The nectar was there, but now it’s gone
Two weeks ago you peeked into your honey supers and were delighted to see cell after cell brimming with glistening nectar. Freshly drained from early blooms, the nectar was not yet cured but sparkled in the sunshine. You imagined the taste as you tucked the warm and fragrant frames back among the bees. Today you peeked again, only to discover the bees restless and the cells empty. What happened? Where did it go? Gloom settled over your taste buds. We tend to think of honey bees storing nectar for winter, and indeed they do. But from a wider perspective, honey bees store nectar for times of dearth, regardless of when those times occur. Short periods of dearth can occur throughout the calendar: storms, prolonged rain, cold spells, high winds, and dry spells. Whenever the bees can’t fly, or can’t find food when they do fly, they are dependent upon the stores they stashed earlier.
In my part of the world, March was adorned with balmy afternoons that approached the 80s. The flowers invited the bees and the bees accepted their hospitality. But then it all went south; shivery days, frosty nights, and prolonged rain followed the ephemeral warmth. The air went thick and gray. The bees stopped flying, maple blossoms hung heavily from sodden branches, and cherry laurels bowed to the ground, dumping their rain-diluted nectar into the soil. So sad.
It is no wonder that the glorious partially-cured maple nectar made its way into the stomachs of bees. That is how the system was designed, and instead of grieving over the lost crop, we can be awed by the blueprint the honey bees used to sustain themselves through good times and bad. The strategy worked as advertised, and that is the wonder of honey bees.
Image courtesy of honeybeesuite.com