There is no honey this year, and with no honey, Mad Urban Bees is done.

We have had unprecedented bad weather in Wisconsin this year. There were snows in April, heat waves in May, and 100-year floods in August. This weather has really affected the bees in a negative way. The cold spring caused them to be 6 weeks behind, and their numbers were small when we had the only nectar flow back in June. Almost every beekeeper I’ve talked to has had a bad year. Even some of the commercial beekeepers have already moved their bees out of the state. There have been few blooms and very little nectar this year. And now that the weather is finally drying out, the cooler temperatures are are announcing that fall and the end of the honey season is here.

When I started Mad Urban Bees in 2012, I extracted 115 gallons of honey. This year I’ve barely extracted 12. Most of that honey so far has gone towards two CSA pickups, and about 1.5 gallons going to jars at the Willy St. Co-Ops. With last year being bad and this year being a bust, I have no choice but to close Mad Urban Bees down.

I hope to do one last CSA pickup next week. I still have a few honey supers on some of the hives, and if there is enough, there will be one last CSA pickup. The 2018 CSA needs just 5 gallons of honey per pickup. I just need two or three hives to do well to make that work, but there have been no guarantees this year. I will be letting the CSA member know what is going on this weekend.

This business has been a labor of love. I have had an amazing 6 years running Mad Urban Bees, and I am so glad of what I helped create. I cannot being to count the ways that this has changed my life for the better, the ways it helped me grow, all the talks that I’ve done, all the wonderful people I’ve met, all the amazing things I’ve seen, and all the wonderful honey I’ve eaten. I was able to help Madison create a Pollinator Protection Plan, and I even won a Good Food Award for my honey in 2017. It’s been a pretty great adventure, and it wouldn’t have been possible without the amazing community here in Madison.

Madison’s community’s support of pollinators in has grown by leaps and bounds over the past several years, and I makes me very proud to know that I’ve been a part of that. I can’t thank my beehive hosts enough for being willing to place my bees in their yard. I only hope that I didn’t scare the neighbors too badly.

So what is next? Mad Urban Bees is done in its current incarnation. I am hoping to keep part of if going with a different model focused on education and pollination rather than honey production. I still plan on teaching beekeeping classes in the spring. You all have shown me just how important pollinators are to our community, and I want to keep that going. I also know that am going to need help with any future ideas.

For me personally,  I’m doing okay. I’ve kept a fairly pragmatic attitude with what’s been going on. I even got a desk job. A previous employer offered me a position at just at the right moment, however I do have to say it is very strange working inside and in front of a computer after all this time. One of the things I do enjoy is working with people again on a day to day basis. I like working with the bees, but they didn’t talk much.

Mad Urban Bees products also won’t disappear overnight. I still have a lot of beeswax, and I do plan on having the natural body products available for the holidays. I even plan on going to the MMoCA holiday art show one last time.

My hosts will still see me tending the bees this fall and preparing them for winter. I am not abandoning the girls to the cold. I will still be taking care of them the best that I can until next spring. After that, I’m not sure what will happen.

And that’s really all we can do, prepare and plan as best we can, and see what’s next.

Thank you all,

Nathan Clarke