Southern California has been under drought conditions for 4 years now and I always had some confidence that our urban bees can weather a period like this with ease, and why shouldn't I? Theres are miles upon miles of watered landscaping in every direction in LA, particularly more so in higher income areas. Northern and Southern Hemisphere exotic trees bloom at all times during the season it seems, and there's always flowers and gardens being watered. It seems like the perfect solution to weathering a drought that has parched the hillsides, caused blooms to open early and die back quickly. Some species didn't even flower this year- sage was mostly absent.
Now I can look in most if not all of my hives and I'm seeing classic starvation. Bees are uncapping honey just to keep populations up, and field forces are coming back dry. What's going on? I open feral colonies during removals and I'm seeing much the same thing, low to no resources in younger hives, and dwindling resources in multi-year hives. Clearly there's not enough to go around. This is just supply and demand.
What we know is that even the urban water table is low, this explains why many trees are being so frugal with nectar. I have three melaleuca tress on my block that can be relied upon to bloom profusely in spectacular unison, the entire trees covered in white catkin-like flower. This year they bloomed cautiously, starting at a the top and working downward, so that the top blooms are finished before the middle half is really in bloom. Bees seem disinterested in the blooms, more so than any other year, lending to the idea of frugality.
The severity is increased by the number of beehives which hasn't really gone down, so what we are seeing is the same number of bees working a dwindling set of resources. Blossoms look well-loved and visited, but I often see bees going from flower to flower without harvesting anything. And it's not quite June.
This leads me to make a prediction I didn't think I'd have to about our urban bees; The dearth is here in June, and we must start feeding. Coastal neighborhoods might be experiencing a reprieve, but it may not last long, inspect your hives regularly and consider feeding before your bees starve out.
Next topic: El Niño!