In the tropics because of the peculiarities of climate and vegetation in different ecological zones, there is seasonal variation in bee forage and water.
Based on this the seasons are divided into: -
- Dearth period
- Build-up period
- Honey-flow period
- Harvesting period
This is a time of the year when nectar and pollen are not available to the bees. Egg laying activities decreases or stops as there is no food to feed the brood. Dearth period may be caused by:
- Prolonged dry season which will not permit flowering
- Very heavy rains, which prevent bees from foraging.
- The combination of prolonged dry season followed by very heavy rains.
- Very cold weather which prevents bees from going out to forage; instead they cluster to produce heat.
What to do
- In hot areas, put the hive under shade so that bees have time to search for their food source instead of wasting time trying to cool the hive.
- Shelter hives to keep them dry where rains are heavy and provide proper ventilation
- Enhance pest control measures since the colonies are most vulnerable at this time.
- Provide water if there is scarcity and feed the colony if necessary.
- It s may be necessary to provide supplementary feeding
- This is a time when bee plants start flowering and bees start to bring in pollen and nectar.
- During this period all the stores are used for comb building, egg laying and brood rearing.
- At this time, there should not be less than two top bars full of honey so that the queen may lay eggs to maximum capacity and brood rearing may not drop.
- Feed any colony that runs short of food.
- The more stores of honey, the greater the number of foraging bees that would be available to collect the crop thus the bigger the harvest.
What to do
- Remove all combs which are wrongly built.
- Check that the brood are in compact blocks on the combs. This indicates a good queen.
- Look for hiding places for small hive beetles and wax moth larvae, which the bees cannot remove.
- Merge queen less and small colonies to medium sized ones.
- Help the bees to expand their brood nest by putting an empty top bar in between the brood bar and the top bar containing honey and pollen.
Honey Flow period
- Bee plants are in full bloom during this period.
- Bees bring in nectar and pollen in greater quantities for their daily requirement and therefore utilise the period for storing.
- There will be a daily increase in stores if the colony was properly prepared in the build-up period. Otherwise the colony will use the honey flow period to build-up instead of collecting excess nectar and pollen.
What to do
- At this time the queen should be restricted to the brood area (by using a queen excluder) to leave the other combs to be used for storage.
- In case of a Langstroth hive, give extra supers when the colony is ¾ full. They will serve both for the distribution of the colony population, which will control swarming, and to store excess food.
- In the case of a Kenya Top Bar Hive, harvesting can be done to create space.
Beekeepers should inspect their apiary regularly to know when the colonies are ready for harvesting. This is the most certain way of telling hive that’s ready for harvesting
A colony ready for harvesting will have the following signs
- The bees become aggressive in guarding the hive, and can sting at the slightest provocation.
- Presence of worker bees outside the hive in large numbers
- The honey harvesting period starts about ten days after blooming.
- By then the honey is ripe and ready for harvesting.
Note: There is always a danger of bees consuming the stores if harvesting is delayed.