This year's honey yield average, but very sweet due to drought

While Estonia has seen what can be considered an average honey yield this year, dry summer conditions have led bees to produce very sweet honey. This Friday and Saturday, the small Southern Estonian city of Karksi-Nuia hosted its 15th Honey Festival.

Beekeepers aren't complaining about the yield, but 2023 has proven a fairly average year.

"There was a very long cold period this spring," Lääne-Viru County beekeeper Maire Valtin recalled. "Bee colonies developed gradually in our area, but once the colonies had grown large, a hot period followed. And nectar dries up when it's 30 degrees [Celsius] or more. And the [honey] harvest was practically through by July 20."

Legendary 85-year-old agricultural scientist Antu Rohtla has kept bees for more than 70 years already. He said that since this summer was very dry, this year's honey has a very low moisture content and is very sweet as a result.

"It has a moisture content of 16 percent; honey can actually have [a moisture content] of up to 19," Rohtla explained.

"The honey is thick — too thick," he continued. "And beekeepers here are lamenting that it doesn't really want to come out in honey extractors. You start spinning while [the honeycomb] is still fresh from the hive, but as soon as it stops for half a day or a day, you won't be getting any more honey out of that honeycomb — that's how thick it is. The honey must be very sweet this year."

Estonian Beekeepers Association chief Aleksander Kilk said that Estonia has no problem recruiting new beekeepers, but acknowledged that what puts a damper on job satisfaction is the ever-increasing cost price of honey production in light of selling prices that haven't gone up in a decade.

"So for quite a few beekeepers, it's a question of either viability or whether or how, and at what capacity to continue," Kilk said.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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