Chasing Nectar

Considering all the things you can do for the health of your hives nothing will help more than to place them in the ideal location. The perfect location will include a water source along with a variety of vegetation that gives the bees access to ample pollen and nectar. Since most beekeepers realize that no single location will provide the bees with year round blossoms, the next best choice is to chase the nectar by moving the hives to where it is available.

Most sideline beekeepers will move their hives multiple times throughout the year chasing nectar. I move my hives an average of five times each year. I do this because it’s a lot cheaper than feeding bees sugar syrup during the early nectar dearths, the bees build up faster on natural nectar and it increases honey production.

Chasing nectar first requires you to become aware of what and when vegetation blooms in your area and surrounding areas. It can also be beneficial, if you live in a mountainous region, to understand that elevation changes will stagger bloom cycles.

My bees get their first taste of nectar in February in the almond groves of California. Upon their return I move all my hives into the local orchards in the county (elevation 4500 feet) where I live. The first available nectar locally is dandelions and fruit tree blossoms; apricots and cherries followed by peaches, pears, plums and apples. This will occur between mid-april and early May.

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Package Hives in Cherry Orchard

Once the local orchards are finished with pollination I them move my hives to an upper valley in the neighboring county (elevation 5600 feet). Because of the elevation change the dandelions are just starting to come up. This give the bees a real boost of nectar until the end of May. By this time, early summer clover is starting to bloom.

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Hives in Upper Valley Meadow of Dandelions

About mid June I will load up some of the hives and move them to the county south of me where there is a lavender field starting to flower. The lavender stays in bloom until the end of July. Other hives I will move back to my local county at the end of June to take advantage of the Russian olive tree bloom and alfalfa farms. The alfalfa will provide nectar off and on until late September.

On the average year, high elevation bee yards have a shorter growing season and shorter nectar dearths. Lower elevation yards have longer growing seasons but can also have long nectar dearths, especially early in the summer.

By trying different locations over the years I have learned which bee yards do well in a dry year and which do better in a wetter year. I have also discovered some locations can handle a larger number of hives than others.

Finally, don’t be afraid to move your hives if the nectar dearth is lasting longer than normal. Your bees will thank you.

One thought on “Chasing Nectar

  1. Tommy

    Hey Jason,I couldn’t get mono honey here if I tried!! We don’t have aitnhnyg like tupelo around here, so it’s not possible.Speaking of allergies, I once asked a beekeeper, this was before I kept bees, if his honey had any poison oak nectar as I had heard it would help against sensitivities. Not sure if his honey helped or not, but I don’t have high sensitivity to it. Those chanterelles love to plant themselves under poison oak!Glad you daughter takes bee products and it works for her. I’ve had some people say it doesn’t work for them.Dirty feet honey, huh? That would be quite a label!!!

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