Rain, Food and Nectar

With all the wet weather I have been a little more than concerned that my bees are doing ok.  They seem to be running foraging flights between downpours (and even in some of the lighter showers) and are busy building comb.  I have even seen plenty of pollen coming into the hive.  What I am concerned about is whether there is any nectar available.  I had heard that too much wet weather washes the nectar away.  Is this true? How can I tell, other than opening up the boxes and taking each bar out, if they are bringing enough nectar in?

Graham, Reading Berkshire

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3 Responses to Rain, Food and Nectar

  1. johnmkubwa says:

    Weighing to Assess Stores.
    Plenty of pollen suggests feeding of brood. I have been seeing much foraging activity in dry spells and drizzle but very little pollen, which suggests to me a colony restocking on nectar for honey reserves before raising more brood.
    Opening the hive to check combs will release much vital nest warmth; and the intrusion will be highly disruptive to the colony. To check stocks in a Warré, I weigh the hive boxes with a simple fisherman’s spring balance ( you could use a luggage weigher). With the hook under each handle I record a weight and add the two together. Deducting the weight of an empty box with top-bars fitted, the weight of comb wax ( estimated at 1 kg) and the weight of bees and brood ( another 1 kg) will leave the weight of stores in the box.
    Before weighing remove the roof and quilt-box. The insulation should be off-hive for less than a minute during weighing and the top cloth will retain heat during the operation. While you have the opportunity, place a bare hand on the top cloth and feel the nest warmth. This will help you understand the importance of the heat retaining quilt..
    The same procedure can be used to assess a possible harvest as well as check stores in early spring.

    Rain does wash nectar out of some flowers. However, like local bees, flowers adapt somewhat to our climate. Borage, hellebore (wild) and lime flowers hang down with nectaries protected by petals and leaves. Phacellia has a curl of developing flowers with some hanging down. Others like foxglove and lupins have tubular flowers which also protect nectaries. I have also noticed flowers close and droop in poor weather only to raise their faces to the sun when it shines.

    Summer starts this week-end?

    John, Stockbridge, Hants

  2. jonbinspired says:

    This time last year all the nectar was burnt off by a hot April and early May. So we should not be too down about the rain. Different flowers produce nectar at different times of the day. The recovery rate is often very quick. As long as the bees can fly it’s not too bad.

    What I have noticed here is the lack of apples. Only the late flowering apple trees have fruit. The bees could not get out for the early flowering ones. A chilling reminder of what life would be like without bees.

    Jonathan, Frome, Somerset

  3. Nancy says:

    The rainy weather in the Sugar Land and Fort Bend area of Texas this Spring (2015) certainly has had a poor affect on nector and honey production.

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