I was talking to Jerry Tate of Tate's Honey Farm at the Farmers' Market last night and he explained that bee colonies are experiencing something that he's never seen in his 40 plus years of bee keeping; bees starving to death in June because there are no flowers.
I hadn't thought much about it, but I have noticed recently in my efforts to take pictures of all our area wildflowers that there really aren't many flowers out there. All the cool weather spring flowers have come and gone but the hot weather, high nectar producing flowers like vetch have yet to really get going. I mentioned to Jerry that I have seen a lot of yellow clover, but he explained that even the yellow clover doesn't produce nectar until the temperature gets higher so even though there are flowers, they are not producing the food from which bees make honey.
I am continually surprised at my blind spots when it comes to the web of food and nature. It wasn't until Jerry started explaining that the current conditions are leading whole colonies to starve to death due to a lack of nectar and honey that it occurred to me that bees make honey as food stores for the colony and not just for me to buy at the farmers' market. Instead of bees filling up beekeepers stocks of honey, the beekeepers are having to feed the bees to keep them alive. The more I pay attention to the matrix of food and nature the more delicate and miraculous it appears.
Jerry did say that a beekeeper friend of his in Dayton, which is a week ahead of Spokane weather, has an abundance of vetch in bloom and when it came on his bees filled up the hives with honey in less than a week. Hopefully the heat will come on in the next week and the bees will bounce back.
For a February post about the challenges facing northwest bees and beekeepers go here.
Jerry Tate's honey is available every Wednesday from 3-7pm at the Millwood Farmers' Market.
Picture: Vetch, one of the high nectar producing flowers that bees rely on in our region.