Using robbing behavior to determine the vitality of the nectar flow

Just a comment.  I have no proof, only observations.  I suspect that increased robbing behavior is directly related to the productivity of the nectar flow.  This has always been been beekeeping common sense.  Extracting after the flow was over always brought hoards of curious bees to the extracting area.

But my comment is that robbing behavior in the bee yard (it appears) can be used as a barometer of the nectar flow.  If weather temporarily stops the flow, I suspect that foragers will be attracted to the equipment that has their interest – even if the honey rewards are scant.  I suspect if the flow starts up again, the robbing foragers will be gone.  It is as though frames or combs still having small amounts of honey can give the beekeeper an idea of the condition of the flow that day in that yard.  I’m only guessing.

If I photograph, the pic only looks like robbing behavior.



5 thoughts on “Using robbing behavior to determine the vitality of the nectar flow

  1. I concur. And they can switch it on and off like a switch. I love it when the nectar flow is waning and the blooms are getting few and suddenly some latecomer to the season blooms. The bees follow the dance of the diminishing blooms exactly with an increase in washboarding and prowling around their neighbor’s hives. Then suddenly that latecomer bloom shows up and all is well again – briefly.

  2. As a new beekeeper, I am never entirely sure when the nectar flow stops. I do not notice the behavior changing. There are generally flowers around all summer long and gardens etc. So when is the end of the flow or dearth. Hope you don’t mind this basic question here.

    1. Dave, I have honestly considered how to respond to your question for several weeks. I will try to put this “nectar flow” term into concept from two different views. From the bees perspective, in many areas, the nectar flow in ongoing as long as there are plants that can produce nectar/pollen rewarding blossoms. Obviously, the available food quantities from those blossoms will be scant when the weather is difficult or as seasons change. To show a point, at this very moment, December 8, in Wooster Ohio there are a few desperate dandelion blossoms in my back yard. So a purist could argue that the nectar flow is still ongoing – albeit – very, very meagerly. The second “Nectar Flow” is from the beekeeper’s perspective. The beekeeper is monitoring the blooming period when surplus honey can be produced from incoming nectar. Beekeepers are looking for the “big blooms” when millions and millions of blossoms are available to bees. As that season passes and the output of flowering plants decline, then beekeeper would lament that the “flow has ended.” In fact, it has not ended but has become so small (or slow) as to be irrelevant for surplus honey production. So essentially, the nectar flow is a period of seasonal time when bee foragers can commonly find enough food resources that they can store surplus food for later use. Seasonal variations mean that some years (seasons) are better than others.

      1. Thanks for the “nectar flow” comments. Like Ohio, Vermont is well past any flow — snow on the ground! It seems by your description that for us it would be a late May/June event as that’s when the trees, gardens and fruit trees are budding out and blooming. Hoping for a good flow in 2021!

  3. Reference not being able to tell which colony or colonies are providing the perimeter defence force, I have had success identifying a colony dispatching stingers, unprovoked, to nearby gardens, by standing in the middle of the offending hives awaiting their attention, about 5 seconds, and when a few are addressing my veil, dusting my head and veil with flour. The white returnees are the ones that require attention. Turned out they were queenless, but the same methodology would help identify the colony or colonies then it is up to the beekeeper to decide their intervention. Not a new idea, I know, but did help me identify where to start with the remedy.

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