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Thread: Winter bees

  1. #1
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    Default Winter bees

    I learned a couple things opening up my hive today. Bees are more angry in the cold. Also, I noticed when I opened the top, the bees had their hind ends up in the air and were fanning their wings. Why is that? One more question, what is the coldest you can syrup feed? I know, I would heat their syrup up to about 85 and put it in their hive and they drank that quick. Must have liked the heat.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Winter bees

    did they drink it or did you raise the temp and reduce the viscosity of the syrup so that it flowed down over the cluster?
    Or
    Did they drink it?
    mid to low 50s is 'the norm' for lowest temp for syrup. below that think dry sugar or candy board.
    Old Guy in Alabama

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Winter bees

    If the syrup is w/in reach of the cluster and the temp of the syrup (not outside) is on the 50's bees will take it.
    Whether or not it is wise to give liquid feed iin winter is an entirely different matter.
    \

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Winter bees

    Why not feed liquid in winter?

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Winter bees

    Just my understanding...

    Where you are in NC it may be ok, but the more water in the feed, the more the bees have to eat to get the same amount of energy. This results in more waste that they must store between flight days as bees won't relieve themselves in the hive, at least they'll do everything they can to not do that. Excess waste can cause dysentery when the bees can't get outside to relieve themselves.

    The bees have chosen the 16-18% moisture of honey as their number, so that's what I shoot for too. If feeding in the fall, give the bees enough time to dry out the syrup to 16-18% moisture so it's as close to the real thing as possible for them.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Winter bees

    The concern with liquid feed (syrup) in the winter is that it may introduce too much moisture into the hive. If the bees store that syrup in comb, as it dries, the moisture can condense on cold parts of the hide and drip onto the cluster. Wet, cold bees are dead bees.
    Graham
    USDA Zone 7A Elevation 1400 ft

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Winter bees

    What do you mean give the bees enough time to dry out the syrup?

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Winter bees

    Quote Originally Posted by tucker0104 View Post
    What do you mean give the bees enough time to dry out the syrup?
    Generally, to legally be honey, it must have a moisture content of no more than 18.5%. The nectar (and syrup) that bees collect usually has a significantly higher water content than 18.5%. So, the extra moisture has to be evaporated. In the summer that evaporation is no problem, but in winter that extra moisture in a hive can be a serious problem. That is why feeding syrup in winter is generally inadvisable, but it really depends on the climate. Miami may be different than Charlotte, and Charlotte is different from Chicago.
    Graham
    USDA Zone 7A Elevation 1400 ft

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Winter bees

    Quote Originally Posted by tucker0104 View Post
    Also, I noticed when I opened the top, the bees had their hind ends up in the air and were fanning their wings. Why is that?
    Maybe signalling the rest of the troupes to get ready to attack. Did a group of 6 or so fly out at you?
    Brian Cardinal
    Zone 5a, Practicing non-intervention beekeeping

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Winter bees

    Quote Originally Posted by tucker0104 View Post
    Also, I noticed when I opened the top, the bees had their hind ends up in the air and were fanning their wings. Why is that?
    Usually, that is done when the nasonov gland pheromone is being sent out into the air to draw the queen or a swarm to the new location. IMHO during the summer it may be a sign of queenlessness and I usually check for the presence of the queen. Whenever a hive is rendered queenless prior to replacing her with a new queen, on the day (usually a day later) of the insertion of the new queen, the bees nearly always display that behavior upon my opening of the hive. It could be a useful sign that they are then receptive to the new queen's introduction. The new queen's pheromone probably triggers their behavior. In your case, it's kind of late for them to be displaying that behavior. OMTCW

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Winter bees

    Tucker...How good are your eyes (not sure how old you are)? Did you see stingers? Reason I ask....I see the butt-in-air behavior during colder times, the bees have their butts straight up and their stingers exposed when disturbed. Sort of a "it's too cold to fly but I'll do my best" defense. If you happen to rub a hand across them in that state they will get ya. I'm guessing that's what you were seeing.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Winter bees

    I have seen it in my hives a couple of times and I tried to look for the stinger but for me it is hopeless.
    Brian Cardinal
    Zone 5a, Practicing non-intervention beekeeping

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Winter bees

    Right on libhart. Have also seen the stingers in such cases. Am wondering if they are fanning bee venom as some mild defensive mechanism in colder months all the while preserving the integrity of the cluster - as it is certainly not to draw the queen or remnants of a swarm as it may be in the summer. OMTCW

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Winter bees

    If you open any hive for any length of time anytime of the year they will start putting the behinds in the air and fanning Nasonov. They are a little quicker, perhaps, in cold weather as everyone is home. It's the smell that they give off when the hive is disrupted and they want everyone to know where the cluster is.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Winter bees

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Bush View Post
    It's the smell that they give off when the hive is disrupted and they want everyone to know where the cluster is.
    In warm weather the bees would not be in cluster so do you think it is an alarm or a signal for foragers to come and help defend the hive?
    Brian Cardinal
    Zone 5a, Practicing non-intervention beekeeping

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Winter bees

    >In warm weather the bees would not be in cluster so do you think it is an alarm or a signal for foragers to come and help defend the hive?

    It is not an alarm as that causes them to sting. Nasonov sets off more nasonov and also causes returning bees to stay home for a while. If you pull the lid off a hive for about 30 minutes you'll find everyone pretty much home and no one leaving.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Winter bees

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Bush View Post
    If you pull the lid off a hive for about 30 minutes you'll find everyone pretty much home and no one leaving.
    I am going to pay more attention to the coming and going the next time I dig into a hive. At times I have left the cover off to go into the house to get something like magnifiers. It could be 20-30 minutes with the cover off from start to finish.
    Brian Cardinal
    Zone 5a, Practicing non-intervention beekeeping

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