The 2021 Winter Solstice will officially begin Tuesday, December 21, at 10:59 am EST. The Winter Solstice means something different to honeybees and to beekeepers. It’s typically associated with the beginning of winter for most people but for the bees, and beekeepers, it’s the beginning of spring.
Very slowly, as the days begin to lengthen, the queen will begin to 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 the coming nectar and pollen flow. This gives the swarming bees the best chance of survival.
In preparation for this reproductive event, brood rearing begins during the first months of the new year resulting in hives bubbling over with bees by early March. But this increase in population and reproductive stimulation has other ramifications for the beekeeper wishing to discourage that workforce from leaving.
The beekeeper seeks to:
1) encourage population growth to make a good honey crop while
2) protect the colony from starvation as the bees burn through their stores in order to feed ever increasing numbers of larvae, while
3) discouraging upcoming swarm preparations.
In short, your goal is to encourage an expanding bee population, monitor their food stores, and as February and March approach, to try to keep their minds off swarming. 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.
Treat yourself today to a visit to this interesting article filled with beautiful pictures of the current nectar flow sources in Maryland. ~SassafrasBeeFarm
And the nectar flow! The Maryland nectar flow relies upon tulip poplar, black locust and blackberry, all beginning to bloom as my scaled hive proves with steady increases of five to seven pounds each day last week. As we revel in warm weather, watching our busy girls returning to the hives with full bellies of nectar and fat pollen pants, it’s time to think about…the fall. While there’s an abundance of blooms outside this month, have you considered what your bees will eat after you harvest honey and the supplemental plants are spent? We can take a lesson from the bees and plan now for what’s to come.
Read full article and see the beautiful pictures here: April Showers Bring May Flowers — settling for bees
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.