by Bob Mitchell
By now your colonies are increasing in population, the queen is at a peak in her egg production and honey supers are stacked on the hives in anticipation of a sweet reward.
Bees will forage on a wide variety of flowering plants. This diversity will insure the bees have a well balanced diet comprised of all of the essential nutrition needed to bolster the immune system, provide energy and prolong their productive life. Sound familiar? It is similar to human nutrition. We humans need a variety of foods in order to maintain our bodies in a state of good health.
The "grocery store" or pasture for the bees is important. As beekeepers, we need to be aware of what is available — when and where our colonies are "shopping" or foraging for their sustenance.
Bees recognize and may use many flowering plants for their nutrition. the earliest blooming flowers we notice are the skunk cabbage, henbit or dead nettle, vetch, chickweed, dandelion and many others. And don‘t forget to look up! Many valuable nectar and pollen producing plants are trees such as holly, tulip poplar, sassafras, persimmon, black gum and the wide variety of maple trees found in Delaware.
Take the opportunity to observe your colonies. Watch as they bring in pollen and nectar. Observe the flowers on which the bees are foraging (and the time of day!) What color is the pollen? What plant source did they collect that from? Now document that in your daily log, diary or calendar. Perhaps you don‘t recognize the flowers the bees may be foraging on. Pick up a reference book or take a picture and compare it to a reference on the Web. You may be surprised at what is found in your back yard.
found in your back yard. By careful observation and recording the dates of nectar and pollen availability, you will be better able to anticipate the "when" portion of your colony management. Learning to recognize valuable nectar producing plants may give you a change in attitude toward so-called "weeds".
Train yourself to see plants through a "Bees-eye-view" and not from a human perspective. What you may once have considered a "weed patch" may actually be a smorgasbord of nutritious gourmet treats for your honey bee colonies!