I visited my two hives today – last season was my first, and both hives were nucs installed in very late May – was hard for them to build reserves. I use all mediums – and each hive had three going into winter. Would have liked to have 4, but this is all they could muster. I’ve been told that three mediums can be enough in S.W. Pennsylvania, and they did have some weight to the second and third boxes.

To today’s visit – I’d planned on doing a dry sugar feed (AKA Mountain Camp) for each – regardless of what I found. Here’s what I found:

Hive 1: Was always a little weaker/smaller. I knocked a little on the side and didn’t hear anything. Took off the cover and looked through the hole in the inner cover – saw capped stores but no bees - thought for the worst, but then blew down through the frames and heard a buzzing. I didn’t want to try and investigate further – it was just above 40, so I figured: Stores available, a good buzzing sound when I blew down into them – though I didn’t see a bee, I put some dry sugar on top of the bars, and closed them up. Only question: Can I assume all is well with this hive? Was I correct in not lifting off the top box to see the quality of the cluster?

Hive 2: I knocked and heard a response immediately. Lifted the cover off and saw bees up and through the hole in the middle of the inner cover. Took the inner cover off and the cluster was clearly in the top (3rd) box. Again, it was cold – and I didn’t think it would be right to try and figure out how much honey was in that top box (which would have required that I take a frame out – maybe killing the bees) – so I placed the paper, dry sugar, shallow super and inner cover on and buttoned them up. I did a “heft” test of sorts – lifting this hive from the bottom – didn’t feel very heavy – felt light. I obviously don’t feel good about this given we’re 2 months from any meaningful nectar flow. My question is – can I feed these bees to keep them from starving before the end of March? Can dry sugar feeding – which I understand is great/simple emergency feeding – be used for 2 months – or should I do something else? I’m willing to do anything necessary – I just don’t’ know if it’s possible.

Next season, I leave 4 boxes! But for now, I’m just wondering what my best options are to feed this hive. I thought about taking a couple frames from the one hive, but thought that would also be bad because (1) that hive may need those stores; and (2) I’d have to pull frames – even an empty or two – which may kill bees clustered on them.

Any advice appreciated. Thank you –

Jim