Wisconsin honey production falls for third straight year

WAUPACA, Wis. (WBAY) - For the third year in a row, honey production declined in Wisconsin. Between 2017 and 2018 alone, production went down more than 20 percent, according to the USDA.

Kent Pegorsch has been beekeeping for 43 years and produces Dancing Bear Honey from his home in Waupaca. He even serves as the president of the Wisconsin Honey Producers Association, so he knows a thing or two about the honey industry and the struggles that come with it.

“I think more of the problem with the bee keeping production numbers are just keeping the bees healthy, and that’s a challenge that we face every year now,” said Pegorsch.

Pegorsch says increased use of pesticides can shorten a bee’s lifespan. But the biggest threat to bees is varroa mites, which make the insects more susceptible to viruses.

“It’s something we have to get through,” said Ethan Hogan. “We fight the mite every day.”

Hogan runs Badger State Bees, which helps provide hives across the region.

“A lot of us have lost 50 percent some years of all of our colonies, and that really sets back the bee population and the honey production,” said Hogan.

Beekeepers can take steps for the health of their honey producers.

“We’ve learned to take care of the bees earlier in the year… feed them to give them more protein earlier in the year,” said Pegorsch. “By giving the bees supplements, we can keep them healthier, and keep the viruses reduced.”

But cold, wet springs and April snowfall cutting the honey production season short is something they can’t fight.

“It’s not easy just like all other farmers. We’re the same way,” said Hogan. “It’s so critical for all of us to work together. We always get it done but it’s always a team effort, and Wisconsin’s great about that.”