The nectar was there, but now it’s gone
Two weeks ago you peeked into your honey supers and were delighted to see cell after cell brimming with glistening nectar. Freshly drained from early blooms, the nectar was not yet cured but sparkled in the sunshine. You imagined the taste as you tucked the warm and fragrant frames back among the bees.
Today you peeked again, only to discover the bees restless and the cells empty. What happened? Where did it go? Gloom settled over your taste buds.
Dearths can occur at any time
We tend to think of honey bees storing nectar for winter, and indeed they do. But from a wider perspective, honey bees store nectar for times of dearth, regardless of when those times occur. Short periods of dearth can occur throughout the calendar: storms, prolonged rain, cold spells, high winds, and dry spells. Whenever the bees can’t fly, or can’t find food when they do fly, they are dependent upon the stores they stashed earlier.
In my part of the world, March was adorned with balmy afternoons that approached the 80s. The flowers invited the bees and the bees accepted their hospitality. But then it all went south; shivery days, frosty nights, and prolonged rain followed the ephemeral warmth. The air went thick and gray. The bees stopped flying, maple blossoms hung heavily from sodden branches, and cherry laurels bowed to the ground, dumping their rain-diluted nectar into the soil. So sad.
It is no wonder that the glorious partially-cured maple nectar made its way into the stomachs of bees. That is how the system was designed, and instead of grieving over the lost crop, we can be awed by the blueprint the honey bees used to sustain themselves through good times and bad. The strategy worked as advertised, and that is the wonder of honey bees.
Other bees are home as well
Also sticking close to home are the mason bees. I can peek around the corner of my house into the straw tubes. At the end of many, female masons are waiting for the skies to clear. All facing out, they peer at me peering at them. I don’t know what the masons do for food during long spells of inclement weather. The food they have collected thus far, nectar and pollen, is amassed in tight balls, one per chamber with an egg on top. I wonder if they ever eat the one they last collected, the one not yet sealed into its own chamber, but I do not know.
The weather is due to clear in the next days. It will be like starting over for the honey bees, refilling the now empty pantry. And the masons? I suspect they will start the day with an energy drink and then get back to work stocking the nursery for the next generation.
Honey Bee Suite