Saturday, January 16, 2010

Food for Thought (and for Bees)

Today the weather got up into the mid 40's. I've been reading about how some beekeepers feed their bees hard sugar candy during the winter. There is also this feeding style called Mountain Camp or dry sugar method, which involves laying down a sheet of newspaper on the bees, and the sprinkling sugar on the top of the newspaper. The bees eat through the paper, and consume the sugar. You have to check the sugar periodically and add more as they eat it, but it is a way to feed the bees. The paper and sugar also help absorb moisture, which is a good thing as well.

I already had a couple of hive shims (short 1 1/2" pieces of hive body) which you need in order to leave space for the sugar. So today I thought I'd at least add some sugar to the green hive.

Here's what I saw when I opened up the top of the hive:

You can see there is a healthy grouping of bees, but the fact they are on the very top of the hive means they haven't had much to eat (bees eat their way through the hive from the bottom up). So I laid down the paper and proceeded to add the sugar:

You can see the wooden (unpainted) shim I added.

Just FYI, here's a picture of some bees eating sugar (not mine, some other person's hive):

After closing up the green hive, I thought I'd give a peek into the presumably dead brown hive. I hadn't heard anything from it when I would tap. I took off the top and inner cover, and saw what I always saw - no bees.

This time I decided to tip up the upper body and look between the hive bodies. And what did I see? BEES! I saw a cluster a little larger than a softball (the cross section, I mean). I closed it up quick to keep out the cold, then had to go back inside and quickly grab the other frame shim and more newspaper. I put down some sugar for these bees on the top frames as well. When I was adding the paper I did see some bees peek up from in between the frames to see what I was doing.

So... it looks like the brown  hive isn't dead like I though. I hadn't 100% written it off, since every beekeeper I describe it to told me to just hold off - they may surprise me. So hopefully they will keep surprising me and survive the winter!

Nothing much left to do except keep checking and feeding, and wait for the warm weather. I'm going to check into making some bee candy to see if that works better. Lots of dead bees in front of the hives, but that's to be expected during the winter.


  1. I was with BEEHAVIN yesterday and he showed me his top feeder that he makes. He puts screen down. The big holes so the bees go through. Then about a two inch shim. He mixes a little water with the sugar (the recepe from domino to make sugar cubes) and puts a big patty on the top over paper. He also puts a hole in that for a top entrance that he plugs during different parts of the year. He also removes it when comb building starts or they build in it. It has been sucessfull and now he fills them in the fall and uses them on all his hives (~300).

  2. The wire mesh is attached to the shims so if he needs to lift up the whole feeder to get in it all comes up in one piece instead of layers.

  3. I think you've made a good point that just becuase we don't see bees out flying doesn't necessarily mean there's a problem. After all, other than needing a good poop they really shouldn't need to come out right?

  4. I have a very similar situation as yours, Steve. I checked mine during the warm weather too and have one good-sized cluster at the top, and my other hive that I thought was dead still has a small cluster in it. I mountain-camped both of them and am hoping for the best since it's been terribly cold since.


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