Interior honey season buzzing, producers say

Dry, warm weather has reversed the gloom from last year

Posted: Thursday, July 30, 2009

FAIRBANKS - There's a buzz over this summer's Interior honey crop.

Dry, warm weather - ideal for bees - has reversed the gloom from last year, when the region's roughly 250 beekeepers dealt with one of the worst honey yields in memory.

Don Winston, owner of Bee Alaskan Apiaries in Delta, predicts his 200 colonies will yield as many as 15,000 pounds of honey this summer after producing virtually nothing last year.

"It's the difference between night and day, this July to last July," Winston said. "I had more colonies that were starving to death last year than ones with extra honey."

Winston wasn't the only beekeeper to struggle during the cool summer of 2008.

Stephen Peterson, former secretary of the Interior Alaska Beekeepers Association, said he averaged about 18 pounds per hive, compared with 50-60 pounds during a typical year. He expects to yield about 100 pounds per hive this summer, and it's made him eager.

As someone who has harvested honey in Fairbanks since 1984, Peterson said he normally waits until mid-August to collect honey. But he just couldn't wait to check out his bee boxes near the University of Alaska Fairbanks agricultural fields. He spent Tuesday collecting honey from about a dozen colonies to sell at the Tanana Valley Farmers Market.

Petersen said a bit of rain would make the season even better, but the bees seem to be finding plenty of nectar. He got stung twice as he sifted through the hives. As he licked a drip of honey off a honeycomb, he said the rewards outweigh the hazards.

"That's gotta be the best stuff going," Petersen said with a grin. "That's why it's better to be a beekeeper than a plumber."

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