2007 was a poor season for bees. It began fair, but after the mesquite bloom, there just wasn't much of anything left to provide forage. For the first time in a very long time there seemed to even be no pollen being brought in from late Summer through early Winter. And though they brought in quite a bit of mesquite honey, they had finished almost all of it before Winter arrived.
In the last week of December, I decided to inspect. (It is curious how different hives manage adversity in different ways.) Four hives were still finding pollen, and maintaining an amazing amount of brood and substantially larger populations than all the other hives.
The remaining hives were extremely weak, so weak I was afraid many might not make it until the next season. So I decided to change my management to compensate for the poor season. I decided to start feeding, pollen supplement and cane sugar syrup, beginning the first week of January 2008. The Autumn and Winter weather has cooperated and many wildflowers are blooming, taking up the slack and making it possible for me to discontinue feeding. My plan is to keep a close eye on them -- most have built up to the point of having two 8-frame medium depth supers of brood and bees, with a little honey/nectar and pollen in a ring around most partial frames of brood. They have almost no reserves of honey, but presently seem to be bringing in enough to sustain their present level of build-up but very little more. I feel the need to watch them closely in case the wildflowers quit before the next source begins. My goal is to keep them as strong as possible until the mesquite flow begins in April.