Through the years I've kept bees, I've had my apiary at several different locations. With each move I learn a little more about what each landscape has to offer when it comes to the nectar flow.
This difference was most apparent after my latest move in April, right in the middle of the nectar flow. I began moving the hives in early April and finished in about two weeks. My idea was to not have to move the hives when they weighed 20-50lbs more after the bees had put on some significant honey weight.
Just before moving them from my bee yard near Mount Holly, I noticed that some of my hives looked like they were already in a dearth (end of nectar flow). They weren't putting on much weight day to day. The hives at my new yard, in Huntersville however were putting on pounds of honey each day.
While there were plenty of trees and flowers in the Mount Holly yard, the availability of resources there didn't quite compare to the Huntersville location. This yard was also located near suburbs, however the main difference was that it was adjacent to a nature preserve (Latta nature preserve) that held hundreds of acres, untouched by the wave of development that has made it's way across Charlotte and surrounding regions.
Most important was the diversity of resources. While the most abundant source of nectar for honeybees in this region is the Tulip Poplar, which typically blooms throughout the month of May, they forage on a host of other flowers and trees ranging from maple to watermelon. This diversity is great because it allows for the bees to be able to forage on plants all spring and summer long when the other, more prominent flowers dry up.
For beekeepers who live in more rural settings or near farms, this is not really an issue. There always seems to be an abundance of resources for honeybees when the land is left in it's natural form. For beekeepers who live closer to cities or suburbs, this is becoming a reason for concern.
I've lived in Charlotte my entire life and have seen this city grow immensely. While it is exciting to see my city grow, it is difficult to process how this growth impacts the wildlife around it, especially when I get to see it's effect firsthand. Just in the last few years since I've been at the Mount Holly location, I've seen development take off with the nectar flow inversely related.
Fortunately I now keep my bees next to a landscape that will remain untouched. Also fortunately, honeybees are opportunist foragers, meaning they can forage on a variety of flowers and trees. The insects that are most threatened by this development are those that have more selective diets. Maybe a field of their main food source is completely wiped out, leaving them to either travel much further to find food or starve.
I'm not saying I'm anti-development. I love seeing my city grow and more people finding this to be their home. I would just like to see more environmentally responsible development. Plans that involve more native plants in the picture or limited development that leaves some of the natural surroundings rather than leveling it all and building something in it's place.
We also have a roll to play here by planting more native plants in our own landscapes. Ditch the grass or at least leave a small section of your yard unkempt to allow for insects to use it as their home or food source. This isn't just about honeybees. Yes they do need saving but so do so many other insects.
For beekeepers who do want the best nectar flow, consideration of your surroundings when choosing a bee yard is important. You can't just grow flowers for them to feed on. Either look for tall sections of untouched forests or open fields that are allowed to grow as tall as they can. At the end of the season both you and your bees will be glad you took the time to find the best spot!