We are all familiar with the common needs for water, such as crop growth, fruit trees and cattle but we often forget about our buzzing friend, the honeybee! This year has been a dry one for honey makers and though beekeepers and honeybees have their own defined set of struggles, adding a drought to the mix creates a completely different type of devastation. Since nectar is scarce, so is the honey.
There has been a steady decrease in honey production over the past few years as a result of the drying up of local nectar sources. The Marshall’s Farm honeybees depend on not only nectar from irrigated commercial crops, but from wild plants such as acacia and coastal sage. When a drought occurs, these natural resources dry up and eliminate many opportunities for the bee’s to acquire nectar.
But the challenges don’t stop there. Honeybees have been on the decline for the past couple decades in part due to the Varroa mite, a deadly parasite. Other threats to honeybee life include colony collapse disorder (a phenomenon where colonies disappear without reason) and the increased use of toxic pesticides. In the past ten years alone, beekeepers have lost 30 to 90 percent of their hives.
The weather is also a big factor for honeybees at this time. They are most vulnerable during the winter when nectar is in low supply and in order to conserve heat, they mustn’t stray far from the hive. This winter alone, Marshall’s Farm has lost 60-70 percent of their bees which is a drastic increase from a 20 percent loss in past years.
While there is a light at the end of the tunnel as the April showers are beginning to drench the farm, the precipitation can create additional problems for beekeepers. Too much rain all at once is not good, plants need ample time to develop and when it rains consistently, the bees aren’t working to pollinate the plants. There can in fact be too much of a good thing.