I am afraid my bees do not have enough honey for the winter. We harvested in August
and understood that there is typically a fall honey flow for the bees
to store up honey for winter. After such things as the goldenrod
died, I began to feed my bees, realizing that they did not have
enough honey. I understand that in the midwest of the USA it is
suggested we have a super filled with honey as well as the brood
nest. Although I have continued to feed with a top hive feeder,
there is just not much honey in that super. Winter is coming on
fast. Is there any way I can help my bees get through the winter? I
understand that when it gets cold, and they can't get out for
cleansing flights, I am to remove the sugar water.
I'm not sure where you are located. I also am not sure how much honey or stores they actually have. There are a couple of ways to guess the weight. One is go to the hardware store and pick up some fifty pound boxes of nails. This gives you an idea what fifty pounds feels like. If you can find a pull spring scale maybe for deep sea fishing you might find one that would register between 50 and 150 pounds. You could use that to weigh the hive. Try it on a fifty pound box of nails lifting one edge. You can see about what it says when it weighs fifty pounds. You can use the scale on the back of the hive and heft it to see what you have. But you need to know what kind of stores you have.
Either way if you think they are short going into winter, it's tough to know what to do if you don't have some honey in frames to give them. If it stays cold they won't process anything really. I know a man in Missori who just dumps dry white table sugar down the back of the hive for feed for the winter. I would think it would take more water to digest and require cleansing flights, but it at least offers something. A feeder full of honey or syrup on top or a side frame feeder would give them something to eat whenever the weather was warmer, but won't do for when it's colder. If I was in doubt I would try to have something, honey, syrup or dry sugar, but preferable honey, available to them because there are often days warm enough for them to get to it and it will help if they are low on stores.
If I think they are short, I try to keep honey available in feeders so they can put it away anytime it gets warm.
If they are short and it gets cold and stays cold, there's not much you can do, because they won't eat anything from any of the feeding methods when it's too cold to fly. They just cluster.
Of course hind sight is 20/20 and by now you probably have realized you shouldn't take more honey at any given time than they will need for winter, unless you have a good reason like a shake down for regression. I always leave enough for winter even if I'm robbing them in the middle of summer.
I think I read somewhere that you can take honey or syrup and put it in a squeeze bottle (like the kind for mustard or catsup), and squeeze the bee feeding substance into the empty cells of the frame combs. I would definitely try to get some of it in before the really cold weather sets in. I'll try to find the source where I read that and let you know for sure.
I would go to the back of your hive and lift it if you feel it kinda heavy ten you should be ok. =but you can always go lift it up every few days to get a idea of how much the bees have for stores.
try not to open the hive you can break up the cluster if cold enough also can kill your queen.
the bees don't die over nite it take longer then you would think they willeat lot of the wax and you will notice a lot of wax cutting on the front entrence thats aclue that there starveing
So, I am hearing that it is okay to put food in a feeder and leave it throughout the winter...preferably honey. I had been wondering about the honey they have put in the frame combs but not capped yet, but from what you are saying, I shouldn't worry about that uncapped honey.
When it is very cold and the bees cluster, do they not eat at all? Is it only on the warmer days that they break up and eat? If it is too cold to eat from the feeders, is it too cold for them to eat their own honey?
Also, as to the 50 pound estimate...Would that apply to just the hive body or the super or both?
Thanks so much.
The "wintering bees" questions are based on hives in Illinois.
Yes bees eat when they are clustered. The eat what is in the combs in the middle of the cluster and they eat what is on the edges of the cluster. They won't break up the cluster and get what's in the corners unless the weather warms up. If you have periodic warm weather they will redistribute the stores back into the middle from the corners. The cluster will also move up as stores run out. Sometimes bees starve with honey in the hive because the weather stayed too cold for too long without a chance to redistriute the stores, but even it there is no break they won't starve if they can keep moving up and finding honey.
I've never tried the sqeeze bottle method. It might work. Of course it requires drawn, empty comb. Anything you put in the hive over winter, though, should be the consistency of honey. If it's too wet it will cause too much condensation.
I was talking about feeding either straight honey or corn syrup at bottled consistency. I read this in the Beekeeper's Handbook and was not referring to a feeder, but rather empty honeycomb cells. It does need to be in close proximity to the brood area.
One thing that you can do to help your bees is to wrap the hive with black felt paper. The paper will cut down on drafts and stress. The black paper will also help warm the hive on sunny days allowing the bees to get to stores and feeders.