Nectar: Flow or Dearth

I had the truck loaded with empty supers and was headed for a full day of checking beehives.  It had been three weeks since these hives had been last checked and the first round of supers had been put on.  These were all locations that normally provide the hives with plenty of nectar each season, but with last years drought, the honey crop was a bust.  My anxiety was running high during my drive to the out yards fearing a repeat of last years nectar dearth.  As I visited bee yard after bee yard my fears soon left as I saw the beautiful glistening nectar dripping from the frames.

The following signs, listed below, can help determine if your hives are experiencing a nectar flow or dearth.

  • Visible Floral Sources
  • High Bee Activity
  • Gentle Bees – No Robbing
  • Nectar “Shake out” Test

Visible Floral Sources

The first sign to look for when approaching the bee yard is floral sources.  It is helpful to be familiar with what booms in the area and when.  If your hives are in agriculture locations keep tract of the harvest that provides the nectar.  For me, this usually means knowing when the alfalfa fields were last cut.

High Bee Activity

As I first pull in to a bee yard I look to see how many bees are in flight as well as traffic congestion at the entrance of the hive.  If the temperature is warm and there is a lot of activity the bee yard, I often find honey.

Gentle Bees – No Robbing

Bees seem to be at their most gentle state when they are in the middle of a nectar flow on a warm summer day.  The bees are so busy collecting nectar that sometimes a smoker isn’t needed to calm the bees.  On the opposite side of the spectrum, when the bees start robbing the equipment on the back of the truck it is a sure sign they are in a nectar dearth.

Nectar “Shake out” Test

This is a test I do routinely when I visit my bee yards.  This is done by selecting a frame, usually from the top super, that visible nectar can bee seen in the cell and is not capped.  I then flick this frame over the other frames in the top box and look for any nectar droplets.  The nectar will only shake out if it was collected the the last few days.  Once it has started to thicken into honey if won’t shake out of the cells.  Please visit my video page and watch “Nectar Test” for a demo.

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