The Winter Solstice means something different to beekeepers. It’s typically associated with the beginning of winter for humans. But for the bees it’s the beginning of spring. Very slowly, as the days lengthen the queen will begin an increase in the number of eggs she lays. On a colony level, for the bees, the goal is to have a full staff of bees ready to reproduce on a colony level (i.e. swarm) at the beginning of plant nectar and pollen production (best chance of survival). That means preparations such as brood rearing begin during the first months of the new year resulting in hives bubbling over with bees by March. But it has other ramifications for the beekeeper wishing to discourage that workforce from leaving. The beekeeper seeks to 1) encourage brood rearing while 2) protecting the colony from starvation as the bees feed ever increasing numbers of larvae, while 3) discouraging swarm preparations in the same time period. It’s like walking a tightrope!
The Fall flow is officially on in my corner of Southeastern Lexington County, South Carolina. Weight gain, white wax, and increased activity indicate a nectar flow. I went out to feed some of the lighter hives and noticed some white wax as well as some weight gain on hives since 10 days ago. As the day warmed the bees were definitely flying with intent with some congestion on the landing boards. Even with the lack of rainfall, fall flow is on over here in the barren sand hills of Southeastern Lexington County. If it’s on here in this sandbox it’s likely you may find it’s on elsewhere in the Midlands. Bees flying with intent, launching themselves off the landing board immediately after exiting the hive entrance, increased incoming traffic as well landing and hurrying inside, other bees show excited behavior on the landing board, overall appearance of heightened purposeful activity, some white wax noted inside, the smell of goldenrod and sight of yellow pollen coming in.
It was a happy day indeed to be able to save some of that syrup until another day. I found a renewed interest in the pollen feeder which baffles me a little but may be a result of some increased brood rearing… I don’t know. All these things are a pleasant change from the doldrums of dearth. Pray for some rain to sustain the flow. Order up – winter bees please.
I have this theory. It’s about soil type, moisture, and water sources. These hives placed down by the Congaree River have all three.
Beekeepers, like farmers, still look outside in the natural world to gauge how to manage their honey crop. Black Locust blooming is a beekeeper sign to super up their hive for excess honey to harvest.