Dining and Drink

Rough Wisconsin weather causes Madison-area honey company to close

Mad Urban Bees struggled producing honey this year

With all of the bad weather this year, Mad Urban Bees LLC was unable to extract honey, forcing the business to close, the owner announced Wednesday.

Nathan Clarke founded Mad Urban Bees in 2012 to help maintain the bee population. The company was one of the first commercial urban apiaries in the country with hives in Madison, Middleton and Monona.

According to a Facebook post, the unprecedented bad weather in Wisconsin this year has caused beekeepers to suffer a bad year when it comes to honey production.

Clarke says the snow in April, heat waves in May and 100-year floods in August really affected the bees in a negative way. The colder spring caused the bees to be six weeks behind.

Other beekeepers in the area have had bad years as well, Clarke says. Some commercial beekeepers even moved out of the state due to few blooms and little nectar.

When he started the business in 2012, he was extracting 115 gallons of honey, but this year he says he has barely extracted 12 gallons.

He says the honey has gone toward two community-supported agriculture pickups, which takes 5 gallons of honey per pickup. The rest, about 1.5 gallons, went to jars at Willy Street Co-op locations. 

"With last year being bad and this year being a bust, I have no choice but to close Mad Urban Bees down," Clarke says.

Mad Urban Bees was chosen as a Madison Magazine M List winner in 2015 for its social innovation. Additionally, Clarke was able to create a pollinator protection plan in Madison and win a Good Food Award for his honey in 2017.

Clarke says the current incarnation of the business is done, but he hopes to keep part of it going through education and pollination as opposed to honey production.

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

Clarke says he plans to continue selling some of the Mad Urban Bees products. He says he has a lot of beeswax and plans to sell the natural body products over the holidays. The products will also be available at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art's holiday art show.

"You all have shown me just how important pollinators are to our community, and I want to keep that going," Clarke says. "I also know that am going to need help with any future ideas."


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