So much time, money and effort go into keeping our bees healthy and thriving, all the while “trying” to get a little in return from them…aka – Honey!
Some of us did well with honey yields this year…some, not so much! First year beekeepers – Patience WILL pay off next year with a healthy colony you’ll bee reaping some benefits as well.
Whether you robbed honey or left it for the bees – We are all faced with “Dearth” right around the corner.
What is dearth? According to the dictionary: A scarcity or lack of something – In a “bees life” that means nectar and “can” mean pollen!
When does dearth happen? Every area is different. Knowing your “specific area” forage is key – What is blooming and when…is it a nectar producer or pollen producer?
The following NASA site is one we refer to often. It allows you to choose your area and pinpoint what you should be seeing and when. Note the last column indicates SIG – this refers to whether it is a “very important” nectar source. Get familiar with these plants; what they look like and their cycle for your area.
Go to: https://honeybeenet.gsfc.nasa.gov/Honeybees/Forage_info.htm
Regardless of whether “we” know its dearth or not…you can be certain your bees DO! There are “indicators” you’ll recognize and learn to spot as your experience level and knowledge of forage plants increases. Behavior changes in your bees as nectar sources dry up: (Derived from HoneyBeeSuite.com)
- One of the first things you’ll notice is sound. The hives seem louder, almost like they’ve been disturbed. Many bees may mill around the outside of the hive, in some ways resembling an impending swarm.
- You will often see honey bees on flowers they normally avoid.
- Bees will sometimes re-sample flowers. That is, they go back to a flower they already tried once and try it again. This is rarely seen during a good nectar flow.
- Robbing and fighting may occur. You may see a tussle on your landing board or dead bees on the ground in front of the hive.
- Your bees may get more defensive toward you. The bees that seemed so gentle up till now, may suddenly display impatience with the beekeeper.
- Bees crawling around in odd places – side of the house, side of a water bottle, a few loitering in the bed of the truck. Some may crawl around on blades of grass beneath the hive, or settle on the hive stand or lid. Bees with no place to forage can’t complete their main mission. They may act displaced, bored, or bee-wildered.
- Similarly, bees will investigate promising smells. They may check out your bee suit, your hive tool, or you—especially if you use scented products. They check out anything that may contain a drop of nectar.
- Flying low. During a dearth, bees often dash, dart, swoop, and dive around the yard. They perform close-up fly-bys—not aggressively, but curiously. They are loud because they are close, inspecting and hunting. During a nectar flow, honey bees fire out of the hive like bullets. They know where they are going and what to do. But bees in a dearth mill around, looking for a place to go and something to do.
What can YOU do when you begin to see this pattern?
KNOW WHAT RESOURCES ARE INSIDE YOUR COLONY! I say that in ALL caps because…we get calls frequently asking, “Do I need to feed my bees?” “We” can’t answer that for you. There are times of the year that as honey producers we feed to build our populations up in time for nectar flow – but, the rest of the year it is truly colony specific.
If your bees have “resources” (Definition: Honey, Nectar, Pollen) available in the colony, then you can most likely postpone feeding as dearth begins. It is important to note, if no nectar or pollen is available, they have nothing to feed larvae. Therefore consider supplementing feed.
Regardless of your area, we want to go into Fall and Winter with strong, THRIVING colonies. In order to do that we have to consider primarily 2 factors: Varroa management and Nutrition. We’ll address Varroa in the next couple of months but for now “Nutrition” is our focus.
Supplemental feeding of 1/1 sugar syrup during dearth will enable your bees to continue to feed larvae. If at any point you have no Honey stores, consider also providing your bees with a 2/1 syrup in addition to 1/1. We have done this when having to supplement with Mega Bee (Pollen substitute) mixed in heavy syrup. Bluebonnet offers 2 different feeding methods that allow for feeding both mixtures simultaneously – i.e. Top Jar Feeder Board and Top Feeder (http://www.bluebonnetbeekeeping.com/products-catalog)
Providing your bees with nutrients in the syrup can also be beneficial. Adding Honeybee Healthy (non GMO Essential Oils & Nutrient) to your syrup can offer some benefits…as well as another product on the market (in stock at Bluebonnet) is Complete Bee “Hobby Shots” read more about it here: http://www.completebee.com/html/Complete.html
Note: It is normal for your queen to reduce laying substantially during dearth. So often this is confused for being queenless – know the difference *
We can’t end the “Dearth” topic without saying WATER is ESSENTIAL!
What do your bees use water for?
Excerpt from “Honey Bees Need Water, Too!” by Kathy Keatley Garvey
“Like most other animals, the bodies of honey bees are mostly water,” …. “Thus, they need to drink water routinely as we do. Additionally, water (or sometimes nectar) is critical for diluting the gelatinous food secreted from the head glands of nurse bees, so that the queen, developing larvae, drones, and worker bees can swallow the food. They use water to keep the brood nest area at the proper relative humidity, especially when it gets hot and dry outside the hive. Water droplets, placed within the brood nest area, are evaporated by fanning worker bees and that cools (air conditions) the brood nest area to keep the eggs and developing brood at the critical 94 degrees Fahrenheit required for proper development.” ….” it has been estimated that the bees may be bringing back nearly a gallon of water a day”
If water isn’t “naturally” available, provide it!
Bees need monitoring during “dearth”. Know each colony’s “resources” and act accordingly – Your bees are counting on YOU!
Upcoming Class and Speaking Schedule:
July 13th – Marshall Beekeepers Association Meeting 5:30
501 Indian Springs Dr. Marshall TX 75670
August 12th – MoCo Scholarship Students final class (Here at Bluebonnet – Parents watch your email)
August 19th – See Flyer Below
Click here to Pre-Register