Weather, plays a very important part in the lives of our bees. As beekeepers, the more aware we are of the weather, the better we can manage our bees throughout the year. Weather influences the forage plants, and therefore the lives of our bees.
Of all the various weather phenomena, rain, wind and temperature will be the factors that have the most influence on honey bees.
Nectar, the watery sugar solution secreted by plants, is thought to be produced as an attractant for pollinators. Although the water content of many nectars is about 20-50% the concentration of sugars is sufficient to attract honey bees. The production of nectar requires a considerable expenditure of water by the plant during its blossoming period. Therefore, nectar production is greatly influenced by weather conditions.
If blossoming occurs during a period of drought, nectar production will be curtailed, or even eliminated. The number and size of blossoms, as well as the size of the plant itself, can even be reduced during prolonged periods without rain. Excessive rain can wash nectar from blossoms and can even cause a decrease in the amount of nectar being produced.
Bright sunny days lead to a greater nectar secretion and higher sugar content potential. Temperature is also a factor, since many plants will not produce nectar until the daytime temperatures are suitable for triggering the production. Excessively high temperatures will reduce nectar production, or cause available nectar to evaporate quickly. This is particularly true when the humidity is low.
When temperatures and humidity are high the bees will cluster on the outside of the hive. The picture was taken on a very hot humid day and in this particular case the bees required extra space and if left to long they would swarm.
Weather plays a role in nectar production, nectar secretion and also influences the honey bee herself.
Honey bees can sense light, temperature, humidity, rainfall, wind and time of day. The ability to sense all of these factors enables bees to be successful in gathering food and caring for the colony.
Bees need a clear sight of the ground and a reasonable level of light in order to navigate to and from their food sources. A heavy cloud cover will prevent bees from foraging, however, cloudy but bright weather allows them to conduct foraging. Rainfall, even a light rain, will keep them in the hive. Sustained wind over 12 miles per hour will confine bees to their hive since they will be blown off course.
The outside temperature plays an important role, too. Ideal foraging temperatures are between about 65 to 85 degrees F. Although bees begin to cluster at 57 degrees F. they can continue to fly until the temperature drops to about 50 degrees F. Excessively high temperatures confine the bees since they cannot regulate their body temperature away from the hive.
As you can see, knowledge of the influence of weather on food gathering can help beekeepers manage their hives throughout the year. It is possible for colonies to starve in the late summer months, but that story will have to wait for another time.
Weather watching is not just for the television meteorologists, it is for beekeepers, too.
----Window To Beekeeping
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