Don’t look now, it’s already time to harvest honey! Whether you keep bees or not, as you consider this year’s fresh honey crop, think about this: bees visit about 2 million flowers to make a single pound of honey. And of course, they have to make honey for their own winter stores before the beekeeper can harvest surplus, that takes a lot of flowers! The national average for honey production is about 5 gallons of honey per hive, which is also about what the bees need to store for the colony to get through a winter- a pound for you and a pound for the bees, if you’re lucky with an average harvest! Project Apis m. is planting a lot of forage these days, and honey is one very good reason why. Beekeepers need to make a honey crop to stay in business. Without solvent commercial beekeeping, there is no alternative service which could supply pollination: crop production relies on managed honey bees. Besides being a measure of the business model for beekeeping, a honey crop also is indicative of the health of the hive. A colony with no honey crop is probably suffering in other ways, and may be much less fit to survive winter and make the grade to pollinate California almonds. If we liken bees work to running a successful marathon, it isn’t about what you have for breakfast that day- it starts far upstream of that. Pollination events for bees also depend on colony health right now, heading into fall fat and happy, without mites and diseases, and with a full healthy pantry.
PAm’s forage programs include Seeds for Bees in California and the Bee & Butterfly Habitat Fund in the Upper Midwest. Seeds for Bees is enrolling growers right now, providing free cover crop seed and the guidance to grow it successfully to benefit bees and the orchard. Contact Billy Synk to learn more. The Bee & Butterfly Habitat Fund is in glorious bloom right now where it’s been planted, providing some of the best available nutrition for many kinds of bees in agricultural landscapes. Having seen them last week, working with PAm’s new BBHF Coordinator Pete Berthelsen, we saw that those plantings are actually giving beekeepers pause to harvest their honey, because there is still more coming in! HOWEVER, the other critical Fall management event is Varroa sampling and control in time to allow all colonies the time they need to produce a healthy cohort of bees to get through winter. Its hard to overstate the importance of Fall Varroa management. To raise awareness about that, PAm is a proud sponsor of the new Mite-A-Thon initiative. Read Billy and Karen’s articles to learn more about this effort, and how you can participate in this nationwide Varroa event during September.
No matter what stressors bees encounter as they pollinate, having good nutrition is necessary for the colony to produce more brood, so new bees can renew and revitalize a stressed colony. As our research programs aim to understand myriad stressors of honey bees including parasites, pathogens, and pesticide concerns, good nutrition can work from the other side of the equation to mitigate those other problems.
Danielle Downey is the Executive Director for Project Apis m. She has been working with honey bees and the parasites that plague them for over 20 years.