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  1. #1
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    Mar 2012
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    Default Summer dearth: Knowing when to feed

    Here in the Piedmont of NC we are beginning to be in the summer dearth, right in time for the solstice. How much honey in pounds would a 60,000-strong colony need to survive well during the dearth? How much honey is in a typical brood frame (both sides included) with the corners filled will honey and nectar? At what point do you feed?

  2. #2
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    May 2012
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    Sacramento, CA, USA
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    Default Re: Summer dearth: Knowing when to feed

    It depends on if you want them to use their honey now or feed them and try to get them to maintain their surplus for winter use. What kind of brood frame you using? Assuming a deep, about 1-3lbs usable honey per frame would be my guess depending on width of comb etc.. I think most people equate a box of brood to be about 100lbs worth of honey consumption which is about 30lbs per week if your queen is still laying, and I assume that accounts for feeding the rest of the bees as well.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Summer dearth: Knowing when to feed

    Quote Originally Posted by JRG13 View Post
    It depends on if you want them to use their honey now or feed them and try to get them to maintain their surplus for winter use. What kind of brood frame you using? Assuming a deep, about 1-3lbs usable honey per frame would be my guess depending on width of comb etc.. I think most people equate a box of brood to be about 100lbs worth of honey consumption which is about 30lbs per week if your queen is still laying, and I assume that accounts for feeding the rest of the bees as well.
    I'm using double-deeps, 9 frames per each brood box and shallow supers. Since I'm in my second year I wasn't sure visually if I am correctly judging how much food stores the colonies have on hand. I'd like to do a second harvest from the remaining supers once the sourwood, sweet-, alsike- and white clovers finish up, but didn't want to take away food if they needed it, depending on what the brood frames below show. Thanks for the tips!

  4. #4
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    Elkton, Giles, Tennessee, USA
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    Default Re: Summer dearth: Knowing when to feed

    You need to know what the deeps contain to make a call. If they swarmed, the upper deep is likely mostly capped honey. (Backfilled with nectar in swarm preps) In that case, you won't need to feed and you can harvest any and all honey in the supers.

    In some seasons, some colonies will establish the brood nest in the upper deep and not back down. The lower is mostly pollen. In that case, you will need to leave them a shallow of honey above, and possibly trickle feed through the summer to keep them from using it up.

    Note that mid summer is not generally an absolute dearth. There are patches of forage they can use to supplement groceries, but it is not enough to push them into overhead storage of surplus. You can monitor the consumption of their honey reserve and gage when it would be advisable to supplement with syrup. There is normally enough forage available to continue to reduce the brood volume. Throttling back on brood volume assists in conservation of stores. Locally, and I would guess your area, colonies are sometimes down to 2 or 3 deep frames of brood by the 1st of August. Just in time to start building brood volume to rear young bees for wintering.

    Walt

  5. #5
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    jackson county, alabama, usa
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    Default Re: Summer dearth: Knowing when to feed

    good question tom. i have a colony in a single deep right now that is a secondary swarm that i caught in one of my traps. this particular swarm issued at the end of the main flow here. they managed to get a single deep pretty well drawn out, but hardly any comb has been drawn for the last few weeks in the medium super i added.

    this hive is very light on stores, and there's a lot of capped brood soon to be emerging. i see a lot of pollen coming in, but i'm not sure about nectar.

    i happened to have a medium frame of last fall's capped honey in the freezer. i thawed it out and put it in this hive. i figure i'll check it in a week or so, and if the honey is gone i'll probably go ahead and put some feed on. if they are not using it, i'll assume they have enough coming in and won't feed.

    your second year colonies should be alright, but like walt suggests, pull a few frames from those upper deeps and see if they are heavy with honey. you might consider harvesting some of those, and let the bees fill them back up with your fall flow.
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Summer dearth: Knowing when to feed

    Thank you so much, fellas!

  7. #7
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    jackson county, alabama, usa
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    Default Re: Summer dearth: Knowing when to feed

    i took a look at that medium frame of honey that i gave to the late swarm hive last week. they have uncapped most of it, but not used much. to my delight, they have also drawn out several frames of foundation adjacent to that honey frame.

    i guess there is more of a flow than i thought, plus the work force is increasing with each round of emerging brood. i'm happy i don't have to feed.
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  8. #8
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    May 2013
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    Westmoreland County, PA, USA
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    Default Re: Summer dearth: Knowing when to feed

    Feeding during a dearth

    I think I really screwed up. A few experienced beeks have told this newbee that we are in dearth. All 3 of my colonies are showing signs of nothing going on, just hanging around the landing board, excessive bearding, even on cooler days, and most foragers coming back with pollen, and apparently not much else.

