Exponential, my dear Watson.
Pardon the Sherlock Holmes paraphrase. But for the bees right now it’s “exponential.”
They take every food morsel inside the hive and everything they can gather from outside and bet it all. Nothing to be saved this time of year. Spendthrifts and gamblers. Betting the house on the upcoming nectar flow. Right now the nurse bees are eating as much as they can hold in an effort to maximize production of brood food. The queen is laying as much as she can and together a symphony is playing at breakneck speed.
If their timing is right they’ll reach a large population at the exact moment or just prior to the beginning of the nectar flow. Their goal – reproduction – swarming. Hopefully. Because if a freeze or extended stay inside occurs their exponentially large population can easily deplete their food supply since the nectar flow has not yet started. Interestingly, bees will share the food until it’s gone. But when it’s gone it’s gone and for the bees it’s not only their food but also the means by which they heat themselves and young. If the bees don’t time their buildup correctly, they risk en masse starvation.
Now, you’d think I’d be trying to discourage them from building up so fast. In some ways maybe I can and in other ways I can’t deter them from their program. But one thing I do regardless is keep supplying open comb to the queen. In turn she lays in it and makes more bees. Wait, wasn’t I suppose to be discouraging more hungry mouths?
Therein lies a management paradox for the beekeeper. We need more bees to make a large honey crop but more bees means more mouths to feed and the chance of starvation before the nectar flow begins. And more bees can also increase the likelihood of swarming – sorta. But by opening up the brood area and letting the queen lay they are less likely to swarm. So the dilemma is solving both issues by opening up her brood area AND keeping a close eye on the colony’s food stores. In essence, you, the beekeeper, get to act like a bee and join the symphony too, playing as loudly as you wish.
Keep a close eye on them.