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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
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    Skagit, WA, USA
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    229

    Default Too feed or not to feed?

    I'll keep this in the new-bee section out of respect to those who seem bothered by basic questions in the open forum. I have a first year hive installed as a package April 21. Using the feed 1:1 to draw comb concept, I've been feeding non stop ever since. In our area, the Pacific NW, the beeks and bug experts at WA. State Univ. all say it takes 20-40# of sugar to establish a hive. My bees have now taken 75#!!!. Still waiting for them to finish drawing the top deep. We're in a June dearth here, waiting for Blackberries. Local wisdom is 1: feed until they stop taking it (they haven't), and 2: feed during the June dearth. The girls are taking a gallon a day(!) now when temps are in the high 60's or above. This seems excessive. They are storing it almost as fast as they are drawing, and seem almost syrup bound, although there is still laying space where bees have already hatched out. Should I withold syrup in an effort to use that which they have stored, or stick with the feed "until they won't take it". I'd prefer they store nectar for winter when the berries come on. I'm not taking honey this year, really just want them to survive our long, wet winter and spring. Sorry for the length, just trying to include the most info for informed opinions. (Also, queen is in the top box if it matters).

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Location
    Keene, NH
    Posts
    35

    Default Re: Too feed or not to feed?

    A gallon a day seems a bit excessive...by chance, is the feeder leaking? Without breaking up the broodnest, maybe sliding some frames with new foundation between the already drawn frames will get them drawing more comb and increase brood area for the Queen.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Skagit, WA, USA
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    229

    Default Re: Too feed or not to feed?

    Thanks. She's a good layer, doesn't miss a cell. I'm using a Mann Lake trough style feeder. The slider underneath the ssb is dry. I am lifting my telescoping lid on popcicle sticks, as all that liquid has the inside of my cover constantly wet, though the top style feeder seems to keep the hive below dry (we've only had one week of weather over 70 degrees this spring, and seem to have the same Juneuary conditions as last year). Can I slide over frames that have pollen and syrup both, or should I keep any with pollen next to brood, and only swap frames that contain only syrup?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    Poplar Bluff, Missouri, USA
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    2,299

    Default Re: Too feed or not to feed?

    It would be ok to slide over frames with both pollen and nectar. And I'd keep feeding. Sugar is not as expensive as another package of bees, although if you don't get a natural flow, before winter comes on you might have as much $$ tied up in sugar as you do bees! It gets frustrating, I know. But you get them thru this year, and next year will be easier. My general rule of thumb for my own operation is to figure, when I hive a package, or make a split, and feed to get them built up for winter, I'm doing it for next year, not this year.
    Regards,
    Steven
    "If all you have is a hammer, the whole world is a nail." - A.H. Maslow

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
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    Skagit, WA, USA
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    229

    Default Re: Too feed or not to feed?

    Thanks. It's not the cost per se, more worried they are storing so much 1:1, when it seems 2:1 is the focus for fall overwintering feed. Now that the package had grown to almost three times it's original size(I'm guessing), they can really suck it down. It's interesting to see capped syrup around the edges of obivous brood, and full frames of uncapped syrup. She still has room to lay, although, the original brood frames in the center of the lower deep are being backfilled with syrup. Hadn't given it much thought, but expected the center frames of both boxes to contain the brood space, so this seemed odd when I inspected today.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Location
    Camas, WA
    Posts
    1,949

    Default Re: Too feed or not to feed?

    I have never fed a hive much after mid May. You have had more rain than we have, but we have had a good supply of nectar coming in since late May unless you live out in farm land with nothing blooming. If you are near forest land, they should be gathering now and then when blackberries start for you, get your main flow. I don't think that I have ever fed a hive more than 4 gallons a year.

    With blackberries coming in a week or two for you, I would take them off of the syrup, assuming that they have a few frames with mostly honey, and get them looking for forage.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
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    Skagit, WA, USA
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    229

    Default Re: Too feed or not to feed?

    No actual honey. Frames almost full of uncapped syrup, they've only capped the syrup around edges of brood. They seem to be working really hard to dry it out some, plus I am worried about ventilation with all that liquid in the hive. The president of the local club suggested waiting on complete removal of the shelf under the ssb until it's consistently warmer at night. We're still getting nights in the forties, but seem to be edging closer to fifties each week. I really want them to make honey for winter, supplement with 2:1 later, not be bound with 1:1.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Arlee MT USA
    Posts
    548

    Default Re: Too feed or not to feed?

