Thursday, May 2, 2013

From the inbox: starving bees in Georgia/nectar sources

"Hey David,
  I ran across your article about Mulberry trees as I was doing research looking for trees that my honey bees might like.  We are in west central Georgia and have experienced a couple of years of drought that have taken a toll on our honey bees.  Not enough pollen/nectar in the early Spring or late Fall.  I am a Speech Language Pathologist and noticed a mulberry tree with ripe fruit growing at one of the schools where I teach.  My thought was that if it is in fruit now, it must have been in flower at least a month ago.  This would have been wonderful food for my honey bees, if they use mulberry pollen and nectar.  So, my question is, do honey bees use the pollen and nectar that mulberry trees produce? 

We are really struggling in our area.  We lost one of our hives to starvation and we only had two!  We know veteran beekeepers who lost 30 to 40 hives to starvation.  We believe the temperature fluctuation from cold to warm and back to cold may have, also, contributed to our problems.
Columbus, GA"

Being less of a bee expert than my friend Allen the Beekeeper, I sent him Susan's questions. His responses are below:

"Mulberries do produce pollen bees like and use. Sadly, they're not good sources of nectar, and in times of little to no rain, they have even less nectar than normal (and it is minimal to start with for the mulberries.)
If your bees need to be fed to get started, do so, even here in north central FL if I cant get them to citrus soon enough, I feed in times of dryness.

Feijoa is a good nectar source if it grows there. And she can look up a local butterfly plant list. Plus, U GA has a good botany and entomology program that can help.

Side note: A typical campus is just as poisonus as a golf course in terms of pest control and treatments. Yes, the fruit and blossoms are there; but at what cost of contamination? Just a thought.

On the U GA site... type " nectar plants " and in the top five search is a list of Ga. Plants for her bees year round."

After Allen sent me his responses, I talked to him on the phone. When he realized you were in Columbus, he told me that's one of the toughest areas of the state for keeping bees happy. He also said that you may want to give up, since the droughts really wreak havoc on honeybees and the drought cycles seem to have gotten worse recently. Without lots of water and nectar, it's a tough row to hoe.

One more thought from Allen: bees tend to do poorly in pine scrub. If your area is filled with pines, that's a bad sign for bee longevity. It also brings in pine beetles to chew up your hives.

And here's a question from me: Do you see any honeybees in the wild where you are? If not, that may be a sign that your area is simply poorly adapted for domesticated bees.

Susan - thank you for writing. I hope your bees do well.Too bad you didn't ask about raising fire ants. Georgia is a REALLY good place for that (second only to Florida, of course.)

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At May 3, 2013 at 9:40 PM , Blogger Ten at Eat Your Sands said...

I know, right? I am Really Really good at raising fire ants!


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