Because they would starve without me.
For more than three weeks now the cup plant flowers have been in bloom. There are hundreds of them in the wetlands behind my house. Since these flowers are 40 feet or so from the hive, I thought they would be a great source of pollen and nectar for my honeybees. As soon as the blooms sprung open, the flowers were littered with bumble bees and butterflies. Many species of wild and native bees were enjoying these flowers. Some blooms often have 2 or 3 different types of bees on them at a time. My honeybees, however, were blatantly missing. The honeybees were nowhere to be found.
Day after day, my bees were drinking multiple quarts of syrup and bringing in pollen as usual. Day after day, I fed my beloved bees and checked the cup plant flowers for honeybee foraging to no avail.
The cup plant flowers are now winding down their blooming cycle. To my surprise, at yesterday’s check the cup plant flowers were filled with honeybees. Hundreds of honeybees were collecting pollen and nectar from these flowers. What took them so long? Is the nectar and pollen better at the end of the flowers life cycle? Curious, isn’t it? The syrup taking has slowed down now. Is it possible my bees did not realize there was this source of food so close by?
This is not the first time I have noticed the slow response from the honeybees. When the squash, tomato, cucumber and onion flowers bloomed in my garden, the bumble bees, wasps and native bees had a field day. Honeybees would hit a cucumber or two but that was it. I assumed they had a better source of food and could not be bothered. Now I can’t help but wonder if I was wrong about that.
This year I planted a native flower garden for the honeybees. Bumblebees, butterflies, wasps and wild bees love this garden. The flowers are always covered with bees, but my honey bees were missing. It took 4 weeks for them to figure out the garden was there. After it had been picked over by the other bees and butterflies, my honey bees finally took notice. Now they go there everyday.
Why does it seem the honeybees are so much slower to realize the sources of pollen and nectar available to them? I know they go for the best source and work that, but at times my bees seemed starving yet they had food so close by. Do they not understand the plants around here because my package came from Georgia not New England? Are honeybees so domesticated now that they are not as astute as the native species of bees? I admit I have a lot to learn about them, but I can’t help but wonder, did I just get the remedial bees?