This summer (July –Aug 2016) has been brutal for the apiary. The new apiarist learned the hard way, the cyclic nature of the flowering trees. There are no garden books or articles that discuss this phenomenon in general. This year, the Black Locust, Yellow Poplar, Honeysuckle, Apple, Pear, Cherry and host of other trees did not flower like usual during the spring. The forest behind the farm too was devoid of any flowers.
The unusual weather pattern, an unwanted bout of late frost, (when the flowering trees like Magnolia, Azaleas and Rhododendrons were about to flower) wiped out any chance of a beautiful spring. This created a drought like situation for the bees. The animal instinct of the bees was
In full display all summer. There were constant fights and robbing attempts and one colony was lost to robbing. The suggested method to ward off robbing is, restrict the gate opening of the hive boxes. The extreme hot and high humidity conditions this summer, caused the box temperature and humidity rise even further. This proved detrimental and one of the bee colonies collapsed. The bees died of starvation and diarrhea-‘Nosema’.
The apiary was fed via external common sugar syrup station to avoid any robbing attempt. However, the supply of sugar syrup was too little to cater to the ten surviving hives. One more hive succumbed to hunger. It was shocking as all the bees in the hive seemed fine and normal activity was observed during morning inspection. However, next morning all the bees were found dead right in front of the box. Inspection inside the box revealed many still in the cells in inward position. This is a sure sign of hunger, typically seen after a brutal winter, when the food runs out. This summer, intermittent rains and no food around created the perfect, though unfortunate, condition for the hives to starve and collapse.
Dire times require drastic measures. The large sugar syrup feed was made available for all the remaining nine hives. Additionally, a large portion of patties was placed in each of the hive. To boost the foraging habit of the bees, ‘Ultra Bee Pollen Substitute’ was placed in the ‘Bee Pro Pollen Feeder’. Pollen substitutes are tricky substances. Artificial feed should be avoided as much as possible. The nature should take care of such situations ideally and further, the bees will adapt and evolve only when the artificial interventions are avoided. However, when the question comes to minimizing the financial losses, such interventions become inevitable.
The pollen substitute poses a challenge; as it’s not a natural choice for the bees, hence do not attract them automatically. The pollen feed was within ten to fifty feet from the hives, yet the bees were not able to find it. The sugar syrup feed was placed near the pollen feeder to attract the bees, and the feeding started. Another interesting observation was made, the natural foraging also started, and loads of pollen of different colors was seen after the intervention. Seven hives have picked up the pace and the colony has regained the strength. Two hives are still on the watch list and additional sugar feed has been planned at regular intervals. The apiarist has learned an important lesson in beekeeping, though, the hard way.