Summer may be officially over and whilst conditions have improved, beekeepers are being urged to continue to focus on the health of their hives. In difficult times, the fundamentals of managing water, nectar and pollen remain the same but in order for hives to remain healthy through adversity, extra vigilance may be required.
Even as we leave summer behind, beekeepers are reminded that water is the most essential ingredient for a colony’s survival, particularly in weather beyond 35°C and beyond, with strong colonies consuming up to a litre per day. Ensure bees have access to a clean, fresh water source and that measures have been put in place to prevent bees drowning.
Whether choosing to feed in-hive or externally, beekeepers should take measures to ensure the correct processes are adhered to in all conditions.
If externally feeding it is important to prevent livestock from drinking syrup, as this can be fatal.
Drought has a particularly big impact on fresh pollen available to colonies due to the elimination of flowering herbs, pasture and weeds. Colonies will continue to breed while nectar or syrup (1:1) is available in order stimulate the colony.
Once fresh pollen stores are depleted, colonies will begin to consume stored pollen. Once these stocks run out, the population will decline.
It may be necessary to explore supplementary feeding which can be expensive but necessary to support populations when pollen is scarce. The fact sheet explains the correct process for supplementary feeding wither in-hive or in an open feeder.
This open resource was developed by Dr Doug Somerville with support from the AgriFutures Honey Bee Program and Australian Honeybee Industry Council, the resource is available here: Management of bee nutrition in drought and fire affected areas.