Beekeeping follows seasonal cycles. Last time Liz and I opened the hive, Liz gave me a quick tutorial on the seasons of the hive.
Here in Cincinnati the yearly colony cycle can be broken into four seasons:
- Late Spring & Early Summer- honey flow
- Late Summer-Dearth
- Fall- honey flow
The flowering of plants and more importantly, nectar flows, are influenced by seasonal weather patterns. The honey bee colony responds to these changes. When resources of both pollen and nectar are plentiful, the colony is stimulated to raise more brood and thus the colony population increases.
When resources are low, brood-rearing decreases, and the colony population decreases- this cycle is called Dearth.
By having the maximum adult population during the time of the major nectar flow, beekeepers can take best advantage of the flow. However, these conditions also make it a prime time for swarming. A colony that swarms just before a major nectar flow usually produces no surplus honey on that flow. Which is why Beekeepers try to prevent swarms. Of course it is impossible to prevent all swarming, but with management it can be minimized or controlled.
In the spring when my garden is busting with flowers, the bees are busting with honey. Now that we are in mid summer, the garden is rather hushed and so are the bees, though the are visiting the clover in my lawn. Making it unsafe to walk barefoot in my yard.
I am patiently waiting for the Asters, Goldenrod, Mexican Bush Sage and Rudbekia (black-eyed susan) to bloom in late summer to help the bees start their fall flow. If you grow Aster, cut back the stems now to encourage a later bloom. Its nice to have the color later in the season and it will give the bees something to visit when their supply is low. Consider planting Goldenrod along your property line, away from your flower beds. Goldenrod is one of the bees largest sources of nectar here in the fall, it is a beautiful flower, but very invasive. You don’t want to plant this in your flower beds, but it does make a great naturalizing perennial in tall grass or along a tree line (as long as it will get full sun).