    So, I decided to feed them. Mixed up 1:1 syrup and added 2 tsp of Honey-B-Healthy to the 1 gallon mixture. Filled a 2-quart front feeder (Brushy Mtn) for each hive. Visited the yard a couple of hours later and observed a feeding frenzy at each hive, and they were hot!

    It was impossible to get an entrance reducer on the hives as the feeder takes up of the entrance of my 8-frame hives and they were hot (got 2 stings). I grabbed a bundle of cedar shims I had nearby and greatly reduced the entrances.

    The external frenzy continued and the 2-quart feeders were empty within 3-4 hours. Fortunately a late day storm brought the activity to an end. I checked the hives just as it was getting dark last night; almost no bees outside the hives.

    My girls are late risers as the sun doesn't hit them until about 8:30. I visited the yard around 8:00 am hoping to pull the feeders and put in entrance reducers. No Way! Bees buzzing everywhere. But not nearly as bad as yesterday. Guess I will just wait them out.

    Where did I go wrong? Should I have not fed them? Should I have used internal feeders (I have Mann Lake top feeders)? Was the Honey-B-Healthy the culprit that attached of the bees in the county?

    Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

    Bob

    Attachment 7304Attachment 7305Attachment 7306

  9. #9
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    Mar 2012
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    Charlotte, NC
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    Default Re: Summer dearth: Knowing when to feed

    I fed one of my hives with an in-frame feeder, and they back-filled every open cell, including those with eggs. The frames looked like they'd been slimed, but it was the syrup. I removed the food as they then had plenty on the end frames, removed the syrup'ed brood frames (don't know if I should've). A lot drowned, even though I provided a screen for them to walk up. It was a goldmine rush, I think, and they overdid it. So now I'll only give them little feedings when they need it. Beetles have been a problem. They were super hot 2 days in a row until I installed beetle traps everywhere, which were filled up. Last night they were calm, finally. Now I'm checking very often to keep the beetle traps filled and watching hive strength (removing frames if needed) and when their food is getting low so I'll know when to feed. Too much of a good thing, I suppose. Lesson learned.

  10. #10
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    Aug 2002
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    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
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    Default Re: Summer dearth: Knowing when to feed

    Maybe it's what keeps beekeeping so interesting, but nothing is simple. As far as feeding, I never feed if there is a nectar flow. A dearth is trickier, however. I try not to feed in a dearth because it is probably the worst time to feed as far as setting off feeding frenzies and robbing frenzies. So if they have enough stores for the moment and enough comb to store enough for winter, I would not feed them but I would keep an eye on things. If the fall flow seems to fail, I would start feeding to get them heavy enough for winter.

    But what if they don't have enough stores for the moment? Then you need to help, of course. But it usually works out better if some hives have some capped stores to steal from the strong and give that to the weak and feed the strong. If none have enough stores or if there isn't enough drawn comb, I would feed. You will need enough drawn comb and they probably won't draw much comb in the fall once things cool down. So with a hive that is short on comb and short on stores, I would feed in a dearth to try to get those resources. But of course, take precautions. Assume they will get robbed if you don't take precautions.

    http://www.bushfarms.com/beesfeeding.htm
    http://www.bushfarms.com/beesrobbing.htm
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Summer dearth: Knowing when to feed

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Bush View Post
    Maybe it's what keeps beekeeping so interesting, but nothing is simple. ... But of course, take precautions. Assume they will get robbed if you don't take precautions.

    http://www.bushfarms.com/beesfeeding.htm
    http://www.bushfarms.com/beesrobbing.htm
    You said it, Michael. That's what makes these forums and local clubs so great. :-) Robbers have been all around the sides of my hives. Don't know where they're from, but they've been constantly buzzing us for the last week. Lots of dead robber bodies at the front door, and my girls kicking butt. I always put on a reducer whenever feeding, no matter the size of the hive. Fewer bees inside at the entrance so more can be on the front ledge doing battle.

  12. #12
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    Nov 2011
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    Novato, CA
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    554

    Default Re: Summer dearth: Knowing when to feed

    Doesn't summer dearth also create a break in the brood cycle which in turn is a natural defense against varroa mites? The hive bee population reduces preparing for winter as well.... wouldn't feeding artificially keep those populations up, no break in brood and no natural break in the varroa reproduction....

