Late Summer: Bees Search for Food

American Tobacco Apiary Goes on a Summer Vacation

For honey bees, peak summer– July and early August– is termed “The Dearth”. The ominus name is used to describe when nectar and pollen sources in the area slow down substantially and, in some cases, stop altogether. It is an interesting time for the bees because although we still see flowers blooming, many of them produce little nectar and are useless to the honeybee. What do honeybees do when their food sources dry up?

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At our apiary located on the American Tobacco Campus (ATC), the bees found some very interesting sources of sugary and sweet food nearby. After slurping up cocktails, slushies, sodas, and the like, the honeybees turned their hive into a rainbow-colored candyland. Why? In many cities at this time of year, sodas and sweet drinks are all the bees can find in the 3-mile radius they forage in. Because the bees were becoming more adventurous in their search of food, the bees were much more visible around the campus. To make sure all the ATC visitors were not alarmed by the bees we decided to temporarily relocate the bees to a small farm where they can happily roam in search of food a bit more nutritious.

On the first of August, we were joined by Eliza Bordley from the Interfaith Food Shuttle, to load 6 hives from our rooftop apiary onto a truck. With precision, great care and a lot of heavy lifting, we very carefully drove all 500,000 lovely ladies to their vacation home in Northeast Durham where they will relax and rejuvenate on two fields of sunflowers and buckwheat (a great fall food source for the bees) for the remainder of the dearth. After the dearth is over, we will move our friends back to their rooftop home at American Tobacco where they will stay until next year’s dearth begins.

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So you may be wondering what you can do to keep the bees safe and healthy during the dearth of summer. As beekeepers we must make sure to feed our bees sugar water when they don’t have access to natural flower nectars. As a gardener, we can plant pollinator friendly plants that bloom throughout the year, especially during the dearth. And finally if you see a honey bee trying to mingle with you and your lemonade, give her a quick hello and slowly wave her goodbye away from you and your drink so she will move on in search of another sweet treat.

Written by: Justin Maness- Lead Beekeeper, Bee Downtown