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  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Seattle, WA
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    33

    Default Top feeder vs frame feeder in winter

    hi. I am using frame feeders for my two hives. I am considering switching to top feeders for winter since I don't have to lift boxes to get to the frame feeders, exposing bees to the cold breeze, and top feeders allow me to add more syrup during cold weather without bothering them. Am I right in thinking this way or are there other factors that I have not thought about? Which should I use during winter?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
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    St. Albans, Vermont
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    5,117

    Default Re: Top feeder vs frame feeder in winter

    Neither? Get your feeding finished now, before winter. Bees can break cluster in the winter to use either feeder you suggest. Winter feeding usually results in moisture problems and dysentery.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2012
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    Seattle, WA
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    33

    Default Re: Top feeder vs frame feeder in winter

    Thank you for reply. When do I know to stop feeding them?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2012
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    Roanoke, VA
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    1,025

    Default Re: Top feeder vs frame feeder in winter

    Michael, I've read other that say that putting sugar would help with moisture since the sugar would absorb the water. Is that theory sound? On a side note, I believe that you wrap your hives due to the extreme snow and cold. whereas down in my neck of the woods we haven't had more than a foot of snow in some time, and even those events are one day affairs. A lot of people don't even change out SBB and certainly don't wrap. Would the warmer climate in my area change your opinion on winter feeding?

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Location
    Otero County, New Mexico, USA
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    1,310

    Default Re: Top feeder vs frame feeder in winter

    I have put dry sugar in my frame feeders before. It can be a hassle to chip it out in the Spring. Still it is good for moisture control.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
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    St. Albans, Vermont
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    Default Re: Top feeder vs frame feeder in winter

    Quote Originally Posted by shannonswyatt View Post
    Michael, I've read other that say that putting sugar would help with moisture since the sugar would absorb the water. Is that theory sound?
    is which part sound?

    Granulated sugar above the cluster on newspaper will, indeed, absorb moisture. So, if you've created a circumstance that leads to high moisture within the winter hive environment, then I guess is't appropriate.

    Is it really necessary? I don't think so. Is it okay to place granulated sugar over the bees for winter....

    Now, I know I'm going to get it here. The Mountaincamp Method has gained wide popularity in recent years, after poster Mountaincamp introduced the theory in these pages. So popular, in fact, that Brushy Mountain now sells a "Mountaincamp Shim, to be used in the process. From what I remember of my "discussion" with him, I believe he created the moisture problem within his hives, and needed a band-aid fix to correct the problem. He fed 2:1 syrup late in the season, continuing the feeding until Thanksgiving. At that point, he needed something to absorb excess moisture created by late feeding.

    2:1 syrup is 33% moisture. Honey is 18? So feeding 2:1 requires the bees to get rid of a lot of excess water. They do this quite well in warm weather...same as they would when ripening nectar. They store the syrup (nectar) i the combs, evaporate the water until ripe, and cap it to preserve it for the winter. And, in the comb and ripened is where their feed should be. That way they don't have to break cluster to get at their feed.

    I find that the best wintering colonies are those that maintain a quiet cluster all winter. Opening the cover reveals a cluster that is tight, and so quiet that they appear dead. They don't moved, and hardly hum. These bees can go for months without a cleansing flight. Placing sugar above them will result in a cluster that is more active in winter, breaking cluster to get at the sugar. Being more active and having to process sucrose in the winter...increasing the indigestibles in the bee gut and requiring earlier cleansing flights.

    When, since the last ice age when our bees lived on the edges of the ice sheet, did they need sugar dumped on their heads? If given the opportunity, bees will set up their winter nest as it should b e. If they are short on stores, feed them. But, get the feeding done before cold weather so the syrup is ripe and in the combs and in contact with the cluster.

    Provide an upper entrance and a bottom entrance that isn't reduced down to near nothing...but has a mouse screen installed for the cold months. Insulate the inner cover so the moisture from the bees respiration and honey consumption, doesn't condense on the underside of the inner cover and drip on the bees.

    With a colony fed properly when they need it, and a hive set up properly for winter, there will be no moisture problems for the winter cluster, and they won't need a band-aid approach to getting them through the winter.

    I've wintered 600-1000 colonies of bees for 40 years in northern Vermont, and I've never found it necessary to include any moisture absorbent within the hives. My opinion by way of experience, says do it the right way the first time and be done with it.

    Observe and Imitate. Bees make better beekeepers than beekeepers make bees. Do it their way, and save the granulated, Moungtaincamp sugar, for your baked goods.

    Now you MC advocates can have your say....

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    Location
    Winhall, VT
    Posts
    1,070

    Default Re: Top feeder vs frame feeder in winter

    I have followed Mike's recommendations this year to the tee with one exception. All of my full sized hives are up to weight and wrapped and insulated. I have put them to bed for winter. Thanks to Mike for the sound guidance.

    The exception is that about 40% of my overwintered nucs didn't draw out and fill the last frame in the top super. Goldenrod was a bit of a bust here with the extended dry period. As an experiment I took out the undrawn frame in these nucs and put a frame feeder in filled with dry sugar. I then poured water over the sugar to saturate and a week later it has turned into a solid block of sugar. Don't know if this is good or bad but I will find out in spring.

