My 2 hives were about to starve--what I did today
Went in to checkerboard my 2 hives this weekend and found them almost out of stores--less than 10 lbs each. They are both full of bees and the Italian hive has been cranking out brood and flying all winter. The "Sunkist, I think" hive hasn't flown as much and hasn't had many orientation flights but seems healthy. Both seemed to have plenty of stores last fall.
I suspect that with our fairly warm winter with lots of flying days and most days and nights allowing for a lot of activity inside the hive, they just used up a lot. They also seem to be in full brood rearing mode from the number of bees and coverage in the hive, although I didn't pull frames to verify that.
Yesterday I put a top feeder on one and a gallon baggie on the other, but realized that both feeders were going to require opening the hive every few days and replenishing. Plus there is a limit to how fast they can take them and I think I need to get their stores replenished quickly.
So this morning I mixed up a 10 lb batch of 1.5/1 syrup, added 2 lbs. of my honey, a pinch of sea salt and the tea from brewing 3 Chamomile teabags (per Gunther Hauk), a dash of vitamin C for acidity. I had pulled the empty bottom boxes from both hives, so I took each frame and sprinkled dry sugar into the cells on one side till they were about half full. Working over a big cookie sheet, I laid the frame down and began pouring the syrup all over it, rubbing lightly with my hand to help the syrup get into the cells. Then I sprinkled more sugar over it and worked that in too. When I was finished, the cells were full of a semi-solid mix of sugar and syrup. The sugar kept the syrup from running out of the cells, and the syrup moistened the sugar. I did 12 frames (6 for each of my 8-frame boxes). Then I turned them over and filled the other side the same way. (It might have worked as well or better to have just wet the sugar with the syrup and rubbed it into the cells?) I ended up using about 30 lbs. of sugar. I then placed 6 full frames and 2 empty drawn frames in a medium and put one on each of the 2 hives.
Our weather is supposed to be in the 60's and 70's for the next 3 days, but with thunderstorms, then dropping to 45 highs for the following week. Since there isn't any forage yet, I figure (hope) that the bees will use that warm time to move the mixture down into the hive wherever they want it. I'm going to check in a week or so depending on weather, and if they have moved some of it down, I'll finish checkerboarding.
I considered that I might be creating a moisture/condensation problem with that many uncapped stores, but I have a cloth quilt, then foam insulation, then a folded mylar emergency blanket under the lid of each hive--the cloth wicks the condensation and keeps it from dripping on the brood.
I just kind of made this up as I went, but hopefully it will keep them from starving!
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