Less Than Ideal Summer for Honeybees

After checking the honeybees this week, I was dismayed at how little honey they had made for themselves this summer.
Looking at the number of honey combs that were filled, it became evident to me that probably only a third of the hives would yield enough honey for me to safely harvest.
Honeybees collect flower nectar and pollen through the summer and process it into honey which gets stored onto combs so that they have enough to eat during our long, cold winters. Any surplus is then collected by the beekeeper.
I talked with another beekeeper who said he noticed the same thing in his apiary and others were reporting similar findings. He even thought that some of his bees were consuming some of the honey that the bees were supposed to be saving for this winter.  We concluded that this summer had less than ideal flower growing and bee foraging conditions.
The season started out promising then some areas were hit by dry weather conditions. When it did rain, the storms were usually widely scattered. The timing of the rains may not have coincided with the flowers’ water needs for optimum nectar production. At times, we had rain when flowers were blooming. Since bees do not fly in the rain, they were unable to get out and collect nectar.
So what do we do? Some beekeepers are feeding sugar syrup to their weakest hives hoping that the bees will store some for winter use. Others have already harvested their honey after deciding which hives were the most productive. The rest are hoping that the bees will be able to collect enough nectar and pollen from the Goldenrods which are in full bloom right now. Of course that all depends upon the weather. We may end up having higher than normal bee losses this winter because of this  summer’s weather conditions.
If you keep a colony or two of bees, now would be a good time to check your hives, assess their condition and make a decision on whether or not your bees need some extra help this fall.

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