Alexandra, an interested reader of The Peace Bee Farmer, writes several questions from her home in Switzerland. Here are some of her questions and my attempts at answering: “Foremost, how can a bee colony survive when humans steal their honey?” Alexandra, this question is at the crux of beekeeping. The bees will starve if the beekeeper robs too much of the colony’s stored honey. We can’t judge how severe a winter will be; so, when harvesting, we have to rely on the shared experience of those who have kept bees in this local area. And, most importantly, we must not be too greedy! Next, “I suppose the quality of honey varies. Does this show?” Honey varies throughout the year, and it varies from year to year. The product that we harvest changes according to the flowers that come into bloom. Different times of the year and different weather conditions will dictate which flowers are available for the bees to forage for nectar to make into honey. Typically, spring and summer flowers produce light-colored honeys with mild fragrance and taste. Honey derived from trees are generally darker in color and more robust in flavor. In the Mid-South of the US, fall honeys are much stronger in flavor and aroma.
Alexandra asks how nutrition affects honey bee immune systems. This is a topic of intense study. Honey bee nutrition greatly affects the health of the bees. This topic was discussed by Dr. Dewey Caron at the Arkansas Beekeepers Association’s conference in Little Rock. Dr. Caron explained that optimal nutrition boosts the bees’ immune system and boosts their detoxifying enzymes. Optimal nutrition often results from the bees having access to a great diversity of flowering plants that bloom throughout the spring, summer, and fall months. One of the ways that we can help the bees and the other native pollinators is to provide plants that bloom throughout the seasons. Today’s photo shows a honey bee foraging a late-season rose in Idaho’s Treasure Valley.--Richard