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Question of the Month

Every Summer has its own story about the weather. We look forward to sunny days but pray for rain to come. We need the rain to water our gardens and the sunshine to help our crops flourish but we never consider how weather impacts the honey bee. How does weather help or hinder the production inside the hive?

As the nectar flow continues throughout Spring, weather plays a major role in the prosperity of our hives. We want the perfect amount of rain and sunshine but even this can cause issues within the hive. Why is keeping track of the weather important?

Sunny Days: You may find that your gardens are producing beautiful flowers but you are not finding any bees on them. Nectar is mainly a mixture of 80% water and 20% sugars. During periods with little rainfall, plants become stressed and will not produce as much nectar as they would under ideal conditions. Nectar with a high level of sugar would be too thick and gum up the flower which drastically reduces the amount of nectar produced by plants. The shortages of food stores have direct implications in the amount of comb build up and brood production. If you find that you are experiencing a drought, it is time to re-apply those feeders. During hot summer days, water is a key element in maintaining hive temperature. Don’t forget to fill up the bird bath.

Excessive Rainfall: On the opposite end of the spectrum, too much rainfall can wash away or dilute the nectar found in flowers. Year after year, we have seen the Sourwood Blooms washed away at our NC Branch. Some flowers are resilient to rainfall but the sugars in the nectar may become diluted, creating more work for the bees to create honey. Heavy rainfall will not only affect the plants but will affect your bees. Rain limits the field force that is able to leave the hive to forage for nectar and pollen. Moisture buildup in the hive can cause molding, damaging comb and brood. If you find that you are experiencing heavy rainfall, it is time to re-apply feeders and to ensure your hive is well ventilated.

Perfect Weather: Even perfect weather can cause issues in the hive. Your bees will be out gathering nectar and pollen, increasing their honey stores. A hive can easily become ‘Honey Bound’ during the main nectar flow. As brood begins to emerge, it is replaced with nectar and the space that your queen needs to lay will become overrun with nectar. If the queen does not have space to lay in the hive, the hive may have the tendency to swarm. To help manage a honey bound hive, add an additional brood chamber on top of your hive; switch out your honey-filled outside frames with empty frames in your new brood chamber . This will create room for your queen to lay.

Regardless of the weather we encounter this summer, keep an eye on the hive to make sure they have good honey stores and the queen is laying eggs. We hope you are able to pull off honey supers but if a feeder is needed, provide it.