One Truth For All
I'm going to be getting bees sometime in the future -- but not until the roof is done, because I don't want to worry about swarms housing themselves in the attic. I'm preparing this season by getting equipment ready and preparing a site for the hives, and also by building some of the stuff that you can't buy. In addition, I decided to spend some time doing a survey of blooms each month, on the first and fifteenth.
Beekeeping is a really interesting mix of practises. You really should know something about insects, of course. You need to know about the weather, because that affects what the bees will do and when. And you need to know a lot about local plants and when they bloom, because nectar and pollen from flowers is what bees eat. I have a good handle on the weather and the bees part, so the survey is to get more in touch with everything blooming (not just what I planted, but the weeds as well).
When you keep bees in the country, your nectar and pollen crops are from wild plants or crops, and those have very definite seasons because they're either untended or managed to harvest times. So the honey flows in the country are very cyclical and definite: the almonds bloom at a specific time and there may not be much else growing there as food for the bees. But in the city, the bee food comes mostly from landscaping, with a bit from street and park trees if you live in a city with a lot of trees (maples have particularly useful flowers, in my opinion, but some cities have cherry trees on the streets and those are awesome). The city nectar flows can last year round in a mild climate, so instead of having a couple of distinct honey flows a city bee will be packing in honey all over the place, as long as they can fly. (Lately it's been in the mid-50's which is a bit too cold for bee flight, but it does warm up on occasion and they will break cluster on days when it gets over 60F or so.)
Knowing all this, I thought it would be good to really know what foods would be available to my bees, since I admit I think very little about what blooms when apart from a few seasonal plants, and even then I don't track it very closely.
My survey surprised me. 21 plant types blooming in the garden -- and even more that I decided not to survey in my neighbors' gardens. I had definitely thought December was a little less floriferous than that. I made a list of the flowers in bloom (including flowers just in bud and notes about which ones were blooming with only a few flowers), then added the temperature high and low for the day. If I do that twice a month for a year that should give me a nice record of nectar flow times.