The bees are doing well! They have been growing in population and increasing their food stores. There is a healthy amount of worker and drone brood, which is a great sign this time of year. During the nectar dearth, bees will be searching for food and water sources wherever they can find it. Since there is less in bloom, bees are sometimes present in more areas than they had been previously. This activity is normal and should subside once the nectar begins to flow again in late summer. 10 frames of honey combined have been currently harvested!
The colony is focusing less on growth, and more on making sure that food stores are sufficient during these last weeks of summer. Temperatures are beginning to cool, and the dry spell know as the “nectar dearth” is primarily behind us. Goldenrod is just beginning to bloom, and the forager bees are busy locating where fall resources might be found.
This time of year, a new behavior may be seen known as “expulsion of the drones.” Earlier in the season, drones play the important role of leaving the hive and spreading the colony’s genetics by mating with young queens from other colonies in the area. Drones that are still sticking around by this time of year have been unsuccessful in this role, and may drain colony food and resources that are instrumental to winter survival. Female worker bees will begin to kick drones out of the hive, dragging them out and blockading the entrance to prevent re-entry. Though this may seem harsh, it is a natural and important part of the process as colonies near fall and winter.
Autumn has begun, bringing with it lower temperatures, shorter days, and one last fall nectar flow. As the active beekeeping season slows, a colony’s queen begins to slow as well. She will begin laying fewer eggs and start focusing less on population growth and more on maintaining a manageable colony size in preparation for winter.
The bees are adjusting well to the cooler temperatures. The brood’s nest is shrinking due to the queen’s reduced laying, thus space has been consolidated for the winter months ahead. A colony with too much space can have a harder time keeping the hive warm, and may be more vulnerable to pests. In doing so, the colony has been prepared for one of the most critical times of the year by ensuring they have essential honey stores for winter fuel and pollen stores for future developing brood in late winter.
The fall nectar flow will continue and the bees will be storing nectar from such fall blooming plants as the infamous goldenrod. This fall, their bright yellow blooms provide a plentiful food source for pollinators this late in the season. Interestingly, late season blooms tend to produce a honey that is darker in color and has a nuttier taste compared to some spring harvests.