Washington Honey

Honey Bee Harvesting Fireweed Nectar In Alaska
Western honey bee collecting fireweed nectar in order to produce fireweed honey

Beekeeping in Washington even transcends typical practices, as some are combining their honey-harvesting efforts with different kinds of businesses. For example, in exchange for space on the rooftop of Fairmont Olympic Hotel in Seattle, a beekeeper provides the hotel with honey for use in its restaurant. This type of agreement is beginning to reflect a growing trend in Washington’s beekeeping industry.

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    When Did Washington’s Honey Production Begin?

    It is not known exactly when honey production began in Washington. Records show that in the 1850s, bees were shipped from the Eastern States to California. From there, they reached Washington in natural swarms or in hives taken by settlers.

    Today, ranked 11th nationally, Washington state is one of the largest producers of honey in America.

    How Much Honey Does Washington Produce?

    The Washington honeybee industry annually produces an average of approximately 3,300/1,000 pounds of honey valued at nearly $4 million. The 2020 USDA report states that in 2019 Washington produced 2,835,000 pounds of honey from 81,000 honey-producing colonies.

    Beyond the obvious honey production, however, it is the honeybees’ value as pollinators of fruit, vegetable, and seed crops in the state that makes them such an integral part of the state’s ecosystem. Their pollination efforts add billions of dollars in value to the Washington state economy, which usually includes around $3 billion from tree fruit and berries.

    What Are the Main Types of Honey Washington Produces?

    There is a myriad of kinds of honey produced in Washington state, including but not limited to the following list:

    Buckwheat Honey
    Washington honey farms produce significant amounts of buckwheat honey
    Blackberry Honey
    Blackberry honey is also a popular variety of honey produced in Washington

    Is Washington Honey Produced Year-Round or Seasonally?

    In Washington honey is generally extracted towards the end of the summer. After the cold winter beekeepers should help their bees in cleansing the hive by getting rid of dead bees as well as checking on their food supply and if needed, administer sugar solution. Just before Spring it is also a great time to check for signs of diseases and begin treatment for prevention.

    Which Types of Honey Bees Produce Washington Honey?

    The majority of honey produced in Washington comes from the European honey bee (Apis mellifera) and its subspecies. The most popular subspecies is the Italian honey bee (A. mellifera ligustica).

    Other popular bee subspecies used throughout the state are Carniolan honey bees and German bees.

    Which Nectar-Producing Plants Are Native to Washington?

    There is a vast array of honey bee-friendly vegetation in Washington, from which the bees extract nectar, pollen, and propolis. Most are broken into four groups: perennials, annuals, trees, and shrubs.

    Perennials Agastache, Alyssum, Bearberry, California Poppy, Catnip, Catmint, Centaurea, Rockrose, Cranesbill, Crocus, Echinacea, Fennel, Rock Rose, Hellebore, Hyacinth, Lavender, Lemon Balm, Lupin, Michaelmas Daisy, Oregano, Ornamental Goldenrod, Parsley, Peppermint, Poppies, Pulmonaria, Rock Cress, Romneya, Rose Mallows, Rose Mary, Rubus Calycinoides, Rudbeckia, Sage, Sedum, Spearmint, Squills, Strawberries, Yarrow
    Annuals Anemone Blanda, Bachelor Buttons, Buckwheat, Cilantro, Clover, Cosmos, Cucumbers, Green Beans, Green Peas, Pumpkins, Snowdrops, Squashes, Sunflowers, Sweet Peas, Thistle, Zinnias
    Trees Apple, Apricot, Arbutus Unedo, Basswood, Catalpa, Cherry, Clerodendron, Cornelian Cherry, Crabapples, Evodia, Golden Chain, Hazels, Holly, Horse Chestnut, Locust, Magnolia, Maple, Michaelia, Mimosa, Mountain Ash, Oxydendrum, Plum, Tulip Poplar, Willow
    Shrubs Black Raspberries, Blackberry, Blueberries, Boysenberries, Caryopteris, Ceanothus, Choisia, Deutzia, Heather, Hydrangea, Loganberries, Mahonia, Pieris, Raspberries, Rose Of Sharon, Rosemary, Viburnum, Weigela, Witch Hazel

    Are There Any Major Honey Farms or Apiaries in Washington?

    Here is a list of some of the notable honey farms and apiaries in Washington:

    • Green Valley’s Honeytree Farm
    • Double R Honey Farms
    • HolBen Honey
    • Mt Adams Honey 
    • Robbins Honey Farm
    • Sequim Bee Farm
    • Sunrise Honey Company
    Italian Honey Bee Feeding on Bee Balm
    Washington honey is primarily produced by the Italian honey bee (Apis mellifera ligustica)

    Washington State University’s Fight Against Bee Decline

    In a way, Washington is ground zero in the ongoing efforts to stop the declining numbers in the honeybee population. Not only do state officials have an additional and much more serious threat to the honey bee population with which to contend in the Asian Giant Hornet, but researchers at Washington State University are also currently expanding their efforts to determine the primary cause(s) of what’s happening to the honey bees and to find a way to reverse the negative trend.

    WSU has recently opened its Honey Bee & Pollinator Research, Extension, and Education Facility near Othello, Washington. Located on 50 acres of land and enabling scientists and researchers to work with a commercial-sized number of colonies, the new facility will be home to increased efforts to discover why honey bees are gradually disappearing and to help prop up existing populations.

    Beekeepers at both the state and national level will directly benefit from the facility’s advancements, as they will be able to participate in short courses, demonstrations, and classes – all of which will contribute to the improvement of Washington’s agricultural industry since the food supply is so dependent on the pollination of honey bees.

    While the facility will be nearly completely dedicated to research and experimentation, there is, of course, one very nice by-product of the work: honey, approximately 4,000 pounds of which was produced during its first summer of operation. The WSU Entomology Department put the honey right back into the research, so to speak, by packaging and selling the sweet results of their work and reinvesting the proceeds in the continuation of the honey bee research.

    More specifically, however, much of the work carried out at the facility will deal with strengthening the genetics of honey bees so that they can better withstand the factors that contribute to their destruction, such as the Varroa Mite. A honey bee genetic repository will be employed that hopefully will allow researchers to increase the genetic diversity of honey bees, help them to combat viruses and microbial diseases, and to control the atmospheric storage for over-wintering and mite management.  Researchers hope to be able to do the following:

    • Increase the diversity of honey bees by importing genetic samples of original source populations of honey bees from Europe and Asia

     

    • Enhance the honey bees’ natural mechanisms of resistance to the Varroa Mite by introducing various strains of fungi that both control the mite and improve the honey bees’ immune systems

     

    • Experiment with elevated concentrations of carbon dioxide during overwintering activities, as this does not seem to harm the bees and helps to control the Varroa. If successful, this will also have a beneficial effect on the work of migratory beekeepers, which is one of the principal contributors to the economy of the honey bee industry

     

    With the facility’s being located in the heart of the pollinator-dependent agricultural region of central Washington, the facility’s work will be invaluable going forward not only to solve the mystery of the declining number of honey bees but also to contribute to the food security of the entire world.

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