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How to Keep Bees During A Dearth of Nectar
It’s easy to assume that a death of nectar is only prevalent in winter. However, experienced beekeepers surely know that even when flowers are at their brightest in summer, this season may still be a time when nectar is scarce, which can be equally devastating! The temperature is too cold for foraging, and there’s often a shortage of flowering plants.
Dearth is a taxing time for bees, so as for beekeepers if they don’t know what to do. We’ve learned how it causes different kinds of unwanted behavior in colonies. After all, your bees feel when something changes in their nectar flow, and you’re most likely to feel their agitation as a result.
Good thing beekeepers have a significant role in managing their colony during a dearth. This post will list how to keep your bees during a lack of nectar.
Preparation is key!
When a dearth of nectar comes, it’s better to err on caution.
Dearth means death for weak colonies and triumph for healthy ones. Since it’s almost possible to anticipate this time of the year, there’s no excuse to be unprepared. Do you need to take action to help your bees? Or have they stored enough spring honey to keep them going as the season ends? As a beekeeper, staying ahead of these details make the situation controllable.
Dealing with this time of the year
We are indeed powerless when it comes to the weather. We cannot force flowers to produce nectar, but we can ensure that our bees do not run out of food during drought, and this is only step number one! What else can you do?
1. Store plenty of honey
Check if your bees are storing plenty of honey before dearth. If not, provide them more space in the spring to maximize the spring flows in your vicinity; if you decide to harvest their honey early on, secure that they don’t starve.
Flying bees are hungry. When you’ve noticed this behavior, give them some sugar syrup in a reliable feeder as a supplement during the hot or cold season. But be careful, you don’t want to attract uninvited visitors. Avoid putting the food outside your hive.
2. Inspect the entrances of your hive
Limit the number of entrances to your hive. It’s also safest to make your opening small, preventing wasps, yellow jackets, and foreign honey bees from intruding and robing your colony. Remember, honey bees are not alone in hunger during the dearth.
3. Close upper entrances
Help your bees create a more robust defense by closing the upper entrances of their hives during the dearth. If this is not applicable because you need those for proper ventilation, a screened inner cover can be the answer, as this allows a free flow of air into your beehives in the hottest months without opening them for trespassers.
4. Maximize strong nectar flow in autumn
Take advantage of the fall flow. This resource is helpful for honey bees to build strong colonies that will let them survive winter. There are even areas that allow a second harvest. Assess if this applies to you.
It’s natural for the hive population to drop on a dearth. That’s when the queen reduces laying eggs—supplying enough syrup will aid the scarcity in numbers.
5. Uninstall wet frames or community feeders in your apiary
Do you want your bees to clean your wet frames? You can let them do that by installing the frames in a super inside your hives. Please don't put them outside to avoid a frenzy that usually invites robbers.
Helping your bees survive
You might be wondering, which is worse - summer or winter dearth?
Honey bees and beekeepers have anticipated the long winter. Bees instinctively know how they can prepare for the freezing temperatures that are yet to come. On the other hand, beekeepers know that they shouldn’t drain their harvest during the cold season.
Summer nectar dearth is a different story. New beekeepers may overlook it until their hives suffer. The answer is to learn the signs of nectar dearth and follow the tips we’ve listed above.
Take note of the season when plants produce most nectar. For example, sunflower, bergamot, prairie rose, and mint are typically generous in summer, while snow drops, witch hazel, winter jasmine, and heather give more in early spring to winter.
All beekeepers will regularly have to deal with dearth. For as long as you keep an eye on your colonies and bees, you will be fine! We hope this post helps! Keep the buzz!