Honey bees make the most honey when the weather is hot and dry. Well, that has not been the case this year. This appears to have been the wettest month of July recorded in this area. July is the time of the year when the greatest nectar flow is expected in the Arkansas Delta. Some rain is of course necessary for plants to remain healthy and secrete nectar. However, an excessively rainy period greatly affects the amount of honey that is produced by a bee hive. The honey bee does not forage in the rain. Heavy or steady rains keep the bees in the hive, eating honey instead of making honey. The plants don’t secrete as much nectar on cloudy days. Also, rain can wash away the nectar in unprotected flowers or dilute the nectar. Nectar brought into the hive during rainy days generally contains more water and less sugar.
Soybean fields in the area are holding standing water from record-level rains. Fields that should have honey bees foraging for nectar find herons and egrets foraging for crawfish. If conditions keep the bees from being able to forage at the time of the major nectar flows, there will not be a surplus of honey produced. This week found the Arkansas Delta wet and unseasonably cool, while the Pacific Northwest experienced record high temperatures. This is what is to be expected from climate change. The weather does not gently warm a couple of degrees; the weather moves to the extremes. Global warming and its associated weather related effects on plant growth may adversely affect honey bee nutrition. Nutritional issues are considered a contributing factor in the decline in honey bees and native pollinators. Fortunately, these factors are being recognized; and we can move toward correcting our actions which affect the weather and the bees. Today’s photo shows great egrets foraging in a wet soybean field.