In Belgium, heavy rainfall during the flowering periods has resulted in a disastrous year for beekeepers. Their honey production is down 50-60 percent from the previous year.
Beekeeper Jef Torfs has one of the largest apiaries in the country with 1,200 hives. He told Flemish Info Centre for Agriculture and Horticulture (VILT) that it rained almost daily during the summer flowering period.
Belgium has an estimated 50,000 to 60,000 beehives, and 8,000 to 10,000 beekeepers, but Torfs distinguishes between apiarists and beekeepers. He sees apiarists as seriously committed to getting the most out of their bees, whereas beekeepers may keep bees, but they often quit after a few years.
According to Torfs, since rapeseed flowers stand up, nectar dissolves into water when it rains for a minute. His season ended with a yield of 25 kilos per hive, compared to his previous all-time low of 40 kilos and peak year yield of 65 kilos.
There were heavy spring rains, and things started looking bad in May and June. The bees were unable to collect nectar, so they couldn't make as much honey as usual. Honey yield dropped by around half to 10 kilos from the usual 20 kilos.
Summer brought in zero kilos of honey, and the losses were so deep that autumn production couldn’t make up for it.
This unrelated 3:17-minute video by Tzu Chi USA 360 was the 1st episode of Stung By Climate: France the Bee Whisperer:
This disaster has created other problems. Beekeepers now have the extra burden of feeding the bees sugar water to keep them alive through the winter, since they couldn’t make enough honey to survive and there will be a lack of their food.
Beekeepers in France have experienced similar problems this year, where the expected yield of honey harvested was 9,000 tons compared to the peak 1995 harvest at 32,000 tons, according to the French National Beekeepers’ Association (UNAF). They point to the undeniability of climate change that French beekeepers have lived with for 15 years already.
French beekeepers are asking their government to proclaim 2021 an agricultural disaster and compensate beekeepers, due to the pollinating service these natural pollinators do for agriculture. They say that if there are no longer any beekeepers to maintain hives, farmers will suffer from lower production of crops. That, in turn, would affect the availability of fresh food all across the country.
Honey was in greater demand than usual during the pandemic and now this crisis will affect how much honey is available. In 2020, honey sales increased 17% in Belgium with 3.2 million kilos of honey sold, according to the CEO of Meli.
There was a lot of interest in honey as a natural product during the pandemic. It never spoils, is high in carbohydrates, and is an ideal product for storing, hoarding, and for ‘preppers’ to keep indefinitely.
Belgian shops also imported honey from such faraway places as Ukraine, Southern Europe, and South America since Belgian honey production is far from sufficient to meet current demands nationally.
When you add to this our recent blog post about how the fires in the eastern Mediterranean destroyed much of the pine honey market, it is easy to see where this superfood called honey may become a rarity due to scarcity in the near future.