What Every Beekeeper Needs to Know About Nectar Dearths
Honeybees need nectar to make honey. Without honey stores, the bees would never make it through the winter, and you won’t be able to enjoy the fruits of their labor either. Honeybees spend spring and summer months foraging for nectar, bringing it to the hive to make honey. Most of the bees’ work revolves around the gathering of nectar and the process of converting it into honey.
What is a Nectar Dearth?
During hot dry periods, especially in the middle of the summer months when temperature’s sizzle, not as many flowers are in bloom and those that are blooming don’t produce as much, if any, nectar. This makes it difficult for your bees. This period of time when little to no nectar is available is called a summer nectar dearth. If the dearth lasts too long, the bees will suffer. Knowing this, let’s look at signs to help you determine if your bees are suffering during a nectar dearth and what you can do to help them.
How to Recognize a Nectar Dearth
When a nectar dearth is underway there are certain signs you should look for.
Behavior Changes in Bees
Bees that have been docile can become testy and even aggressive. The hives may sound louder because the bees are nervous and agitated due to the lack of nectar flow. You might want to forgo hive checks at this time because the bees are very protective of their resources. They can be especially aggressive if the hive has experienced robbing.
During a nectar dearth, your foraging bees will behave differently. You’ve probably watched your foragers exit the hives and have noticed that they generally fly in a consistent and direct path upon exit. During a dearth, this behavior changes. They appear to meander as the search for a good nectar source. They may land on plants they normally avoid in their search for nectar. They may even visit flowers they’ve already visited in their desperate search for nectar.
Beware of Honey Robbers
During a dearth, look for evidence of robbers. Bees from stronger colonies may attack weaker colonies to steal their stores. When robbers are present, you’ll see bees fighting at the entrance on the landing board or fighting midair. If you notice robbing activities, you want to reduce the entrances making it easier for your bees to guard. Honeybees are not the only robbers that may attack your hives. Other insects, such as wasps, yellowjackets and bumblebees, also rob bees’ honey stores. Once in the hive, wasps and hornets take more than honey; they also capture bees to feed to their offspring. Mice are guilty as well and special reducers are available to stop mice.
To help your bees during this time, do not use entrance feeders. Small sugary drips that occur are an invitation to predators and robbers and draw undue attention to the hive.
What to Do When a Nectar Dearth Occurs
Take these steps when a nectar dearth occurs. Providing an internal food source for your bees may save your colony during a summer nectar dearth.
- Reduce entrances
- Avoid entrance feeders
- Use a top feeder, tub feeder or a feeder that hangs in a frame’s slot to feed your bees
Once you know the signs to look for, you can take the steps required to take care of your honeybees during a summer nectar dearth. Your bees will reward you with robust health and a lot more honey.