The End of the Nectar Flow Approaches

Nectar flow is slowing. The dry spell we have had is not helping. In the Midlands, with some exceptions, sometime around the first part of June the bees will have a hard time finding enough nectar to meet day to day expenditures. New beekeepers will probably have to feed syrup. Established hives may have enough honey. Regardless, their behavior will change, robbing can become an issue, and your management will change as well.

The purist in me wants to feed the bees nothing but their own honey if it is available. And I do leave them a good bit at all times. However, if you are just starting you very well may not have any options other than to feed sugar syrup to newly established hives during the dearth. Comb building will become increasingly difficult to stimulate, sometimes the bees will chew up your wax foundation rather than build, and you’ll wonder why. I’m just not sure what it is in nectar that makes the bees so happy and eager to build. But once the nectar lessens you may find yourself mixing sugar syrup. A 1:1 (by weight) solution is the preferred mix during the summer dearth. The bees won’t complain if you make it a little thinner (sugar content of nectar varies quite a bit in nature) but I keep it around 1:1.

Be prepared to keep a close eye on your hives, especially if you have more than one hive, for the possibility of robbing. Entrance reducers may be needed on weaker hives to reduce the area the guard bees patrol so as to allow a defense against would be invaders. If you go into hives for inspections be mindful to not leave a honey super uncovered or unattended which could trigger a robbing frenzy. Continue to make hive inspections taking note of the hive’s development as well as pests and honey/nectar stores.

Also during this time become accustomed to lifting your hive slightly from the rear to get a feel for its weight. Do this often and start comparing what you see inside to how heavy the hive feels. Eventually you will be able to feel a light hive and know when to feed. This skill will pay dividends during the winter when you won’t be opening the hives to determine adequate stores.

During dearth, forager bees have less work to do. Some of the older beekeeping books speak to the bees gathering all the local nectar early in the day and then, with nothing to do, staying in, or on, the hive. The combination of older, forager bees in the hive and scarcity of available food makes for a combination that displays itself as increased defensiveness around your beehives. You will definitely start to notice that the bees seem more edgy and quicker to protect their hive. I wear my veil even when just feeding during dearth.

You’ll also start to see more and more bees hanging out on the front of the hive. They display a curious dance-like behavior called washboarding. Sometimes so many bees will be on the front of your hive and landing board it may cause concern. Most of the time these behaviors are associated with increased heat in the hive or not enough space. You should know if they have enough space by your inspections. As for the heat, the bees create quite a bit of heat in the process of fanning within the hive to dry out the nectar and create honey. All that muscle activity coupled with increased outside temperatures causes the inside temperature to increase. The bees know what to do though. They gather at the entrance, line up, and start a circulatory air current to remove the heat and humidity. Clever bees! And as for those bees hanging out on the front, they are outside because it’s too hot inside and more bees inside would just make matters worse. If they look like they are hot you can help them with ventilation by placing a Popsicle stick or two between the outer cover and the inner cover. The crack will not be large enough for robbers to get in but will allow some heat to escape.

Another issue, not strictly related to the dearth, will be an increase in pests. Other insects want to eat too and times are hard all over! Be on the lookout for an increase in hive beetles and later, yellow jackets. There are various means of dealing with hive beetles (SHB Handbook Here) so I won’t go into those. As for the yellow jackets that will arrive later in the summer, a strong colony will eject the occasional robber. Hive watching entertainment gets slow as the summer progresses but you’ll get some entertainment watching three or four bees drag a “wanna-be robber” yellow jacket out of the hive and toss him over the edge of the landing board! If you’d just like to trap them there are many DYI yellow jacket traps on the Internet. Make sure you use the vinegar in the recipe – I believe this may deter interest by honey bees.

The joys of buckwheat

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Source: The joys of buckwheat

During these late summer months in East Tennessee, we typically think there is not much available for the bees as far as sources of nectar and pollen.

That doesn’t have to be the case.

If you have any kind of a garden (or just an open area), buckwheat can provide great benefits for your bees and your soil. Buckwheat can be sown at any time during warm weather. Ideally, it takes three to four weeks to come up (sometimes longer, depending on the weather), and produces a small white flower that the bees love.

When the blooms die back after a couple of weeks, the buckwheat will re-seed itself and if there is enough warm weather and rain, it will come back. These cycles will continue until the first frost.

The bees make honey off of the nectar from the  buckwheat flower. This is honey that you can harvest or that you can leave on the hive to reduce the necessity of winter feeding.

