Ranking 18th in honey production in the past few years, Wyoming is considered a significant honey producer in the US. Wyoming produces a wide range of different kinds of honey including raspberry honey, alfalfa honey, huckleberry honey, and mooseberry honey. The majority of Wyoming honey is primarily made by the Italian and Carniolan honey bees.
When Did the Production of Wyoming Honey Begin?
There are no written records on when exactly honey bees we brought into Wyoming. The Western honey bees were transported into the United Stated during the European colonization in 1622.
Commercial beekeeping only became popular in the 1860s throughout the country. Since then, Wyoming gradually developed a reputation for beekeeping.
How Much Honey Does Wyoming Produce?
Despite the larger-scale issues, Wyoming continues to be a significant producer of honey in the United States. In 2018 and 2019, Wyoming has ranked 18th in honey production by putting out 2.18 million pounds from 39,000 working colonies. The average yield per colony was 56 pounds, and the average price per pound was $1.35.
Wyoming honey bees are managed for all the typical aspects found in the beekeeping industry: honey, beeswax, pollen, propolis, pollination services, packaged bees, and queen bee sales. Additionally, beeswax is used for various bee products such as cosmetics, candles, inks, polishes, and paints. Royal jelly and pollen are used in health food supplements because of their high vitamin and mineral content.
What Are the Main Types of Honey Wyoming Produces?
From that vast array of flowers, plants, shrubs, and trees come quite a few distinctive honey tastes. Many in the beekeeping industry feel that the best honey in the world comes from the region, including Wyoming, Montana, and the Dakotas because of their light colors and mild flavors.
Some of the main types of honey, produced in Wyoming are:
- Mild Clover honey
- Raspberry honey
- Huckleberry honey
- Alfalfa honey
- Mooseberry honey
- Chokecherry honey
Which Types of Honey Bees Produce Wyoming Honey?
Wyoming honey is primarily produced by the Italian honey (Apis mellifera ligustica) bee and the Carniolan honey bee (Apis mellifera carnica). Both are subspecies of the Western honey bee (Apis mellifera) that was brought into North America in the early 1600s.
Which Native Plants Produce Wyoming Honey?
Wyoming (and the larger Rocky Mountain area) is home to a vast array of vegetation on which honey bees feed, and that contributes to honey production.
The list includes the following:
|Trees and Shrubs||Kinnikinnick, Parry’s Rabbitbrush, Fivepetal Cliffbush, Twinberry Honeysuckle, Creeping Barberry, Mountain Ninebark, Antelope Bitterbrush, Gooseberry Currant, Woods’ Rose, Red Elderberry, Roundleaf Snowberry|
|Perennials||Western Yarrow, Western Pearly Everlasting, Colorado Blue Columbine, Heartleaf Arnica, Gunnison’s Mariposa Lily, Bluebell Bellflower, Fireweed, Two Lobe Larkspur, Subalpine Fleabane, Aspen Fleabane, Common Gaillardia, Silky Phacelia, Smooth Blue Aster, American Vetch, Richardson’s Geranium, Hairy False Goldenaster, Scarlet Gilia, Porter’s Licorice-Root, Lewis Flax, Silvery Lupine, Prairie Bluebells, Pony Bee Balm,|
Are There Any Major Honey Farms or Apiaries in Wyoming?
There is a large number of honey farms throughout Wyoming. Here is a list of some of the significant apiaries in the state:
- Bryant Honey – Worland
- Cheyenne Honey – Cheyenne
- Wyoming Honey Company – Millis
- Queen Bee Gardens – Lovell, Cody, & Greybull
- River Road Honey – Greybull
- Colva Honey Works – Riverton
- Wind River Honey Company – Midvale
The Impact of Global Bee Decline on Wyoming
Around the world, these industries are in a period of significant change. The beekeepers in Wyoming have felt it as much if not more so than many other places. While Wyoming remains a substantial producer of honey, things have changed quite a bit in the cowboy state.
For example, back in 1915 – approximately five generations ago – Bryant Honey was founded, one of the state’s leading honey producers. It was typical during the winter season for beekeepers to lose anywhere from three to five percent of their hives. It was an expected loss that was merely accounted for.
Today, Bryant Honey can experience colony losses of anywhere from 25 to 65 percent. In fact, during one recent winter season, the company’s owner lost approximately 2,000 of his 8,000 colonies.
The challenge of keeping the bees alive, a problem that goes well beyond the borders of Wyoming, has generally resulted in two things: state beekeepers are being forced to innovate and take risks in an effort to maintain production levels, and with all the attention that bees have been receiving because of their precarious situation, interest in beekeeping as a profession is beginning to increase – which is a good thing.
There are quite a few reasons for the difficulties experienced by the bees and beekeepers in Wyoming. Those reasons include but are not limited to some of the following:
Colony Collapse Disorder: This somewhat mysterious, complete death and disappearance of honeybee colonies has become a global crisis. At the heart of the issue is the destructive Varroa mite, which spreads viruses throughout the hive. In a rich environment such as a bee box, the mite poses an even higher risk.
Diseases: Nosema disease – a bacterial spore that affects the bees’ digestive system – and Foulbrood – a bacterial spore that’s been around for decades – are also crippling entire colonies. The matter is made worse when some beekeepers use harsh antibiotics in an attempt to cleanse the colony of infection but only end up weakening the bees.
Increased Pesticide Poisoning: Weedkillers and insecticides are often sprayed along highways, in public areas, and among crops, eliminating honey bees’ food sources. Another food source that has been eradicated in recent years is the vast number of Russian Olive Trees in the state, something on which the bees depended during early summer. Chemical treatments also contribute to habitat loss.
Mosquito Control: There are at least 39 species of mosquitoes in Wyoming, which easily outnumber the 10 to 20 million honeybees. Controlling the mosquitoes without wiping out entire bee colonies is not easy to do. In fact, 40 years ago, the mosquito infestation was so bad that residents claimed that a person could ‘nearly breathe them in.’ The commercial spraying led to huge bee losses. Now, mosquito control experts actually have most hives and colonies loaded into their GPS, so they know where not to spray.
Improved Efficiency of Farm Equipment: This has the effect of rendering the corners and ditches of farmlands free from weeds and wildflowers, and combined with the increased use of pesticides, can leave the bees with inadequate flowers for nutrition.
Stress: An important part of the beekeeping industry is mobile pollination services, which provide a service to various farmlands and food for the bees. In Wyoming, the bees are usually trucked to California during the winter months to pollinate almond fields. All of the extended travel and different environments put stress on entire colonies and contribute to their deterioration.