Managing in a Drought

By Ol’ Drone

Notwithstanding the torrential rainstorm and serious flooding going on in various parts of the country, there is a far more serious, long-term problem concerning extensive drought conditions in many of our Midwestern states.

Beekeepers have been facing the challenge of serious drought in the entire Midwest for the past few years. Beekeepers unable to compensate for water shortage may not harvest any honey crop and will not have raised strong enough colonies to provide commercial pollination of early crops such as almonds. Beekeepers and ranchers, both facing short food supplies for hives or herds, are cutting back livestock (or bee colonies) to conserve scarce supplies. Culling those hives that are poor producers is one method. Where the logistics allow the effort, the best way to get a honey crop is simply move all hives to a region where good nectar flow (and water) is available. For example, Southern California has drought conditions every summer and successful beeks move away to follow the blooms. Combining hives is a useful tactic and requeening with a young productive queen usually helps.

Watch out and protect from robbing, as this bad habit will occur when flowers are in short supply. During dry, drought season the bees need more water to cool the hive and to feed the brood. Also important however is to feed continuously whenever nectar forage is not available. Feeding sugar is essential for survival and they also need some pollen (substitute). Too much pollen will stimulate brood raising; that is unsustainable during drought. A Missouri beek was able to save his bees during a bad drought, without moving, by heavy feeding all year round.

The world’s honeybee population has shown survival skills to continue to exist during millions of years of challenges and they will probably continue to do so.

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