bee nectar flow, genetics and diversity

Agraria has been focused on managing our bees more intensely this year – due to fluctuating weather conditions, early swarms and irregular blooming cycles.

2017-08-08 14.57.15Late July and August bring in the Clethra or sweet pepper bush nectar flow. It’s one of our favorite times of year – as you can really see the bees going out to bring nectar in. We have loads of this growing wild along the roadsides in our small town and the fragrance is intoxicating. Our bees have had a slow season to gather honey – enough to harvest for sale.

We’ve been a bit concerned as this delay in gathering quantities of honey has never happened in the decade plus we’ve been keeping bees.  Our priority has been to manage healthy hives – we are treatment free and an organic farm – so we put bee health above all else.

The modern honey bee – not native to our continent – has been bred to be larger to produce more honey. Unfortunately like so many other things – modern agriculture – tweaking mother nature translates into unforeseen problems.  The US closed it’s borders to bee imports in the 1920’s and since there has been a steady decline in bee diversity. The gene pool has been limited and so our bees do not have resistance against the varroa mite. In other countries, Russia for example, bees have developed a resistance to the mites. This has been accomplished through natural selection not in using miticides.

Fortunately scientists here have begun to work on developing a deeper gene pool for the American honeybee. Researches at Washington State University have discovered that the vulnerability is due to a dwindling gene pool that has limited genetic traits to build mite resistance. Read more here.

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