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By: Chari Elam

It almost doesn’t make sense. Most of Texas has had more than their share of rain over the last couple of months. Everything is beautiful and green… ponds are full…how could we be entering DEARTH? It actually happens even with adequate rain. 

What is dearth?

According to the dictionary: A scarcity or lack of something – In a “bees’ life” that means nectar and at times can mean pollen!

When does dearth happen? 

Every area is different. But for most of us it starts mid July and may go as long as early September.  

Roadside flowers have all but died off, most nectar producing plants have dried up and to add insult to injury… at times, pollen can become scarce. 

Knowing your specific area's forage is helpful - What is blooming and when…is it a nectar producer or pollen producer? 

Check out this NASA site.

It allows you to choose your area and pinpoint what you should be seeing and when. Note the last column labeled SIG – this refers to whether it is a “very important nectar source species”. Get familiar with these plants, what they look like and their cycle for your area. 

Regardless of whether “we” know it's dearth or not…you can be certain 

your bees DO!

  •  As your experience level and knowledge of forage plants increases, you’ll recognize and learn to spot indicators as well as behavior changes in your bees as nectar sources dry up. Here are a few
  • Hives will sound louder than normal, even when you’ve not disturbed them. 
  • Your bees may become more defensive toward you. Not aggressive but more agitated when inspecting. 
  • Robbing weaker hives – Unable to defend against a stronger neighboring hive; often weaker hives succumb to robbing within hours. 
  • Fighting on the landing, gathering around box seams – all signs a robbing frenzy is occurring. For some great robbing tips – refer to the July issue (due to an unknown “glitch”, nearly every page has the number 69 … so look for “Post Extraction Robbing Tips)

Bees seem to fly in a “desperation” mode instead of with purpose. They act displaced in a way...almost as if they are bored or even lost. 

What can YOU do when you begin to see this pattern?

KNOW WHAT RESOURCES ARE INSIDE YOUR COLONY! I say that in ALL caps because we frequently get calls asking, “Do I need to feed my bees?” Unfortunately, I can’t answer that for you. But I can say – check the stored honey in your hives. If it’s less than 15# for a single deep or 30# for a double deep, FEED.

**Helpful hint: Each deep frame fully capped with honey weighs approximately 10#. 

Regardless of your area, we want to go into Fall and Winter with strong, THRIVING colonies. In order to do that we have to consider primarily 2 factors: Varroa management and Nutrition. Supplemental feeding of 1/1 sugar syrup during dearth will enable your bees to continue to feed larvae. 

Providing your bees with nutrients in the syrup can also be beneficial. Adding ProHealth or Super DFM to your syrup can offer some added benefits. Like Blake said in the July webinar; We are basically preparing our bees for winter! Hard to fathom as we just started summer, right? But it’s true! What we do now as beekeepers very definitely affect how our bees will overwinter. Keeping populations up is key. We will look forward to a Fall nectar flow to restock honey stores, but in the meantime it’s up to us to keep our bees well fed.

A very important aspect of brood rearing isn’t just nectar…it’s pollen as well. As Blake mentioned in that same webinar – keeping an eye out on your brood viability is important, especially this time of year. Dry brood can indicate pollen shortage. Consider feeding dry pollen at this stage. Not only will the bees thank you, but the viability of the future emerging bees will thank you! It’s important to note: Bees' productivity is directly tied to how well they are fed in larval stage. Nutrition really does matter!

Dry brood - a clear indication of pollen deficiency. Bees will withhold feeding
larvae to preserve nutrition for themselves causing poor viability and longevity.

Wet moist brood is found when pollen resources are good. Ensuring you will have well fed, viable brood which leads to healthy bees!

Ultra Bee 1lb canister - Dry Pollen

Photo Credit : Galena Farms Feeding Dry Pollen

it gets hot and dry outside the hive. Water droplets, placed within the brood nest area, are evaporated by fanning worker bees and that cools (air conditions) the brood nest area to keep the eggs and developing brood at the critical 94 degrees Fahrenheit required for proper development."….”it has been estimated that the bees may be bringing back nearly a gallon of water a day” This really drives home the importance of providing water for your bees if nature isn’t. There are multiple studies and articles on how the water doesn’t need to be “clean” water. Water containers allowed to sit and replenish with rain water grow natural vegetation, such as slime and moss and are a wonderful mineral source for your bees. There are various methods to do this. Check out an article in last months Texas Bee Supply Monthly on that very topic – Keeping Bees Cool in Summer –CLICK HERE

Pro Health is a feeding stimulant composed of lemongrass and spearmint (essential oils concentrate) Helps promote healthy vigorous hives when used as a feeding stimulant during late winter, early spring and during dearths of nectar Has a natural calming effect when sprayed on the bees Antibacterial, antifungal and antimicrobial which aids in the overall health of the bees Pro Health added to your feeding mix will help build up packages, nucs and swarms Prevents syrup fermentation Stimulates bees to draw out new foundation faster when used as a spray.

Bottom line: 

Bees need your continued monitoring during dearth. Know each colony’s resources by doing regular hive checks and acting accordingly make a huge difference. After all, our bees are counting on us!

 By: Chari Elam 


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