The best results for an initial stand of buckwheat are to clear the soil, sow the seed and then do a light till. If possible, do all this before a good rain.

Your buckwheat will likely attract a legion of butterflies.

Buckwheat has a morning nectar flow, and that’s when you will see bees working it. They don’t work it in the afternoon.

Besides being good for bees, buck-wheat is good for the soil. It prevents weeds, supports beneficial insects and returns a lot of nitrogen to the ground. So, if you have a patch of garden or land and want to do something for your bees, plant some buckwheat.

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Key words: buckwheat, garden, bees and buckwheat, re-seeding buckwheat, growing buckwheat, source of nectar for bees, butterflies and buckwheat

Source: The joys of buckwheat

Approaching the end of the nectar flow

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Indications are, we are approaching the end of the nectar flow. First it’s not really the end of the nectar flow. Rather it is a sharp decrease in nectar availability IN EXCESS of colony day to day needs.

Our local www.hivetool.net monitored hive shows recent changes in the weights during the daytime nectar gathering hours. What appears now is 1) sharp decrease when foragers leave the hive 2) sharp increase in weight as they return with nectar during the first half of the day 3) followed by afternoon decrease when nectar becomes scarce yet evaporation of in hive nectar continues, followed by 4) sharp increase in weight at end of the day when foragers return. Finally, 5) decrease in hive weight over night as nectar is steadily evaporated into honey.

Other indicators: Increase in bee irritability especially in the hot afternoon hours. Some foragers are staying inside without the strong scout signals of nectar sources. Foragers are older bees with and a bit more defensiveness as a rule. Expect a steady increase in more defensiveness as nectar flow continues to slow, especially in the afternoons. Depending on the size of your colony you may have 30,000 foragers willing to bounce you out of their hive. Besides you look like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man anyway.

Bees leave the hive each morning looking for the biggest nectar bang for their buck as indicated by the findings of the scouts. After they clean that up they will scout and find lesser sources. I have noticed honey bees in late afternoon on sparkleberry and magnolia which typically are not attractive to them in the morning hours when something better is available. The fact that they are foraging 2nd class venues is indicative of preferred nectar plants drying up early in the day. A nice evening or nigh time rain may help this.

That’s my report on the Midlands as we approach the end of the flow. We really need to start prepping first year beekeepers with regard to changes in their beekeeping post nectar flow. i.e. feeding, water sources, protective equipment, mite treatment. There’s always something to do!

Bee Poo – A Discovery

Prime Bees - College Station Bee & Honey Farm

I always knew bees pooped but have really only researchedphotos of unhealthy bee poop – you know, the stuff you keep your eyes out for during hive inspections. I also was very aware they tend to defecateoutside the hive on their “cleansing flights”, but it wasn’t until I left my bees in an observation hive for a full day and a half before letting them out that I realized how seriously they take this colony rule.


Let me start by disclosingthat the bees had plenty of air, food, and were covered up so they weren’t in the light – I’m not a monster.

I had packed up a recently split hive since they were small and I could fit almost all the bees into the small observation hive. When it was time to put them back in their nuc, I decided to sit down and slowly movethe bees and enjoy…

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How the Varroa Mite Co-Opts Honey Bee Behaviors to Its Own Advantage

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As the managed honey bee industry continues to grapple with significant annual colony losses, the Varroa destructor mite is emerging as the leading culprit. And, it turns out, the very nature of modern beekeeping may be giving the parasite the exact conditions it needs to spread nearly beyond control. In an article published yesterday in […]

via How the Varroa Mite Co-Opts Honey Bee Behaviors to Its Own Advantage — Entomology Today

Delia’s Spring Tonic

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As I’ve been editing the third edition of The Body Rejuvenation Cleanse manual spring showed up here in north west New Jersey. I’ve been inspired by Traditional Chinese Medicine to honor spring as Liver/GallBladder time, which is ideal for detoxifying and strengthening the internal organ system. Doing The Body Rejuvenation Cleanse is a great way […]

via Spring Tonics — The Stone House Diaries

Honey Bee Queens – NC Born & Bred

I skipped town this weekend. There was a lot going on around the farm. We are smack in thimble of spring planting, the heavy spring nectar flow, house construction deadlines…. But I carelessly left town in pursuit of the elusive queen. Her royal highness of the hive, mama to all, queen big booty. Despite the 40,000-60,000 […]

continued here: NC Born & Bred — buck naked farm