Monday, August 4, 2008

Bee Quiet

I have been practicing a hands-off approach to beekeeping this past month, letting the girls work in peace. The heat and humidity have been a natural deterrent to getting into the hives because like humans, bees can be a little ornery when they are uncomfortably warm. They are all doing well as of last inspection, so I have had little to report here. I will get into the hives this week and make sure they are filling out their comb and growing like they should be. We've finally had a little rain, so maybe we can have a bit of a nectar flow, although I doubt there will be much if drought conditions resume.

The other day I received a phone call from a local Alabamian who has a problem with bees visiting his hummingbird feeder. Apparently, with the drought conditions, the bees have found the sweet nectar that this kind gentleman has put out for the local hummingbirds and have commandeered the feeder, actually driving away the hummingbirds. I have minimal experience removing colonies and swarms and am happy to do so, but unfortunately this is a case that I cannot assist with.
Foraging bees number in the several thousands for a single colony and as long as there is a good quality source of nectar, the lucky lady who discovered the source (and all of her sisters whom she convinces to accompany her to the source through her bee dance) will continue to visit that source until it is exhausted. Therefore, if this kind man continues to put out nectar for the hummingbirds, the bees will continue to come in ever-greater numbers to harvest the nectar and turn it into honey for themselves and their colony.
My only counsel to this gentleman was to stop feeding the hummingbirds for a few weeks and let the bees find something else to eat. Unless he knows the location of the colony (or colonies) that is/are dining at his feeder, my collecting a couple of hundred worker bees from around his hummingbird feeder will do nothing to stop them from eating at his buffet. I am terribly sorry I can't do more than that. These girls have to continue with their own colony and unfortunately they are far more persistent and numerous than the hummingbirds.
Bee populations will begin waning in the next four to eight weeks, and the girls who are currently visiting his feeder will not likely be alive much past the end of August, so he may be able to set out the hummingbird feeder again in about three weeks and have a couple of weeks without too many bees visiting. It just depends on the proximity of his feeder to the hive. Bees are efficient workers and will exploit every source of nectar and pollen closest to their hive before moving further on.

Good luck.