Spring is busy time for bees and their keepers

Spring is the busiest time of year for bees and their beekeepers. Queens begin laying their eggs, scouts head out of the hive to find food to replenish diminished stocks, and the rest of the workers shoulder the load in raising more brood.

For beekeepers, late summer and autumn are the primary harvest periods for honey, while winter provides a pause for equipment cleaning and repair. Spring is all about honeybee regeneration, said Jeffrey Harris, a research professor with the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

“Bees are seasonal animals that depend upon flowers,” Harris said. “You can’t grow brood without pollen, and there’s only a discreet amount of time available for blooming.”

Beekeeping seasons vary in length according to climate, of course. That ranges from about 10 weeks in Alaska to 11 months or more along the Gulf of Mexico.

The four types of bees most commonly seen in North America are wild bees, bumblebees, Mason bees and honeybees.

Honeybees are among the first of the bee species to become active each year, said Andony Melathopoulos, a bee specialist with Oregon State University Extension.

Gardeners can make their properties more hospitable by choosing plants attractive to bees, massing them in broad strips or swaths, and selecting those that flower successively, starting in early spring, Melathopoulos said.

“People should be aware that many plants with gorgeous blooms don’t always attract pollinators,” he said. “A hybrid tea rose has really no benefit to pollinators. So look out for plants that pollinators visit when strolling around your neighborhood.”

“The best policy is to plant a variety of bee-attractive flowers, ones with different shapes and colors, that bloom at different times of the year,” Melathopoulos said.

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