The ability of honey bees to forage is affected by a considerable number of factors. Temperature, sunshine levels, rainfall, windspeed, humidity, forage proximity and colony strength all play a role in determining how many bees can forage and how effective they can be.
The effect of the weather on honey bees and the productivity of their hives is of particular interest to beekeepers all over the world. Bad weather can hamper both pollination and honey production while suitable foraging conditions coinciding with important blooms can lead to bumper honey yields.
Here at ApisProtect, we are in the process of developing a model to provide a measure of the quantity and quality of foraging time based on meteorological conditions available to our bees in Ireland. Our current model depends in part on choosing a threshold temperature below which Irish honey bees cannot forage effectively.
Studies from the United States suggest that this temperature should be approximately 55°F or 12.78°C (Thorp, R.W. 1996. Bee management for pollination, p. 132–138. In: W.C. Micke (ed.). Almond production manual. University of California, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Publication 3364).
However it appears to us that Irish bees are more resilient than their American cousins. At our research apiary in Cork we have observed bee activity outside the hive at temperatures as low as 1.5°C in the shade and high degrees of activity including foraging at temperatures below 10°C and in windy conditions.
For our model we have chosen this threshold temperature to be 8°C, but what temperature would you suggest? What is the lowest temperature you have seen your bees actively foraging?
Anecdotal evidence from beekeepers in Cork suggests that this April was a hard month for honey bees as their foraging was hampered by poor weather conditions. Does the data back this up?
We compared our measure of foraging conditions for April 2021 to the average for the previous 10 years to find out, using historical Met Éireann weather data from around the country. The results are shown in the Figure below. We clearly see that the conditions this April were worse than on average with Cork being shaded a deep blue by our model. Indeed, outside parts of Connacht and small parts of Munster, most regions were shown to have average to poor conditions in April for foraging.
Does our model match your experiences around the country? Do you keep records of your honey yields?
a) Foraging conditions in Ireland throughout April 2021, lighter shades indicate better foraging conditions. b) Comparison of April 2021 foraging conditions to the 10 year historical average for April, blue areas experienced a worse April than average while those shaded red had a better month than average. Uses Met Éireann Data licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) licence.
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