    I really want them to make honey for winter, supplement with 2:1 later, not be bound with 1:1.
    They don't store 1:1, they evaporate it down into a much thicker honey like concentration just like they do with nectar.

    If you break open some of the capped stores you will see that it runs out like thick syrup, not like sugary water. What they store is closer to 5:1


    My packages had similar problem and we've had similar weather. I stopped feeding for two weeks and all the stored syrup was gone and replaced by brood the next time I checked. I am now feeding again since its still cold, they have a lot more brood and zero stores. So far I've only put about 25# of sugar into each hive but with four hives this does seem to be an expensive year. I am only feeding them a quart a day. They suck that down in about six hours but thats all they get until the next morning. Main flow around here isn't until the end of august/beginning of september so my main goal is to have as many bees as possible by then and not worry about stores until then.

    My hive last year (also started from a package) only took 10# before they where storing their own honey, I guess this is just going to be one of those years.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
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    Skagit, WA, USA
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    229

    Default Re: Too feed or not to feed?

    Thanks, Aerindel.
    I didn't think it through, I guess. Honey is best I know. It makes sense the 2:1 in the fall gives them a headstart on drying the syrup, compared to 1:1. They still have a few frames to draw, and read 1:1 stimulates wax production/comb building. If it takes a full stomach to induce wax production, as in a swarm, or feeding a new package, I am a little concerned their just storing it faster than using it for wax. The colony is so large compared to its package numbers, I would expect there to simply be more wax producers (from an age standpoint). Then again, not much of this is THAT simple.
    Rainy again, probably best to just "feed 'til they stop takin' it" One thing, though. I added a plasitc drone foundation frame a week ago, and they jumped on it! It's by far the fasted frame they have drawn so far.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Location
    Crenshaw County, Alabama
    Posts
    2,001

    Default Re: Too feed or not to feed?

    I don't have much experience in this, but feeding 2:1 or even 5:3 would save the bees a little work in evaporating some of the water out of the syrup. 1:1 is normally fed in the late winter/early spring to stimulate brood production and as you stated to stimulate comb building. Later in the year bees concentrate more on surviving and putting up stores for next year, thus a thicker syrup works well for them. I would think at this point in time you should be past feeding 1:1 and giving a thicker syrup (really, even in spring you can feed heavier syrup than 1:1) they can still make comb from it and it helps reduce humidity levels, too (less evaporated moisture in the hive).

    One thing to be aware of is not to feed so much that the bees store so much syrup that the colony becomes "honey bound" and uses up space that the queen needs for laying in...I'm pretty sure this happened to me on a hive this spring and I didn't feed *nearly* as much as you've fed. Look in the hive, if they've got several frames of stores then stop feeding a little bit or at least slow down a bit on the feed. I like what Airendal said in his last message...sounds like a good approach to me. The quart a day should be sufficient for the bees...that's a medium frame of syrup. Reduce (or stop) feeding, monitor the hive for stores, and see what happens....if it looks like they're getting low on stores resume/increase feeding. I think you'll see some brood appearing in some of those filled up cells.

    A thought about 1:1 syrup stimulating comb building....once feral swarms find a cavity they waste no time in building new comb. They arrive with stomachs full of....honey. Naturally, after they've used this up they start foraging for nectar but I feel that the honey they arrive with is like jet fuel in regards to comb building.

    Here's a link to Michael Bush's page on feeding. Michael balances a need to feed with a need to let the bees be bees. He also discusses stimulative feeding. It's good reading (thanks Mike!): http://www.bushfarms.com/beesfeeding.htm

    "Feed til' they stop stop takin' it" isn't always the best idea. Check those stores, don't let'em pack the queen into a corner.

    Best wishes,
    Ed

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Location
    Cole County, Missouri
    Posts
    170

    Default Re: Too feed or not to feed?

    they will keep taking the sugar as long as you give it to them. I was told the same, give sugar-water until they stop. I could have opened a candy store with what I fed that one hive, which got syrup bound, which went to swarm, which I split in late July, which went into winter with no stores, which I had to put candy boards on. That queen never amounted to anything but the daughter did. I don’t feed my bees anymore, and I finally got honey, last year I was lucky to get a finger lick. I think it must be a mean joke to newbees to tell them to feed sugar water until they do not take it anymore. I think they tell them that ,then put swarm traps around their area, waiting for the swarm to happen. Just my thoughts. maybe it is some type of initiation. Like when I was in the USAF and they would tell new airmen to go get them a strip of runway. I do not believe I have heard of anyone with positive experiences feeding their one bee hive a gallon of sugar water for months at a time.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Blackstone, Virginia, USA
    Posts
    85

    Default Re: Too feed or not to feed?

