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California Dearth Conditions

via HoneyLover Susan Rudnicki

Beeks—As you are probably reading everywhere, California is in the middle of a extended drought and this significantly affects the available food—pollen and nectar—for our bees. People can get a false sense of security about this problem since all around are extensive irrigated landscapes— golf courses, industrial parks, shopping malls with fountains and lush landscaping, apartment and condo blocks, and private homes.

However, all this is carried out by the importation of precious water from underground aquifers and water resources channeled from the middle and northern part of the state. Irrigation with re-claimed sewer water—-designated by the required violet colored pipes and valve box covers—is still a anomaly, unfortunately. Our streets are still running with rivers of wasted water, too.

For a simple tabulation of the history of the rainfall pattern, go here: http://www.laalmanac.com/weather/we13.htm

You will see, since 2000, we have been much under normal 8 years and only in excess 5 years—and not that much in excess, when the average for 135 years is only 15 inches. The population of California is projected to be 60 million by 2050, from the 34 million counted in 2007. The water is not going to be there to sustain this many people in the lifestyle currently practiced.

Many beeks are noticing their bees have small stores of honey, or sometimes, nothing. I am seeing cutouts with lots of brood, but almost NO honey/nectar stores. As beekeepers, this is important for us to monitor when doing inspections of our hives and when trying to support small nucs and cutouts after the trauma of the operations when we move them. We may need to feed our bees to help them manage the loss of available food supply—called a “dearth” –if we wish for them to be around for us come Spring. The best food for bees is their natural food—honey. This can be provided by frames of honey taken from strong hives. “junk comb” from cutouts, and honey purchased for the specific feeding purpose. A bee has a natural acidic pH in her gut that is supported by many strains of bacteria, fungi, and other microbes adapted to that pH environment. When we feed sugar or high fructose corn syrup, the more alkaline nature of these sugars alters the gut pH. Some scientists believe this is not beneficial to the gut microbes that serve the bee’s immune system. However, if the situation is one of the choice between starvation or feeding sugar, we may need to feed the sugar syrup to get by until there is a natural nectar flow.


Big thank you to Susan for contributing to our blog as well as moderating the HoneyLove Forum!

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One Response to California Dearth Conditions

  1. Max Morgan September 3, 2014 at 5:57 am #

    Susan – I agree with your comments. The last three cutouts I’ve done there has been almost no capped honey. Zero, nada, zip. Last year was the worst year on record for feral bees. This year is even worse.

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