South-East Honey Survey 2002

Each year I ask beekeepers on my mailing list for information on honey yields and prices in the South East Region. My thanks are due to those who have contributed to the 2002 survey.

The main purpose of this survey is to gather information for DEFRA's annual statistics on food production. However, as the results may be of general interest to beekeepers, I am circulating the results more widely.

The number of contributors (41) is fewer that is required for a statistically robust analysis. However, their figures give a reasonable indication of typical honey yields and prices within our region. In analysing the replies, I have used all figures received - where contributors gave two or more figures for a single variable (e.g. a range of potential prices), I took a simple average of these.

In the discussion below, I have made comparison with the final results from previous surveys asking the same questions about the 2000 and 2001 seasons. Some figures for the 2001 survey differ slightly from those published in last years report as several replies were received after its production.


  • Average Honey Yield
    39 replies ranging from 15lbs to 200lbs per colony
    2002 average = 65lbs (2001 = 60lb; 2000=56lb)

  • Bulk Honey Price (Flower):
    4 replies ranging from £1.00/lb to £2.00/lb
    2002 average=£1.39/lb (2001 = £1.16/lb; 2000=£1.13)

  • Wholesale Honey Price (Flower):
    12 replies ranging from £1.80/lb to £2.50/lb
    2002 average = £2.05/lb (2001 = £2.10/lb; 2000=£1.61)

  • Direct Sales Price (Flower):
    25 replies ranging from £1.40/lb to £3.50/lb
    2002 average £2.54/lb (2001=£2.27/lb; 2000=£2.29)

  • Heather honey:
    Yield: 2 replies ranging from 23lbs to 25lbs per colony. Average=23lbs
    Heather bulk honey price :1 reply=£2.00
    Heather retail honey price :1 reply=£2.30

  • Cut comb:
    11 replies were received ranging from £2.50/lb to £6.50/lb.
    2002 average = £4.73/lb (2001= £3.89/lb; 2000=£4.43)

Additional Comments:
Contributor's comments referred to the good early spring, the poor weather during late spring, late flows, and high levels of swarming. There was no agreement about whether it had been a good season overall. Two beekeeper reported the 'best year ever' while others suggested it had been one of the worst!

2002 was another unusual beekeeping year. Excellent weather in early Spring lead to exceptionally early colony development, and by the end of March many colonies were already filling supers. However, a prolonged period of poor weather from mid-April to late May had a number of adverse effects. While foraging was impossible colonies lived on stored honey in most cases consuming any surplus honey previously collected. In addition, the confinement of colonies to their hives seemed to trigger an usually high proportion of colonies to swarm. Continuing poor weather meant that by the usual start of the main-flow in late June, the prospect of a good honey crop seemed remote. However, by mid July the situation had changed completely, as a strong flow developed that continued well into August in most areas, and ultimately most colonies that had not swarmed or had built-up again after swarming seemed to fill a respectable number of supers.

These complications are reflected in the wide variation in reported honey yields - a thirteen fold variation from the lowest to the highest. The average yield (65 lb) is an increase over the previous two years' figures.

As far as sale of honey is concerned, direct sale to customers again seems to be the commonest method - nearly all respondents provided a figure for this. However, as usual there is little agreement over price - with a 2.5 fold difference between the highest and lowest figures provided. Using figures from this survey, an average crop of honey per colony was worth £165 when sold direct at average prices (not taking cost of packaging into account) (2001=£136).

About a third of replies indicated selling honey wholesale to a retailer. Although a wide range of prices were provided, there was closer agreement than for direct sales, with approximately a 1.5 fold difference between lowest and highest prices. At average wholesale price, an average crop of honey was worth £133 (not taking cost of packaging into account) (2001=£116).

Only about 10% of contributors indicated they sold honey in bulk. There was much more variability in price than previously, with a 2 fold difference between the lowest and highest prices provided. At the average bulk price, an average crop of honey was worth £90 (2001=£70).

About a quarter of replies indicated selling cut-comb honey. No distinction was made in the questionnaire between wholesale and direct-sale of cut-comb, however, it thought that the majority of cut-comb is sold direct. There was no consensus about price, with a 2.5 fold difference between minimum and maximum prices provided. Cut-comb honey attracts a significant price premium with an average price approximately 1.85 times that of extracted honey sold direct. At average cut comb price, an average crop of honey was worth £307 (not taking cost of packaging into account).(2001=£209).

There is significant variation in prices obtained by beekeepers for honey sold in all forms. Information from contributors suggests that the highest prices are being obtained where beekeepers market their honey as a 'value added' product - for instance in farmer's markets. Here customers appear willing a significant price premium. However, other beekeepers indicated difficulties selling honey at these prices.

Overall, honey prices in 2002 appear to have been 10-20% higher than in 2001. The explanation appears to be increased demand from consumers for UK produced honey following the reports of antibiotic residues in Chinese and blended honey in Spring 2002. Certainly almost all beekeepers I have spoken to over recent months have indicated to me that they have had a steady stream of customers for their honey. It will be very interesting to see how this demand continues over the coming year.

James Morton
S.E. Regional Bee Inspector
CSL National Bee Unit
Tel: 0208 571 6450