August 11, 2009

When the Perseids fly, it's time to start thinking about Winter

Honey flow is a term used by beekeepers indicating that one or more major nectar sources are in bloom and the weather is favorable for bees to fly and collect in abundance. Where there is a succession of nectar sources, a honeyflow may last for many weeks. In some areas, honeyflows may only last two or three weeks. The rest of the year is spent in just maintenance - where the incoming nectar and pollen nearly match the needed food for the hive, or where sufficient reserve stores must be present for the hive to survive a winter season. – Excerpted from Wikipedia

A period of insufficient food sources is called a dearth. Right now, the Japanese Pagoda (Sophora japonica) and Goldenrain (Koelreuteria paniculata) trees are finishing up, but I can't remember what, if any, trees have yet to bloom. Sedum 'Autumn Joy,' asters and mums are building buds, so we're not entering a dearth, but I'm not sure how significant these perennials are. The reason it's important to know, is now – the middle of Summer – is when a responsible beekeeper should be starting Winter preparations.

Our bees still have 2 blank bars to work with, to build up their honey stores for Winter. Will this be enough? We think so. With the autumnal equinox drawing near, the Queen will begin to slow down her egg-laying, and the brood combs s/b backfilled with honey, giving them 1+ combs of honey per comb of brood. Don't worry. When we harvest honey-in-the-comb in the Spring, we won't give you any that's been used for brood-rearing.

In the search to determine when Colorado's Fall Honey Flow is, I've discovered the National Honey Report, published monthly by the USDA. Click HONEY under Browse by Category, then select from the Archived Reports; a PDF will download. It recaps the prior month for commercial beekeepers, where they've been and how weather affected their honey production.

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