    So, does the feeding answer change if one is dealing with established hives and wanting the bees to draw more comb? And if they have honey and stores in supers? Without a large flow going on? I think some of the confusion comes from people (especially new beekeepers) hearing statements that are taken as definites, like "feed till they don't take it"...when in reality the answer depends on lots of variables as others have stated above.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    Poplar Bluff, Missouri, USA
    Posts
    2,299

    Default Re: Too feed or not to feed?

    Of course if you keep feeding without giving additional space to a package or a nuc, they will swarm. I advocate feeding until they're built up and safe for winter. Usually, but not always, that can take a whole season, depending on the queen, the hive, the weather, available forage, you name it.

    Perhaps just as many people feed too long, as don't feed long enough. It is more an art than a science. But if you winter in two deeps, the smart thing is to keep feeding until they get all twenty frames drawn out and some stores (some) packed away so they won't starve. Then you may have to feed again in the fall, depending on the natural fall flow.

    I have had positive experiences feeding a gallon at a time...and I've had hives take 3-4 gallons, in a bad year. There are so many variables to take into consideration, I've learned never to say never...
    Regards,
    Steven
    "If all you have is a hammer, the whole world is a nail." - A.H. Maslow

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Skagit, WA, USA
    Posts
    229

    Default Re: Too feed or not to feed?

    StevenG
    You nailed it. A first year hive, 2 months old, from a package. I want them to finish drawing at least 19 of 20 deep frames. They have a ways to go, and we're a week away from ending a regional June dearth.

    In addition, the weather has been cool and rainy. It breaks enough for them to fly most days. I have heard first year hives usually don't swarm, but there are exceptions to everything.

    I've been checking the feeder twice a week lately. Earlier, when the hive was smaller, every 7 or 8 days. The top feeder allows this without getting into the hive of course. I'm not feeding them daily, but at last peek after 24 hours and a nice (70's) day, they had drained a gallon in a day. In a way, I'm feeding a gallon, letting them go dry, then feeding again.

    Again, it's not the feeding, it's seeing frames one third full of syrup that are only half drawn. They haven't capped it, but given time and hopefully, warmer air temps, they will. It really IS about getting them to winter in the best shape possible.

    With similar weather here last year, some commercials were actually bringing in tanker trucks of corn syrup from California, they said at a meeting last month.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Location
    holiday,florida,usa
    Posts
    22

    Default Re: Too feed or not to feed?

    I have 20 first year nuc's in 10 fram deeps and have been feeding them since april.I am with theory that feed them until they have the deep full and a meduim supper loaded.I then feel like I have made sure they have food and will remain a strong hive.I am the same at home,if my kitchen and fridge and extra freezer are loaded I have enough to eat and keep wprking hard to keep the stocks full.

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Skagit, WA, USA
    Posts
    229

    Default Re: Too feed or not to feed?

    An update, for anyone viewing this thread late.

    Pulled feeder last week, after feeding since Mother's day. Pulled drone comb frame to freeze it amd had 8 swarm cells in various stages of completion. Original marked Carniolan queen is still there. The brood comb has been backfilled with syrup, not much room for her to lay. I had been watching for backfilling, they had been putting syrup in cells as fast as they drew them, but up until now, had left the brood comb alone.

    Most on here say once there are swarm cells you can't stop it, so do a split or let them leave. I'm in an urban/backyaerd environment, and a swarm would be bad for me, the neighbors , and publicity in general for backyard bees. The two hives I already have are all my small yard can handle.

    I'm trying to head them off by opening up brood space. If i have to split this late, may try to recombine them for a super colony to winter.

    Thought the feeding was the correct path...feed to draw comb in the second deep, feed during dearth.
    If mistakes lead to the quickest learning, I seem to be doing A LOT of learning this year!
    I don't keep bees, I tend bees. Does this make me a beet?
    Sea level, Puget Sound, USDA 7a-7b

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