How to Recognize a Summer Nectar Dearth

Honey bees spend their spring and summer collecting nectar and bringing it back to the hive to make honey. Much of the colony’s work revolves around the nectar it gathers, making nectar an invaluable resource. What happens when that resource becomes scarce? Many climates experience hot, dry periods in the middle of the summer when flowers stop producing as much nectar. This is called a nectar dearth, and if it lasts a while, your bees can suffer from it. It’s important to know how to recognize a summer nectar dearth so that you can take action and help your honey bees through the rest of their foraging season.

Recognize a Summer Nectar Dearth Mann Lake

Listen to Your Bees

If you know your honey bees well, you can often spot issues just by paying attention to them. During a nectar dearth, your hives will be louder as the honey bees grow nervous and agitated by the lack of nectar flow. They might also act more aggressively during hive inspections. If a normally gentle colony grows unusually defensive, there’s probably a good reason. They’re going to be extra protective of their resources, especially if the dearth has led to robbing.

Look Out for Honey Robbers

Honey bees aren’t the only ones who suffer from a nectar dearth. With limited resources, other bees and insects might attack your hive to get at the honey within. Bumblebees, wasps, yellowjackets, and even other honey bees have a habit of robbing honey stores from other hives. This can wreak serious havoc on your colony, resulting in a lot of honey bee death. Keep an eye out for foreign insects probing around the outside of the hive, and stop them before they can attempt an attack.

Pay Attention to Foragers

Have you ever spent a lazy summer morning watching the honey bees fly back and forth from your hives? If so, you might notice something different about their behavior during a nectar dearth. Normally, honey bee foragers fly in a direct, obvious path. During a dearth, however, your forager bees will meander as they look for good nectar sources. They might revisit flowers they’ve already pollinated or land on plants they normally avoid in a desperate search for more resources. If you notice your foragers acting funny, it might be time to take action.

Once you know how to recognize a summer nectar dearth, you can take a few precautions to help your honey bees through it. Reduce the hive entrances to keep out robbing bees and insects. You can also install bee feeders with Pro-Sweet to help your colony through the dry period.

Pro-Sweet Liquid Feed for Bees Mann Lake

Do you have any tips for making it through a nectar dearth? Share your expertise with your fellow beekeepers in the comments below!

17 thoughts on “How to Recognize a Summer Nectar Dearth

  1. Wesley Fetters

    I use a 20 gallon tote put 1 to 1 sugar with straw in it to help with drowning . Top feeders are very good to help control robbing in my area. everyone’s Apiary is different but the fundamentals of beekeeping is the same . God bless you all and happy Beekeeping

  2. Liz Goldfarb

    Someone must collect regional statistics or create google maps of dates summer dearth occurs in every locality. Post it on your site somewhere so we are alert. Yes, I know there are variations by year, but if we can track weather and pollen, surely we can track dearth.

    1. Skip Del Vaglio

      Great idea! Anyone or group following up on where this info might be available?

    2. Tatic

      You can recognize the dearth easy. The best recognition is when you do not need to cut grass every week.

    3. Craig Mickel

      I agree. If someone had the know how and software to start tracking it then it will also help Scientist as well as Bee Keepers.

  3. Sandy

    We have 5 hives and a feral bees in a tree; we open feed ours bees about 300 yards from the house. This keeps down robbing, keeps our bees busy gathering. Plus we keep double Pollen/Protein patties on the hives on top of the brood frames. Both of these have keep yellow jackets, black jackets and robber bees away from our five hives. The additional patties in the hives has help to calm the bees and they are not as aggressive when inspecting the hives. These two have worked well with our bees.

  4. NectarFun

    this article was really sweet

    1. Dave

      You win the internet for today!

  5. Greg Bender

    Would like to learn all I can about beekeeping.

  6. KM Fowler

    Bee a good observer of nature: While driving around in the area where you have hives take notice of what is in bloom. If there’s a flowering plant you are not familiar with, stop and see if it’s being visited by honeybees or bumblebees. Notice what flowers are blooming during dearth periods and consider planting more of those. Fireweed is a good nectar producer during a dearth in the Pacific Northwest where I live, but grows in many areas of North America.

  7. Terry Robison

    Would love to be able to more easily identify the dearth periods. I recently saw a video from a Entomologist who said that starvation of an entire bee hive can take place in as little as five days if there are no food sources readily available. He recommends protein patties during the death period.

  8. David Rex

    Would really like to review this. I need to get better at recognizing a dearth

  9. Hector Torres

    Pro sweet I need

  10. Carol

    How about just leaving an extra super on top for the bees?

  11. Garry A Whitley

    I have found that when I inspect my hives and there is very little stores around the brood that a dearth is in progress!!!

  12. Jimmy

    I am new to beekeeping, this being my first year. I enjoy the reading and learning about the best way to take care of my Bee’s.
    I live in the south (here we say “roll tide” or “war eagle”)…in late July I noticed a behavior change in my hives. I have two supers on hives and they are looking strong. I did add one gallon pro feeder and noticed this has definitely changed the Bee’s behavior, much calmer when inspecting the hives. I also placed a vented super on hives as I noticed bearding on exterior of hives. I read the comment about adding the entrance reducer to help prevent robbing during a dearth. My concern is by doing this would it reduce the hive ventilation?
    Am I concerned about the wrong thing here?
    I have not noticed any other pest…other than a few hive beetles (which I have traps in place for control).
    Again, I enjoy reading the article and post.
    Thank you Mann Lake for making this possible.
    Jim Bee

  13. Robert Elliott

    please send 16 thoughts on how to recognize a summer nectar dearth