    All hives and nucs are now on their own till the first warm day in March. Fingers crossed.
    Raising Vermont Bees one mistake at a time.
    USDA Zone 5A

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    St. Albans, Vermont
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    5,117

    Default Re: Top feeder vs frame feeder in winter

    Quote Originally Posted by shannonswyatt View Post
    On a side note, I believe that you wrap your hives due to the extreme snow and cold. whereas down in my neck of the woods we haven't had more than a foot of snow in some time, and even those events are one day affairs. A lot of people don't even change out SBB and certainly don't wrap. Would the warmer climate in my area change your opinion on winter feeding?
    I know beekeepers here that don't wrap their hives for winter, so maybe that isn't too important for you in Virginia and south, but as far as feeding goes, I would still want to get my feeding done before cold weather. When that is for your bees I don't know. Your flow must be finished, so you could feed now and be finished before the middle of October. Feed what they need fast. If they need 30 pounds more, feed it all at once. That way they have to take it down, ripen, and store it. Feeding slowly will encourage brood rearing and not storage in the comb.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Roanoke, VA
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    1,025

    Default Re: Top feeder vs frame feeder in winter

    Michael, thanks for the info! I'll put the feeder in today.

    I was thinking that the higher humidity had to do with the local relative humidity, not from feeding thin syrup. That makes more sense now.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    Concord, CA
    Posts
    3,997

    Default Re: Top feeder vs frame feeder in winter

    In Seattle you might be able to feed in the winter if you have to. We normally don't have to feed our hives down here at all, although I have one that needs it this year & another that might. When temps are above 50-55F the bees will break cluster & move around the hive. If you're brood boxes have at least 10 capped frames of honey you might be good for winter already. In my area we only need 6 deep frames of honey.

    Quote Originally Posted by EmiKami View Post
    hi. I am using frame feeders for my two hives. I am considering switching to top feeders for winter since I don't have to lift boxes to get to the frame feeders, exposing bees to the cold breeze, and top feeders allow me to add more syrup during cold weather without bothering them. Am I right in thinking this way or are there other factors that I have not thought about? Which should I use during winter?
    Dan

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    Tucson, Arizona, USA
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    5,029

    Default Re: Top feeder vs frame feeder in winter

    I don't always appreciate our climate, here in Tucson, Arizona. Especially when we have almost 100 days out of the year with temperatures over 100F. I do appreciate it when, even with the heat, nature provides enough rain to keep honey bee forage available. That doesn't always happen. If we did need certain quantities of honey stores to get a colony through Winter, feeding, at almost any time, even with 1:1, wouldn't cause moisture problems. Our usually low humidity removes excess humidity/moisture in a very short time, most generally, long before it can cause any problems.
    *^*^*^*^*^

    However, for me, top feeders take too much lumber, making them heavy and cumbersome. I had, until now, simply used inverted glass or plastic quart sized containers with holes in their lids. Also, most generally feeding sugar syrup is rarely necessary. When it is, I prefer to make it quick and simple. I have just begun making a few frame feeders to try them out - if my trial goes as planned, I expect to primarily use frame feeders in the future.
    Last edited by Joseph Clemens; 09-30-2012 at 01:44 PM.
    48 years - 50 hives - TF
    Joseph Clemens -- Website Under Constructioni

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Location
    Evansville, IN
    Posts
    2,220

    Default Re: Top feeder vs frame feeder in winter

    Seattle in temperate rain forest, with more cold rain than freezing weather in winter if I remember correclty, so feeding in the winter is a different story than in the snowy Northeast.

    That said, I agree with Michael Palmer -- get the hives up to weight before winterizing and you don't have to feed during the winter at all.

    I just checked mine, the small one is still somewhat short of what I'd like to see in there (a deep with brood and stores, a medium with 8 frames of honey, and another medium with four frames mostly draw, meaning a full medium of stores since I started feeding them three weeks ago). The other hive has two full mediums over the deep brood nest and a scattering of honey in the shallow on top I'll take off when they finish moving honey down next week.

    I will be putting a small candy board on the small hive just for insurance. They've been piddling along all summer, happy to live in a single deep and ignoring the medium above them until I put a hive top feeder on them with some vinegar in the syrup. Gobbled down six gallons in five days, all of it now honey, wish I'd gotten around to buying those feeders earlier, I'd have gotten honey this year. No matter, both hives are probably OK.

    If you do feel the need to feed in the winter due to low weight, dry sugar on newspaper over the cluster works, dry sugar on the inner cover works, and a candy board works. Each has it's drawbacks and advantages, but I prefer the slightly more complicated candy board since it's easy to remove in the spring. I don't plan to feed any more than absolutely necessary, and in the future will feed staring in August if I need to. That way the bees can have the hive all set up and ready in the fall and all I have to do is close up the bottom entrance and weight the top covers.

    Another option, particularly in late winter/early spring, is to fill empty comb with 2:1 syrup. You have to sprinkle it in, and it'd usually only possible to fill one side of a comb, but the bees can easily use it and you can put it where they really need it on a warm day -- right in the cluster.

    As Walter Kelley said, any feed in the winter is really an emergency situation to keep the bees alive, and is in it essence a failure on the part of the beekeeper to get the hive in good condition in the first place. You should never routinely depend on sugar feed during the winter to keep the bees healthy, they do much better on honey when they can stay in a tight cluster.

    Peter

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