Tahlequah Daily Press

July 19, 2013

Cooler spring slows honey production

By RENEE FITE
Special Writer

TAHLEQUAH — Honey is in short supply this summer, and beekeepers are blaming the weather.

Cooler temperatures late into spring kept the bees from making honey as early as they usually do, said Roy Hall.

This season is one of the worst Hall remembers in his 20 years keeping bees. After talking to three or four of his beekeeper friends, he learned some had no honey and others very little.

“I think because I had comb left on some supers [frames] that I’d protected over the winter, the bees could fill it up without having to put wax on it first,” Hall said.

Inside each hive are about 20,000 bees. Nine or 10 supers are put into the hives so the bees can build wax combs to hold the honey. Hall usually gets about 22 or 23 supers of honey each year, and this year, he’s only gotten 12 to 14.

“It’s not a lot, compared to what I’ve gotten in other years,” Hall said. “We had such a cold spell in the season when the blooms were out, it was too cold for the bees to be out. When they did get out, they felt like they had to work harder to catch up. And the queen had laid so many babies, it caused the bees to swarm.”

They were able to find nectar, so they worked hard and tried to swarm, moving the honey to a new, less-crowded hive.

“They split when it gets crowded and look for a new queen to replace the one in the old hive, and it takes a while for the new queen to start laying,” said Hall.

Swarming bees take part of the honey to their new hive or hollow tree. The bees fill their stomachs and take it with them. They usually go a few hundred feet. Swarming is usually a good thing, as it means new colonies, Hall said.

“Usually, I can catch them before they get in a ball, but not always,” he said. “If they go into a tree, it’s almost impossible to get them out.”

The bees can scent people, and Hall is able to get close to the hives without his gear, if he stays to the side and out of the direct line of their flight patterns. Otherwise, the bees would feel threatened. Hall always used the head netting and coveralls when gathering the supers.

“These bees are pretty gentle,” he said.

Drought can affect honey production but this was a good year for bees to get out to blooms and get both pollen and nectar.

 

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