You buy a cider doughnut at the apple orchard and they quickly find you. Your kid opens a sports drink at the soccer field and they show up. You dine on the deck on a warm afternoon and sure enough, there they are. This time of year, bees and wasps seem to be everywhere. Why won’t they buzz off?
In late summer and fall, worker bees labor long hours, collecting enough nectar to feed and maintain the colony throughout the winter. Bees visit flowers to obtain carbohydrates (nectar) and protein (found in the pollen). Late-blooming flowers that feed the bees include asters, chrysanthemums, goldenrod and Russian sage.
As the days shorten, the bees know it’s time to go into this food-gathering mode, if supplies run low during the winter, beekeepers can feed bees various sugary concoctions—for example, sugar syrup, corn syrup or granulated sugar in the form of sugar boards. But wild bees are out of luck in this regard. Their colonies may not survive if they didn’t make adequate preparations.
For the most part, bees hunker down and stay in the hives all winter. On unseasonably warm winter days, they will come out to remove waste from their abdomens and the hive, clean themselves, and forage. Of course, there isn’t much to forage in the dead of winter so provisions gathered in fall are critical to the success of the hive.
So when you’re at the pumpkin patch this weekend, don’t be nervous. The bees are just checking you out, and will leave you alone as soon as they realize you’re not a food source.