Why is there a Tupelo Honey Shortage?

Honey Bees
Posted at 3:02 PM, May 22, 2015
and last updated 2015-05-22 12:30:53-04

MIDWAY, FL (#WTXLDigital) -  Florida beekeepers are warning that tupelo honey is in short supply this year after a period of bad weather.

Tommy Duggar, a beekeeper with Orchard Pond Organics, explained that this was the peek of a 5 year shortage and almost no tupelo honey was harvested.

Duggar explained that tupelo trees only bloom for a small window of time each year. While the trees were blooming this spring, rain prevented the bees from landing on the bloom.

Glynnis Lanier a beekeeper with L.L. Lanier & Sons Tupelo Honey, said that, "The tupelo bloom is like a sponge and it takes it a while to dry out. The bees can work other blooms wet, but not the tupelo. It has to be dry. The bees got to work the bloom about one day out of three weeks."

While the rain means bad business for tupelo honey, this doesn't affect the bees negatively according to Duggar. The bees were able to collect enough tupelo nectar for themselves but not enough for storage. Duggar says his bees are actually very healthy this year. And his aren't the only healthy bees in the state either.

So what makes tupelo honey so special? To start with, the honey itself is unique. According to Dugger the sugar in the honey doesn't granulate and can even be consumed by some diabetics. It's also hard to find, "The trees grow in the wet lands along the Apalachicola river, Chipola river, and Dead Lakes. The trees grow other places, but you don't have the abundance to produce quality honey," says Lanier.

The rarity of the tupelo honey and the trees used to create it is what makes the bad season so much harsher for beekeepers and consumers. According to Lanier, "Some of [the customers] went without honey last year because it was short. Now this year many will not be able to get our honey. We have so many loyal customers that have been with us for 40, 50, and 60 years. Our honey is something they us daily."

That brings up the question, should consumers be wary if they see signs advertising tupelo honey on the side of the road? According to Duggar, some bees were able to produce a little honey in the first few days of the bloom. If you are still wary though, he also says that you can tell quality tupelo honey by holding it up to the sun. Orange honey doesn't contain large amounts of tupelo nectar but if it's tinted green, you've hit tupelo gold.

Beekeepers won't get a chance to produce tupelo honey again until next spring. Until then, it's just waiting and hoping for dryer weather in 2016. Again Lanier, "We just have to save and cut cost to make it into next spring, so that we can give it one more try at another crop. We only get a chance at the tupelo every 365 days. It's a gamble but one well worth taking."