As a beekeeper, having a beekeeping floral calendar enables you to know the dates and duration of the blooming period of the important honey and pollen plants in your area. If you are a bee keeper and you don’t yet know the floral calendar, then you could be losing a lot of honey.
It means you don’t precisely know when to expect flowering and therefore the best time to harvest your honey. You cannot determine the best time to carry out bee husbandry practices. Neither are you well prepared for the honey bumper seasons or food shortage periods. But this need not be the situation if you have an accurate floral calendar.
So what is a floral calendar? It is a time table that shows the beekeeper the approximate flowering dates and duration of important pollen and honey plants. Although constructing a floral calendar takes time it is a very important exercise for your beekeeping enterprise. Seasonal changes in the vegetation patterns, the foraging behavior of bees, and the manner in which the honey colonies interact with their floral environment are the major events that are recorded. How accurate you record the beginning and end of flowering season of the plants and how they affect the bees will determine its practical value.
Usually, preparing an accurate calendar will take several years of continual recording and fine-tuning of the information obtained. You can generally take the following steps:-
Make a general survey of your area by drawing up a list of the flowering plants paying special attention to plants with a high floral population density per area or per tree.
- Place strong colonies of bees in the area, inspecting the hives regularly, and observing changes in the amount of food stored within the hive to determine whether it is depleted, stable or increasing. Any food gains or losses can be monitored accurately by weighing the hives.
- Record the species of plants that the bees visit in the vicinity of the apiary and within the flight range of the bees (approx 3km radius).
- Determine whether the plants are visited for nectar or for pollen. Pollen foragers normally have pollen pieces attached to their hind legs. Squeeze the abdomen of individual bees to get a drop of regurgitated nectar, tasting it for sweetness or measuring the nectar concentration with a hand refractometer to determine whether bees visit flowers for the nectar.
- Determine the frequency with which the bees visit each flower species, in relation to the changes in the level of the colonies food stores. A continuous increase in food stores, in direct response to the availability of the plants visited indicates that the plants are a good forage source and vice versa. Records all the changes in the flowering of the plants visited. When the colonies begin to lose weight, the flowering season is finished for all practical purposes.
- Record the weather conditions. When do the rains/dry seasons begin and end. How do these seasons relate to the flowering of the bee plants? Make notes of the bee behavior relating to your calendar. When do bee colonies migrate to your area? When do your colonies swarm, abscond? Try and understand this information on bee behavior in relation to your floral calendar.