    Are dearths usually followed by a fall flow? I know in my part of the world we have 'some' flow all year round so I realize it probably is not so elsewhere...

  13. #13
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    May 2010
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    Knox Co, Ohio, USA
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    Default Re: Summer dearth: Knowing when to feed

    Duct tape makes a good entrance reducer. You can easily customize it to whatever size you need.

    Tom

  14. #14
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    Apr 2013
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    Raleigh, NC, USA
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    47

    Default Re: Summer dearth: Knowing when to feed

    I'm just a rookie backyard hobbyist with bees so I really like this forum. We are also in a dearth here in NC. Nothing was going on in the hive so I decided to feed them some. The first jar I put out caused a bee stampede. They were all over that feeder and each other trying to get in. The funny (?) part was that only so many could get into the feeder and when they came back out they were getting mugged by the ones waiting outside. If they didn't get away quick they would get completely covered with hungry bees wanting what they had just gotten from the feeder. These weren't robbers they were all the same bees. At the end of the day I had dead bees around and inside the feeder. Not sure if feeding was the right thing or not.

  15. #15
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    Nov 2011
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    Default Re: Summer dearth: Knowing when to feed

    When I do feed it is from a top feeder with a reduced entrance and robbing screen. I've also used an empty medium with a top board as the bottom (with the hole in it) and put divert sugar down on a newspaper... I like this for overwintering weak hives. I'm only 3 years in so learned from this I need to take that off before comb is drawn or I end up with a box full of comb! What is cool is thinking about the whole picture; strength and age of said hive, where it is at in its breeding cycles, the environment and its resources; how to not interfere to the extend it creates a false sense of resources for a hive so it doesn't reduce naturally; if that all makes sense. Lots more learning left to do!

  16. #16
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    May 2013
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    Westmoreland County, PA, USA
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    Default Re: Summer dearth: Knowing when to feed

    Thank you everyone.

    Guess now that I have started feeding them I will have to continue until our golden rod comes on. The feeders have been empty for about 24 hours now. Maybe I should switch to top feeders and get the reducers on before hand.

    I like the duct tape reducer idea. Never thought of that. Will the bees eat through it eventually?

    These are new colonies, 2 started from nucs in May and Hive 1 is a split from Hive 2 on June 23. It has been weak so I took a frame of brood and and frame of honey from each of the other hives last week and added it to Hive 1. I hope this frenzy was just an external show and little robbing took place inside the hives.

  17. #17
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    Nov 2011
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    Novato, CA
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    Default Re: Summer dearth: Knowing when to feed

    Sounds like a good plan Bob; make the switch late in the day so there isn't much bee time left for robbing. Remember to cover the sticky part of the duct take that is against the opening so bees don't get stuck to it. I actually just use pieces of wood to reduce my hives... garden sticks that I cut to size.
    Keep in mind I am a newbie too.. this is just my 3rd year so I don't take offense if others chime in with different opinions / solutions... K

  18. #18
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    Mar 2012
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    Charlotte, NC
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    Default Re: Summer dearth: Knowing when to feed

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob_in_Westsylvania View Post
    I like the duct tape reducer idea. Never thought of that. Will the bees eat through it eventually?
    ... I hope this frenzy was just an external show and little robbing took place inside the hives.
    Bees definitely can eat through it if motivated. I encountered a colony that ate through duct tape 3 times on a trapout, kitchen sponges and Great Stuff (and yes, this was my first one and took forever to complete and was in a stone wall ) . With robbing there should be cappings visible at the entrance and on the bottom board.

  19. #19
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    May 2013
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    Westmoreland County, PA, USA
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    Default Re: Summer dearth: Knowing when to feed

    [QUOTE=Tom Davidson;983084 With robbing there should be cappings visible at the entrance and on the bottom board.[/QUOTE]

    Thanks Tom. That is the kind of info not in the books. I will put sticky boards in and keep an eye out for cappings.

    As to reducers, i have a few; the bees were just too hot to resize the reducers and get in place, thus the shims in the pictures. I am going to duct tape the reducers in place now. That should go quick and hopefully painless (for me).

  20. #20
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    Jul 2010
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    jackson county, alabama, usa
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    Default Re: Summer dearth: Knowing when to feed

    sorry if i missed it bob, but are your colonies actually out of stores?

    if they have even a frame or two of capped honey in the hive it's probably enough to sustain them until the fall flow arrives.

    it would surprise me if there are no stores unless you harvested everything they had or they have been getting robbed all along.
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

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