Thursday, May 13, 2010

Dust Devils and Floods

The weather that we experience today may affect the honey bees today and well into the future. The temperature and rainfall affect the honey bees’ health and food stores as well as the amount of honey they produce and its flavor. The Mid-South broke out of an exceptionally long and cold winter into a quite temperate spring. Spring flowers bloomed later than normal. Dry weather allowed area farmers to prepare their fields for spring planting. Today’s picture shows a dust devil, a dry vortex of sun-heated air, swirling across a nearby plowed field. The next day, a series of thunderstorms brought heavy rain, large hail, and several tornadoes to the Arkansas Delta. The field, dry and dusty one day, stood under nearly a foot of water the next day.

Today’s weather may affect honey bee colonies well into the future. Last year’s ice storm in Northern Arkansas broke the tops out of many nectar-bearing trees. Entire spring-time honey crops were lost along with the nectar normally available for honey bee spring build-up. Slow population growth meant reduced honey harvests in the affected area. Adverse weather in the fall can easily lead to winter losses of colonies due to starvation and disease. Nosema disease increases with long, cold winters; and chalkbrood sometimes flares up in cool spring weather. The weather affects the growth of nectar plants and can change the amount and quality of the honey. Last year’s wet spring brought a strong bloom from privet, a residential hedge which readily escapes into the woods. The privet added a little “bite” to the flavor of spring honeys. As the flowering plants react to the changes in the weather, the effect even shows in how rapidly the honey crystallizes. Honey produced from flowers generally crystallizes faster than honey produced from flowering trees. Some beekeepers record weather trends throughout the year to analyze their honey bee health and honey production. Global climate change tends to move the weather toward the extremes.

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