Bee farmers report 50% fall in honey harvest after 'long, wet summer'

This year's honey harvest is set to be dramatically down on last year after the poor summer weather created difficult conditions for bees.

The combination of wet and windy weather and cool temperatures at key times of nectar production meant bees collected significantly less to deposit into honeycomb cells, according to farmers.

Bee farmer Crispin Reeves, from Haughton Honey based in Cheshire, said the harvest was likely to be a third of last year's amount.

Mr Reeves said: "The honey crop can fluctuate quite widely from one year to the next and, in the main, it's all down to the weather.

"After talking to bee farmers across the country, it looks likely that the honey harvest generally could be around a third of last year's crop.

"We're still processing, but there definitely won't be anywhere near as much English honey around this season as a result of the weather.

"News in the South East is slightly better, but across most of the UK including the North West, Midlands, South West, Wales and other areas it's been a similar picture."

Bee Farmers' Association general secretary Margaret Ginman said some members in the South were reporting average crops while the situation in Scotland was "not just poor, it is disastrous".

She said: "There was under a third of the normal spring blossom honey crop and the long wet summer has meant colonies failed to build up for the heather honey.

"The flowering of the heather itself was late and not as glorious as in some years.

"Here the crop is expected to be 50% of normal.

"All in all this has proved a challenging year for the bee farming industry.

"Our members work hard to maintain continuity of supply to our customers."

John Mellis, who farms around 500 hives in Dumfries, said: "The poor honey crop is not the only problem.

"Colonies have failed to build up so are going into winter relatively weak.

"This means there are not going to be enough winter bees to sustain the hives resulting in a prediction of high winter losses."

Nicky Smith, a spokeswoman for the British Beekeepers Association Adopt a Beehive project, said: "Early indications suggest it's been a terrible year for honey.

"Certainly our feeling is that production will be down from last year's average of 32 pounds per hive."