This has been a terrible year for manuka. All over New Zealand, it seems, the manuka flowering never really got going, and then just stopped. Just like that - a whole honey season is done!
So, what do the bees eat after the manuka stops flowering?
Well, it turns out that bees actually prefer nectar from plants that are not manuka. Sure, they'll go to manuka if they have to, but given the choice, they'll go somewhere else first.
Good beekeepers have a few tricks up their sleeves to encourage the bees to go to the manuka. If you'd like to learn what these are, check out Module 5: A Good Apiary Site, which will show you the secret tricks to placing your hives, as well as all the things you need to know to ensure your hives are healthy.
But, back to the question: What happens after the manuka stops flowering?
One of the big food sources right now is clover. And the bees just LOVE clover.
Clover is one of the legume family. It has nodules, that fix nitrogen in the soil. And nitrogen is an important fertiliser. So, naturally occurring fertiliser is going to be cheaper than artificial, right?
Clover is an important food crop for grazing animals - think cows and beef. And the big benefit of bees on clover is they pollinate the flowers. So the next year the clover reseeds more abundantly.
So here we have it - a win win - the bees love clover, and the clover loves bees.
Not as pricey a honey as manuka, but the bees need to stay alive too.