin?

    Since Rhode Island was one of the first 13 colonies, it was one of the first areas of North America to receive European settlers, and as was previously mentioned, European settlers were the reason honey bees now exist in the United States.

    Historical records show that in May of 1632 (about 150 years before Rhode Island officially become a state), a request came from Providence (the capital) for honey bees to be sent from England.

    That request was not fulfilled, but it is thought that small-scale commercial honey production began soon after, most likely before the start of the 18th century. Beekeeping and honey farming became especially popular in Rhode Island, in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

    How Much Honey Does Rhode Island Produce?

    Plant pollination is not a necessary step in the honey bees’ honey-making methods. Honey bees go from flower to flower looking for food (both to consume immediately and save to turn into honey), and they just happen to help with plant fertilisation in the process.

    Unlike in other states, where honey bee populations have been rapidly decreasing, the number of honey bee colonies in the state of Rhode Island has actually gone up in recent years. In 2012 there were 739 colonies of honey bees (not counting package bees as separate colonies), but in 2017 that amount had increased to 986 colonies.

    However, there are now fewer honey farms in Rhode Island than there have been in the past. Despite that decrease, almost 33,000 more pounds of honey were collected in 2017 than were collected in 2012. In addition, the value of honey production has become four times larger, coming in at $442,000 in 2017.

    What Are the Main Types of Honey Rhode Island Produces?

    Since Rhode Island is such a small state, much of the honey labelled by producers as “Rhode Island Honey” actually comes from hives in Massachusetts or Connecticut or bees that made that honey foraged on plants in states that aren’t Rhode Island. Oftentimes, this is why honey from the area is labelled as “New England Honey” instead of being entirely state-specific.

    For similar reasons, there aren’t many varieties of honey specifically associated with the state of Rhode Island. The popular honey farm Annie B’s Honey Farm, for instance, sells four types of honey: Dark Wildflower Honey, Clover Honey, Pure Blueberry Honey, and Orange Blossom Honey, all of which are common varieties.

    Furthermore, owner Annette Birman says that all of her blueberry honey comes from blueberry fields in Massachusetts, and she grows her own orange trees in a greenhouse for her orange blossom honey.

    Smaller honey farming operations usually just label their honey as wildflower honey because the honey bees acquire their nectar from so many different sources. Wildflower honey is very popular all over the country, with a flavour varying from fresh and floral to earthy and herbaceous.

    In order to make the varieties of honey they offer more unique, some Rhode Island honey farms infuse their honey with different kinds of spices and other natural flavourings. For example, Rhode Island’s largest local honey provider, Aquidneck Honey, has offerings including Rosemary Infused Honey, Ceylon Cinnamon Honey, Chocolate Mint Infused Honey, Curry Infused Honey, and Ghost Pepper Chili Infused Honey.

    Honeybee Harvesting Orangeblossom Nectar
    Honeybee Harvesting Orangeblossom Nectar
    Bee Pollinating Red Clover
    Bee Pollinating Red Clover

    Is Rhode Island Honey Produced Year-Round or Seasonally?

    Although honey bees work on various tasks relating to the honey-making process all year, beekeepers are busiest in the spring, summer, and early fall. In Rhode Island, honey is usually harvested from late June to early August.

    Which Types of Honey Bees Produce Rhode Island Honey?

    It might come as a surprise to some, but there is actually only one species of honey bee that can be found in any of the States. It’s called the Western honey bee (scientific name Apis mellifera) and it’s one of seven species of honey bee that can be found all over the world. This type of bee comes from Europe, and there are subspecies of Apis mellifera that come from different parts of the European continent.

    The most common subspecies, or race, of the Western honey bee, is the Italian honey bee (Apis mellifera ligustica) and other popular bees include Russian bees (which were introduced to the U.S. in the late ‘90s), Carniolan bees, and Caucasian bees. However, beekeepers today are less concerned with breeding a specific race of bee, caring more about producing healthy and productive honey bee colonies that are commonly hybrids of various honey bee races.

    Although Rhode Island has some local honey bee suppliers, most Rhode Island beekeepers order their bees from online suppliers that can ship bees to any state, including Brushy Mountain Bee Farm, Dadant & Sons, and Bee Source.

    Italian Honey Bee Feeding on Bee Balm
    Italian honey bee is one of the most common race of the Western honey bee found in Rhode Island

    Are There Any Major Honey Farms or Apiaries in Rhode Island?

    There are two honey farms in Rhode Island registered with the National Honey Board: Aquidneck Honey in Portsmouth (near the Southeast border of Rhode Island and Massachusetts) and Legend’s Creek Farm in Foster (in the Northwest corner of the state).

    Other honey farms/apiaries in Rhode Island include:

    • Littlefield Bee Farm (New Shoreham)
    • BB Nelson Apiaries (Woonsocket)
    • Fruit Hill Apiaries (North Providence)
    • Beehavin’ Apiary LLC (East Greenwich)
    • Wood’s Beekeeping Supply (Smithfield)

     

    Rhode Island beekeepers will often also acquire bees from neighbouring states—Cedar Lane Apiaries in Sterling, Connecticut, and Warm Colours Apiaries in South Deerfield, Massachusetts are both popular local suppliers.

    Which Honey Bees and Nectar-Producing Plants Are Native to Rhode Island?

    North America is home to over 4,000 native bee species, including all types of bumblebees, carpenter bees, and fairy (Perdita) bees. However, none of those species include any kind of honey bee. Apis mellifera, alongside all other species of honey bees, has never been native to the United States. Western honey bees have been able to adapt to all kinds of climates, and as a result, can be found in every single one of the States (including Alaska and Hawaii).

    Trees Willow, Maple
    Fruit blossoms Plum, Peach, Cherry, Pear, Apple
    Other plants Dandelion, Locust, Clove, Sumac, Beach Rose

    What Environment Is Needed to Produce Rhode Island Honey?

    As was mentioned previously, honey bees have the ability to adapt to many climates—including Rhode Island’s relatively humid climate that has long, cold winters and short, mostly mild summers.

    Because of these colder winters, however, beekeepers must take certain precautions to ensure that as many of their bees as possible make it through the winter and are able to produce lots of honey in the summer.

    Some of these precautions include leaving extra food (honey) in the hives before the winter season begins and making sure apiaries are located in places where they get lots of sun in the winter and are protected from harsh winds.

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