Well it is the tenth of December and like it or not, the beekeeping season for 2009 is about done! I have been keeping bees for nearly thirty years and never remember a year like this past one.
For the most part, my bees came through the winter in pretty good shape. I started feeding both Mega Bee pollen supplement and sugar syrup in early March. The bees built up nicely and of coarse the weather stayed cold well into April. Then around the 26thof the month, the temperature spiked up to 96 degrees for a couple of days. After this it went back to cloudy and cool and stayed that way for ever! In late May we had a decent flow from Autumn Olive and then the Black Locust had the heaviest bloom we had experienced in years. The day it opened up it started to rain and rained for weeks. When it wasn’t raining, it was threatening to rain. The result was no Locust honey, no clover honey, no sumac honey, no anything honey.
I had started about a hundred nucs and packages to replace dead outs and for some increase. They had a lot of plastic foundation and no nectar. A real bad combination, so I started feeding them heavily. I hoped that if I built them up to double hive bodies they would be roaring for the fall flow! Usually, I can plan on some help from Mother Nature to draw foundation. Well she is a fickle B#&%? and gave me nothing! I spent the entire summer feeding bees in order to protect my investment. Late August came and the Jewel Weed was six feet tall and loaded with bloom. You guessed it. No nectar flow! Goldenrod came into bloom, no nectar! Aster came into bloom, no nectar! I did get some honey from purple loosestrife in two yards where it has not been killed off by those beetles that our all knowing government allowed to be introduced from Asia. I surely miss those 100 lb crops of loosestrife honey! Now the swamps are filling up with phragmites, another invasive species that produces no honey and doesn’t have any other redeeming qualities as far as I can see.
On September fifteenth, I harvested what little crop I had and started to feed. Usually,I need to give an average of two gallons of syrup just to fill in the gaps with many colonies needing no feed at all. This fall, I had to feed an average of six gallons per hive with some taking as many as ten gallons. I just couldn’t seem to fill them up.
The good news is that all of the feeding coupled with warmer than average temperatures, stimulated the queens to lay a lot later in the fall than is usual. This late flush of young bees should help with wintering. The bees consumed a lot of pollen in order to raise the brood so I will need to feed more Pollen Substitute in March to get good build up. I seems like all I did this season was feed and wait for the nice weather that never came. Like Larry Connor says “some times you just need to write the check”. I wrote a lot of checks for sugar this year!
This poor crop wasn’t limited to the Northeast. From what I gather it was nationwide as well as world wide. Without getting into climate change discussions, I can say that the weather has been different during the last several years with 2009 being the worst season in my thirty years as a beekeeper. I need to locate a plant physiologist and find out just what makes a plant produce or not produce nectar. We had plenty of moisture and the late summer and fall had many nice sunny days that I thought should have been right for a honey flow.
At any rate, in a few weeks the days will start to get longer and by February the queens will start that magic cycle all over again. I can’t wait.
Happy Holidays from Adam & Charlene Fuller!