Blog: Parched California and Australia Suffer Honey Drought


So just how dry is California? According to tree ring data from the University of California at Berkeley, in some parts of the state, it hasn’t been this drought-stricken since the year 1580.

California’s honey crop has tumbled from 27.5 million pounds in 2010 to 10.9 million pounds in 2013. That’s a 61 percent plummet, and, according to some beekeepers, the number for 2014 will be significantly lower. 

So what’s going on?

The lack of rainfall over the last three years has caused all plants to reduce the number of flowers they grow or refrain from growing any flowers whatsoever.

Fewer flowers translates to less nectar. Bees collect nectar to make honey, their only food source.

Across the Pacific, extreme heat waves and repeated sub-continental drought has left Australia’s honey supply at an all-time low.

In fact, Australia’s honeybees had to contend with another crisis this past summer as climate disruption had their colonies operating in an emergency mode. Bees store their honey in honeycomb cells made of beeswax, which melted because daytime temps regularly exceeded 95 degrees (F). 

Instead of searching far and wide for flowers to harvest nectar to turn into honey or collect protein-rich pollen to feed their larvae or performing their role as pollinators, the Australian honeybees spent the lion’s share of each day of last summer searching exclusively for fresh water to cool down their hives.

It’s not just honey that’s at stake here.

Bees are of vital importance because they pollinate most of the food we eat. Since 2006, 500 billion honeybees or about one in every three bees has died.

Researchers from Harvard University and elsewhere have shown that, in combination with climate disruption, about 1,000 insecticides from a class called neonicotinoids (neonics) are causing bees to die faster than ever before.

Climate disruption, brutal droughts, extreme heat waves and neonics are deadly threats to the bees and global food security. 

Climate disruption is a citizen’s issue. The lawmakers have paid feeble lip service to reducing heat-trapping greenhouse gasses from burning fossil fuels. Instead, around the globe, lawmakers knowingly choose to subsidize Big Oil, Gas and Coal by $1.9 trillion, annually. Meanwhile, wild forests on every forested continent are dying from extreme heat and water stresses. Bees are dying because their food sources are drying up. Without bees or trees, humans cannot survive on planet Earth. 

It’s time for all of us to lend a helping hand and begin future-proofing our cities and towns in the face of massive water shortages and more predicted droughts and extreme heat waves. 

Join the People’s Climate March on Sunday, September 21 in New York City and together our voices will be heard! 

Earth Dr Reese Halter is a conservation biologist with MUSE School. His upcoming book is “Shepherding the Sea: The Race to Save Our Oceans.”