Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Let the Nectar Flow

Wild Plum

    This spring has been a great one with plenty of flowers and nectar. Early in our area of central Kentucky henbit was in abundance. The honey locust trees produced an outstanding crop of blooms as well as the tulip poplar and in our specific location wild plums seemed to be an attraction for our bees. But now the big ticket item for the bees is the overwhelming amount of clover this year. Fields are covered with the white Dutch clover which is a favorite of bees and produces some very nice honey.
    I just checked on a hive that we thought would swarm this spring and found the honey super I just put on a couple of weeks ago is nearly full! I plan to add another super in the next couple of days. With such a large population of bees in this particular hive we thought for sure they would swarm but they are generously expanding their stores so we will be in for a treat in a few weeks. We will rob (remove ) extra stores of honey but leave plenty for the winter months.
Large field of Henbit this spring. 
    The clover as noted is abundant and very large  this season. With plenty of spring rain and those amazing weeks of summer like weather throughout April and much of March has created a great nectar crop this year.  The warm days in March allowed the bees to collect nectar and pollen from those early blooming shrubs.One of the earliest flower plants in this region is a little plant that may go unnoticed until we see a complete field covered with the plant. It is called henbit and is absolutely a favorite for the bees to first begin collecting from in the early spring.
     As we move through the summer we expect the nectar flow to slow some and then pick up again this fall when the goldenrod blooms.
    Of course the famous dandelion, the scourge to all the yard people, provides a very excellent source of pollen and nectar for the bees emerging from their winter  period. They simply love the dandelion and we do not treat our lawn with chemicals or sprays and celebrate the arrival of the dandelion! Probably in a neighbor hood that folks pride in the lush chem-lawn, uniform, deep green look of the grass, we likely would be considered low quality neighbors. I hope to live to see the day that people, though they may have to mow their lawns and we do,  will embrace the dramatic changes in the types of flowering plants that will establish themselves.

Dandelion from ground level

Henbit view from ground level

    From what we here from other bee keepers in our area this has been a tremendous spring for nectar and pollen. With the very mild, even summer like weather all spring, the bees have had plenty of opportunity to forage the country side. And as shown above fields that produced last year's crop of soy beans, corn or whatever, provided a great opportunity for the henbit to be abundant in the cooler days of early spring.
    The clover has come into full blossom and our bees seem quite busy working the fields. Everyone says there is an amazing amount of clover in their fields and lawns. We like that of course because that means plenty of nectar which means plenty of honey.
    Our hives are doing well and we expect to expand next season by several more if things go well during the winter months.

    Bees will collect both nectar and pollen for food supplies to last them through the winter months. They need both for survival and good health.  Each worker bee has different jobs throughout its life span of 35-45 days! Yes, within 45 days all the bees in a colony, except the queen, will have been replaced by new bees. The queen can live and continue to be a productive egg layer for perhaps three years. Now those bees that are in the hive when winter arrives will live longer than kinfolk from the summer. They will survive all the months of the winter until the weather warms and the queen starts laying eggs again.
    Some bees work as nursery workers, comb builders, guards and foragers, the ones we see flying in and out of the hive. Every bee, according to the experts, does every one of these job duties throughout their live span beginning with attending to and feeding the new larvae in the hive to finally traveling out of the hive collecting nectar and pollen. That is the last job the work will do in their life and, of course, is the most hazardous duty as well.
    We expect to harvest some honey in a few weeks and we'll let you know when we have it available. Thanks for stopping by our site and hope you enjoy the posts.

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