Was the weather in September good for honey bee foraging in Ireland?

With winter approaching beekeepers around Ireland were hoping for favourable foraging conditions to allow their colonies to build up sufficient stores of honey before being plunged into the coldest months. We have heard anecdotal reports of plentiful ivy and heather available, but were the weather conditions suitable for our bees to take advantage of the supply of nectar and pollen?

The dry weather from the end of August continued into the beginning of September with high pressure to the north of Ireland. Fourteen Met Éireann stations had dry spells lasting 15 days or more between Saturday 21st August and Wednesday 8th September. In general, it was a dry month and the majority of stations recorded monthly rainfall totals below their Long-Term Average (LTA).  For example, the station at Phoenix Park, Co. Dublin recorded only 33.4 mm of rain during September (56% of its LTA) with rain on only 8 days.

(Figure 1. a) Foraging conditions in Ireland throughout September 2021, lighter shades indicate better foraging conditions. b) Comparison of September 2021 foraging conditions to the 10-year historical average for September, blue areas experienced a worse month 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.)

It was also a warmer September than average with mean temperatures higher than their LTA at all the Met Éireann stations included in our model. The highest maximum temperature of 27.9 °C was reported on Tuesday the 7th of September at both Shannon Airport, Co. Clare (highest ever recorded (75 years)) and Valentia Observatory, Co. Kerry (highest since 1991). Along with Shannon Airport, 11 other stations had their warmest September on record.

The model we are developing shows that meteorological foraging conditions were better than their 10-year averages at the vast majority of the stations analysed and similar to their average elsewhere. You can see this in Figure 1 which shows the results of our model for September 2021 compared to the average for the previous 10 years, using historical Met Éireann weather data.

How was September in your apiary? Have your bees built up good stores of honey and have you taken any extra steps to prepare your hives for the colder weather ahead? Share your thoughts with us here.

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