Just like humans, honey bees are better able to stay healthy if properly nourished., and tThe best source of nutrition is from natural sources – in the case of bees, that means a diversity of blooming plants.
Good nutrition helps mitigate other health stressors including Varroa, pesticides, and pathogens, and access to plenty of flowers is essential to honey production. Honey bees and native pollinators are literally “losing ground” as agricultural land use expands. Corn and Soybeans are the two monoculture crops that use the most land in the USA. These crops do not depend on bees for pollination and tend to be farmed in large areas of land that are heavily treated with agricultural chemicals.
The above chart, sourced from USDA data, illustrates the growth in corn and soy crops since 1986 along with an overall decline in acres enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). The Conservation Reserve Program is a land conservation program administered by the Farm Service Agency (FSA). In exchange for a yearly rental payment, farmers enrolled in the program agree to remove environmentally sensitive land from agricultural production and plant species that will improve environmental health and quality. This acreage is traditionally a mainstay for bees’ summer range and honey production Learn More Here
The Bee and Butterfly Habitat Fund, which has been studied alongside CRP, is a highly effective option for putting pollinator forage on less commercially productive ground.
When forage isn’t abundant, beekeepers can give bees a boost by using various protein and sugar supplements. Supplemental protein is used when pollen is not readily available to support brood production. This works for a little while but eventually, a natural pollen source is needed for the colony to remain healthy.
Supplemental sugar, usually in syrup form, is given to bees if they need additional energy stores for spring growth or to prepare for winter. Feeding bees is a part of beekeeping, but there is no replacement for natural, diverse blooming plants.
These commercial beekeepers are using tanks of sugar syrup carried on trucks to feed bee colonies upon arrival in California for almond pollination..