March madness for honey bees? What? It’s March 1st today… so what does that mean to the honey bees in our area. Well, in the past few years the weather wasn’t as unstable like this year so March meant the start of our strong nectar flow. Many nectar producing trees and flowers usually bloom around this time of the year, which include two major nectar sources – Citrus and Salvia / Sage, but I think this year some came early due to 70’s weather we’ve had last month. The bee colonies should be increasing in population greatly when the nectar flow is on.
It also means the start of our swarm season here in California. But again this weather is really confusing everyone including the honey bees. It’s been really cold at nights and has been at or near freezing. But swarm season is near. The nectar flow has been good for over a month now when there’s no rain. And I’ve been watching the healthy Mountain View hive closely. Their numbers are strong though they have varroa mites. This colony has been tossing out a lot of drones and the drone population is growing everyday. I’ve read somewhere that when you start seeing a lot of drones there’s a potential of the hive swarming.
Also, to hopefully prevent swarming I’ve already added a super on top. They are drawing out the foundationless super fairly quick and whatever has been build they have been filling with honey. The girls are fanning at the entrance like they would in the heat of the summer. They must be removing moisture being brought in by all the nectar right now.
So March, things are definitely on. The flow started early, the weather has been unstable, nice days but freezing nights… how’s this going to affect the rest of our year for the honey bees? An early flow and early rain could mean a dry Summer and Fall for us but who knows. This year it could rain for months and the flow could be excellent. We just won’t know. Perhaps some long time local beekeepers can tell us.