Call (803) 754-7577
Beekeeping During the Dearth of Nectar
Bzzzzzz…. The word on the street is that you’re on the lookout for something sweet.
The sugary goodness of honey is often appreciated during the summer months when there is plenty of nectar to go around, but what about the winter months when nectar is scarce? Most new beekeepers struggle with understanding the added responsibilities that come with the dearth of nectar. However, before you move on to caring for bees during such a time, you need to understand the natural process that leads up to such a situation.
What is a Nectar Dearth?
This is a time period where there is a scarcity of naturally occurring nectar in the environment. The flow of nectar usually happens before and after a nectar dearth. So you might experience a time in between those nectar flows where the nectar is significantly lower than normal. That is a Nectar Dearth.
A nectar dearth is highly dependent on the weather. It can occur when it is too hot, too cold, too wet or too dry. So you must be looking at the weather for your first signs of a nectar dearth. This usually happens during the very hot and dry summer months or extremely cold and wet winters.
This is a pretty tough time for the bees in your colony. They completely depend on nectar as a food source and it is also the main ingredient in honey. This makes nectar one of the three food sources for bees besides pollen and honey. This makes nectar pretty important to bees. When they can’t find sufficient amounts of nectar in the environment, they will start consuming the honey they had stored inside their colony.
A nectar dearth can spell disaster for a weak colony and you as a beekeeper need to take action to protect them during this vulnerable time. However, for more healthy colonies, it is just another time of the year. Depending on the status of your hive, you will either have to take action to help your bees or watch and wait until they consume the stored honey until the dearth comes to an end.
The severity of the dearth can impact your hive in different ways. Sometimes the dearth that occurs between two nectar flows can be managed with no further interference from the beekeeper than through careful monitoring.
However, more severe nectar dearths that occur when there are no flowering plants blooming in the foraging range of the hive can be more dangerous to your bee hive. Your bees will travel further out in search of reliable food sources. When this happens, it is more likely that your bees require supplemental feeding.
Bee-haviour of Bees During a Dearth
During the dearth, bees will stop making honey or nutrition-rich wax combs. They will go into survival mode and focus on keeping the colony alive and healthy enough to survive this difficult time. There have been instances where colonies have reduced brood rearing during a dearth. You can also identify a bee hive going through a nectar dearth as they tend to be much more defensive during hive inspections. This is a sign that the bee colony is under stress from the local natural forage.
Most beekeepers make the mistake that bee colonies are happy during the summer because they have an abundance of flowers to feed on. But low rainfall and high heat can impact the amount of nectar that is produced by flowers. This means that a summer dearth is almost inevitable. If you start noticing a sudden drop in the production of honey, this means that the bees drawing comb or storing honey abruptly come to a halt.
Another action that you can take as a beekeeper is that you can observe the type of flowers that the bees are visiting. If they are flocking around less desirable flowers, this means that they have no other options available for them.
So look out for these signs of the Dearth of Nectar.
Dangers of a Nectar Dearth
Did you know that a nectar dearth can lead to stronger hives robbing weaker colonies? Bees take their nectar and make honey from it which they use for food during the winter months when flowers are not in bloom and bee colonies have less flying weather to find food in the environment. If a colony of bees does not have an adequate supply of food during a dearth, entire colonies are in danger of starvation. The stronger the colony, the faster they will eat through their resources. Once a strong colony has gone through their own food supplies, they will engage in robbing behaviour where they enter another colony and steal their honey by force. This will most likely result in the death of the weaker colony of bees.
To prevent this from happening, beekeepers must feed their colony sugar water so they can survive. This is called feeding. Many beekeeper use a Boardman Feeders to feed their bees during dearth but they realize quickly that a top feeder, such as the Ceracell 10 Frame Feeder is far easier than filling up a jar every day. Most top feeder hold a coule gallon of sugar syrup which make is far easier on the beekeeper.
We recommend that you use the Beekeepers Choice Feeding Stimulant when attempting to feed your brood during a dearth. It boosts brood production in your hives and aids in increasing your hives production.
Another item that few new beekeepers use during a dearth of nectar is an Entrance Reducer or Robbing Screen. The beauty of an entrance reducer is that helps reduce the hive entrance. This slows the robbing attempts by other hives who seek to steal honey from weak hives. The robbing screen arranges the entrance a bit higher than the normal landing board entrance and confuses robber bees which keep them from steal the precious gold resources.
Bee Diligent Feeding Your Bee During A Dearth
Although it is difficult to pinpoint how long a nectar dearth will last, it is possible to overcome the unique challenges presented by it for beekeepers with proper maintenance and care through feeding. Having a proper water sources as well as bee feed will assist the bees their efforts to keep the hive cool and nourished properly.
Regardless, the Blythewood Beekeeping Company has all the tools and accessories you need to care for your hive during the good times and the bad. Check out the Blythewood Bee Company to learn more about how you can Beekeeping during the Dearth of Nectar.