With Rosh Hashana coming up, honey sales are taking their annual upward tick. This year, though, there is less Israeli honey to go around; with sparse rainfall at the end of the winter (between February and April) and fewer wildflowers growing as a result, fewer bees were hatched this year – meaning that less honey was produced. Honey yields are down about 6% this year, with local honey production reaching just 3,000 tons this year, instead of the 3,200 tons that were produced last year.
As a result, both honey prices and honey imports are up. Israelis generally consume some 4,000 tons of honey annually, 1,600 of it during the High Holiday period.
According to Herzl Avidor, chairman of the Israel Honey Council and a honey producer himself, bees are responsible not just for honey production; they are also the chief “farmers” for a number of important crops, including almonds, avocados, mangoes, apples, pears, and cherries, among others. Bees pollinate these plants, giving them a jump start on strong growth – but when there are fewer bees there is less pollination, and this year the yields of those crops are down as well, Avidor said.
This is not just a local problem; honey production, as well as production of pollination-needy crops, are down in the U.S. and Europe as well. While this year's bee problems were attributed to the weather, said Avidor, Israel is not immune to the worldwide bee disappearance problem. Called Colony Collapse Disorder, the phenomenon has bees disappearing, either dying or becoming disoriented and flying away from their hives. Scientists are not sure what causes CCD, but environmental factors, such as increased use of pesticides, are suspected.