The cold wet spring – and summer – had another impact. Plants grew so slowly that they fell far behind their usual blooming and fruiting time. Didn't we all long for some heat?
The delay in bloom time is a big problem for honey bees which feed on the flowering of agricultural crops like alfalfa, clover and canola. Without abundant supplies of protein from plant pollen and sugars from flower nectar, honey bees struggle to nourish the developing bees (called brood) in their hive. They struggle too, to make stores of honey.
Late in the season, honey bees in our region forage on wild plants like White Sweetclover (Melilotus alba), Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis) and Fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium).
The blossoms of these plants are key to making honey stores that will see the colony through the winter. This year, these plants seemed less abundant, at least in the area near my rural home.
I was saddened when I saw beautiful blooming stands of clover cut by the roadside mower operated by the township. Just another week or so of bloom time would have allowed our bees to gather the nectar from these plants.
The honey harvest in Northwestern Ontario was smaller than normal. If beekeepers ask you to pay more for their product, remember what you know now about colony loss and bad weather. And thank the bees for that jar of golden honey.
Honey images - There Blooms a Garden
Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis) - BluPete's Wildflowers of Nova Scotia
White Sweetclover (Melilotus alba) - The Georgian Bay Pool
Fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium) - Creative Commons