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  1. #1
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    Default Can you overfeed in winter?

    I have two hives. I fed them on a warm day last month (high 50s) using the mountain camp method, as I saw that one hive was very low on stores. I fed them both because I didn't want to put myself in the position of needing to open the other hive again in colder weather. Today was in the high 50s again and the bees were flying, so I pulled the top covers off and the bees hadn't used much of the sugar. They had used probably 3/4 cup per hive. Both hives looks good. My plan is to leave them alone for the rest of the winter, then remove the left over sugar. Does this sound right?

    Might as well ask a further question. As soon as the temps are consistently in the mid 40s to low 50s, I plan to feed aggressively using the FatBeeMan bucket method in an effort to build my hives up so I can split each once before the flow starts. How does that sound?

    Forgive my newbeeness, and thank you for any advice

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Can you overfeed in winter?

    If you put dry sugar on top of your bees you should have been able to tell how much they had eaten because they woulkd have eaten the sugar above themselves leaving a dome of sugar. How much sugar did you put on them?
    Mark Berninghausen "Ships at a distance have every man's wish on board." Zora Neale Hurston

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Can you overfeed in winter?

    Quote Originally Posted by sqkcrk View Post
    If you put dry sugar on top of your bees you should have been able to tell how much they had eaten because they woulkd have eaten the sugar above themselves leaving a dome of sugar. How much sugar did you put on them?
    I put the sugar on the inner cover and they each ate approximately 3/4 of a cup, just eyeballing it. I put about 2 cups in each hive.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Can you overfeed in winter?

    >My plan is to leave them alone for the rest of the winter, then remove the left over sugar. Does this sound right?

    Yes, that sounds right.

    > I put about 2 cups in each hive.

    I'm not sure I see the point. If they are light and I'm using dry sugar, I usually put about 20 pounds on...
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Can you overfeed in winter?

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Bush View Post
    >My plan is to leave them alone for the rest of the winter, then remove the left over sugar. Does this sound right?

    Yes, that sounds right.

    > I put about 2 cups in each hive.

    I'm not sure I see the point. If they are light and I'm using dry sugar, I usually put about 20 pounds on...
    LOL maybe I under-did it, or maybe they weren't as light as I thought. I was just going by what I'd seen on Youtube as the mountain camp method.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Can you overfeed in winter?

    Quote Originally Posted by ddb123 View Post
    I put the sugar on the inner cover and they each ate approximately 3/4 of a cup, just eyeballing it. I put about 2 cups in each hive.
    That most definitely is not the Mountain Camp Method of feeding dry sugar. You need to lay a sheet of newspaper right ontop of the top bars and pour 5 lbs of sugar ontop of it.
    Mark Berninghausen "Ships at a distance have every man's wish on board." Zora Neale Hurston

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Can you overfeed in winter?

    Quote Originally Posted by sqkcrk View Post
    That most definitely is not the Mountain Camp Method of feeding dry sugar. You need to lay a sheet of newspaper right ontop of the top bars and pour 5 lbs of sugar ontop of it.
    I guess that requires putting a super on, too(?) Does that method have an advantage over just pouring sugar on the inner cover?

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Can you overfeed in winter?

    Yes but if you do that you will need to stay diligent once warmer weather comes or they will build comb in there, don't ask me how I know. Yes with it on the top bars gives them better access while clustered.
    Mike Forbes
    Red Dirt Apiaries

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Can you overfeed in winter?

    Quote Originally Posted by ddb123 View Post
    I guess that requires putting a super on, too(?) Does that method have an advantage over just pouring sugar on the inner cover?
    Bees that can't get to sugar on the inner cover can get to sugar on top of newspaper. Consider what would happen were the cluster of bees over to one side of the hive, not right in the middle. The bees respiration will dampen the newspaper and the sugar and the bees can chew thru paper to get to the sugar.

    No, no super is required. You can fold thge newspaper up around the sugar and put the inner and telescoping covers on top held down by a rock or cinder block. I have used feeder rims, but they are not necassarily.
    Mark Berninghausen "Ships at a distance have every man's wish on board." Zora Neale Hurston

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Can you overfeed in winter?

    If the bees are clustered in the middle, is there anything fundamentally wrong with just pouring the sugar on the inner cover like I did? In other words, do I need to undo what I did?

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Can you overfeed in winter?

    I have had the same experience- a hive that was fairly light going into winter, that I poured several pounds of dry sugar onto the inner cover in mid December when it was in the low 50s.
    We had one cold snap here earlier this month (a snowstorm, highs in the low 30s, lows in the teens for a week), and mild temps (40-50/20s) before that, and progressively warmer temps the last 2 weeks (60s/20s-30s).

    Checked them the other day and they had used hardly any of the sugar, were clustered in the center of the single deep right under the inner cover's vent hole. I had spread a little bit of sugar along the top bars, and surprisingly, they hadn't even cleaned that off, as far as I could tell. But they were mean as junkyard dogs when I opened the hive up. So, I pulled out an end frame with (empty) comb, tossed in a feeder, and poured in 1 liter of 2:1 syrup.

    I wish I had a better handle on how bees manage their stores, although I read recently that they use 80% of their stores in the last 20% of winter, which is odd- you would think it is temperature dependent and that they use more in mid-winter and less in the milder early/late winter periods. Do they only go for the sugar if they are completely out of stores? Are they able to feed on sugar during the warm days, then keep the hive warm during cold nights even when there is no honey? Does syrup that is fed in a warm period such as now go into cells, or do the bees just suck it down immediately?

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Can you overfeed in winter?

    Quote Originally Posted by jdawdy View Post
    I have had the same experience- a hive that was fairly light going into winter, that I poured several pounds of dry sugar onto the inner cover in mid December when it was in the low 50s.
    We had one cold snap here earlier this month (a snowstorm, highs in the low 30s, lows in the teens for a week), and mild temps (40-50/20s) before that, and progressively warmer temps the last 2 weeks (60s/20s-30s).

    Checked them the other day and they had used hardly any of the sugar, were clustered in the center of the single deep right under the inner cover's vent hole. I had spread a little bit of sugar along the top bars, and surprisingly, they hadn't even cleaned that off, as far as I could tell. But they were mean as junkyard dogs when I opened the hive up. So, I pulled out an end frame with (empty) comb, tossed in a feeder, and poured in 1 liter of 2:1 syrup.

    I wish I had a better handle on how bees manage their stores, although I read recently that they use 80% of their stores in the last 20% of winter, which is odd- you would think it is temperature dependent and that they use more in mid-winter and less in the milder early/late winter periods. Do they only go for the sugar if they are completely out of stores? Are they able to feed on sugar during the warm days, then keep the hive warm during cold nights even when there is no honey? Does syrup that is fed in a warm period such as now go into cells, or do the bees just suck it down immediately?
    From what I have read, the bees actually start building up the hive again at the very end of winter (which would not be the coldest part of winter). The queen starts laying and the hive begins to grow pretty fast. That sounds like why they would use most of their stores at the end of winter as you say. I'm guessing that in really cold weather the bees use less of their stores as they would probably (guessing) have a more difficult time leaving the cluster or moving it. That is why I leaned toward the mountain camp method of feeding, it feeds the bees where they are most likely to already be.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Can you overfeed in winter?

    Quote Originally Posted by ddb123 View Post
    From what I have read, the bees actually start building up the hive again at the very end of winter (which would not be the coldest part of winter). The queen starts laying and the hive begins to grow pretty fast. That sounds like why they would use most of their stores at the end of winter as you say.
    Seems like a pretty good bet to me as well.

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Can you overfeed in winter?

    Quote Originally Posted by ddb123 View Post
    If the bees are clustered in the middle, is there anything fundamentally wrong with just pouring the sugar on the inner cover like I did? In other words, do I need to undo what I did?
    The only problem is they may not be able to get to it on the inner cover.

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Can you overfeed in winter?

    Quote Originally Posted by ddb123 View Post
    If the bees are clustered in the middle, is there anything fundamentally wrong with just pouring the sugar on the inner cover like I did? In other words, do I need to undo what I did?
    The bees have to travel up thru the hole in the cover, whereas w/ the newspaper method the sugar is right there above them w/in reach. You may well be fine, which would indicate to me that feeding is unnecassary. To be more effective, remove the inner cover and do as I instructed before.
    Mark Berninghausen "Ships at a distance have every man's wish on board." Zora Neale Hurston

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Can you overfeed in winter?

    Yes you can over feed the bees during the winter. They get all fat and pissy, unhappy with their weight gain.
    Do you have any idea how much it costs for 30,000 memberships to Jenny Craig? lol

    Seriously though, I'd rather have too much stores (food) than not enough.

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Can you overfeed in winter?

    How can you have too much sugar on the top bars?

    If some is left over come spring, it need not be wasted:
    Make syrup from it, strain it if there are big chunks of debris, and feed it to them in that form. during build up when it is all likely to be consumed.

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Can you overfeed in winter?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mr.Beeman View Post
    Yes you can over feed the bees during the winter. They get all fat and pissy, unhappy with their weight gain.
    Do you have any idea how much it costs for 30,000 memberships to Jenny Craig? lol

    Seriously though, I'd rather have too much stores (food) than not enough.
    AMEN to that Mr.Beeman, That is my thinking exactly.

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Can you overfeed in winter?

    Sounds like I'm probably okay this winter, and next time I'll be sure to use the ACTUAL mountain camp method. Thanks for all advice, everyone!

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