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Thread: Is it too late?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
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    Sad Is it too late?

    Hey all,

    I am a first year noob with one hive (had 2-already lost 1 in the late fall). I did my first spring hive inspection today - and things appear pretty dire. We have had a couple warm days, but it has been snapping back to cold pretty quickly - a bit unusual for us here.

    This will be a little long but I am adding detail hoping it helps.

    The hive is two deeps and was packed with bees in the fall. When I opened it today all the bees were in the upper frames. There was a lot of traffic going in and out of the hive, but almost none of the bees were on the lower frames.

    The upper frames had a lot of activity on them, but were not what I was hoping to see:
    1: there is no honey left over.
    2: hardly any pollen at all
    3: found the queen alive and presumably well
    4: no brood, capped or otherwise
    5: a good bit of hive beetle activity
    6: lots of pollen coming in

    So my assumptions/actions are:
    1: the hive is starving. Last week was too cold to inspect,but the hive felt light, so I put the top feeder on (trying to be very quick because of the cold). I also had honey-b-healthy in the syrup. I was surprised that the bees did not seem to touch it. I threw out last week's syrup and put fresh syrup in the feeder today
    2: as the hive continues to weaken the beetles will become a larger issue. I added new beetle traps. I removed the bottom deep in the hope that the bees would have less need to defend that area.

    Not sure what else I can do...any advice is appreciated. I guess I figure with no food or brood, this hive is on its way out...

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Is it too late?

    it could be that if it was too cold to inspect, and too cold for the bees to fly, the syrup in the feeder was also too cold for the bees to take.

    foraging is just now starting in earnest here in the south east. they should be bringing in pollen and nectar from the maples and elms. the forecast looks good, and there will be more and more blooms.

    if they are bringing in a lot, i don't think they will starve.

    an alternative to the top feeder is an inexpensive quail feeder or chicken waterer. you can put it outside on the warm flying days and they can get a lot in a short amount time.

    sounds like you made a good move reducing the volume and putting the beetle traps in.

    good luck!
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  3. #3
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    Rader, Greene County, Tennessee, USA
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    Default Re: Is it too late?

    Syrup in a feeder needs to be 50 degrees or above for bees to be able to take it. Syrup is slower than air to warm up. If the nights are cold then the average syrup temperature may not be warm enough for the bees to use.

    You could try using heated syrup to test this idea. Of course, it will eventually cool but you may gain information from this test. If you expect it to be too cold for syrup, you can feed dry sugar on top of a piece of paper over the top bars. (You may need to add an empty hive body to provide space for the sugar.)
    ultracrepidarian >> noting or pertaining to a person who criticizes, judges, or gives advice outside of his expertise

  4. #4
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    Nov 2011
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    Default Re: Is it too late?

    I don't think you needed to throw out last weeks syrup. The HBH as well as the cooler temps act as preservatives and the syrup shouldn't have gone bad.
    Do you have any stored honey in the bottom box that you could place near the cluster?

  5. #5
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    Charlotte, NC, USA
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    Default Re: Is it too late?

    Thanks all!

    The forecast does look good this week - so hopefully the syrup will be warm enough. And I believe squarepeg was right, there should be nectar from the elms and maples flowing this week in my area. Hopefully this is enough to keep them going.

    Rader- I should probably do a powdered sugar treatment for varroa. Do you think that would help in the same manner that standard sugar crystals would? I hadn't thought about the syrup temp dropping over night- makes sense now.

    JD - every single cell of the bottom frames were empty - and dry as a bone.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Is it too late?

    You were short on stores last fall (or they ate everything too soon) and you MUST feed or you will lose them to starvation, since they want to make brood very badly right now.

    There are two things you can do right away. First, dump some dry sugar on the top of the inner cover. They will use it as soon as it's damp from condensation, and it will be warmer than the syrup. You can also make some 2:1 syrup and drizzle it into some of the empty comb in the bottom box and put that in the top box next to the cluster -- they can get at that very easily and it will do them all sorts of good.

    Second, you need to get some protein patties and put one on pronto -- if there is nothing in the hive, they cannot raise brood and will die trying from protein deficiency!

    Peter

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Is it too late?

    In my opinion, the powered sugar used for a varroa treatment isn't going to do anything for the bees nutritional needs. What makes the granulated sugar work is the moisture that psfred referred to. Powdered sugar isn't going to clump up as its got cornstarch as an anti-caking agent. And that cornstarch also isn't useful for bee nutrition. Feed syrup or granulated sugar.

    Peter- the original post says pollen was coming in in abundance. Do you still advise adding patties?
    ultracrepidarian >> noting or pertaining to a person who criticizes, judges, or gives advice outside of his expertise

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Is it too late?

    those bees coming in loaded with pollen are also full of nectar.

    i have a few hives that were low on stores, and i gave them some capped honey a few days ago.

    they are ignoring the honey in favor of the fresh nectar coming in.
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Is it too late?

    At this point in the year, yes, because it's likely a week of cold, rainy weather will show up before they get up to speed. A week without pollen could do them in. If they don't use it, you can toss it later, but if they need it and it's not there, they die.

    They usually will eat a patty (or store it, which is also good) when it's right above the brood nest. My failing hive didn't last year, but they had packed all the space they could with pollen. Ended up not benefiting anyone but the wax moths, though, since the bees died out. I learned to feed properly in the fall, the hard way.

    Peter

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Is it too late?

    Quote Originally Posted by psfred View Post

    There are two things you can do right away. First, dump some dry sugar on the top of the inner cover. They will use it as soon as it's damp from condensation, and it will be warmer than the syrup. You can also make some 2:1 syrup and drizzle it into some of the empty comb in the bottom box and put that in the top box next to the cluster -- they can get at that very easily and it will do them all sorts of good.

    Second, you need to get some protein patties and put one on pronto -- if there is nothing in the hive, they cannot raise brood and will die trying from protein deficiency!

    Peter
    I will put the sugar in today. I went to order pollen patties and there were warnings about using them in areas with beetle problems. Since I know the hive is already battling them, should I get dry pollen sub instead?

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Is it too late?

    It was about 65 degrees this weekend and I've started feeding. I also set up an experiment (or buffet). I set up a table in front of the hives and placed a jar of syrup, pollen substitute, a large cake of candy and a crumbled pan of candy to see which the girls preferred. Syrup by far, then large cake and then crumbled cake. Didn't even touch the pollen...too much of the fresh stuff coming in. Later in the day this table was covered in bees...should've taken a picture of that!
    photo.jpg

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Is it too late?

    if the sugar is dry granular or candied, the bees have to use water to dissolve it.

    they can use the syrup a whole lot easier.

    rick, if you have an empy box, you can put a feeder like bb has in the picture inside the hive during the warm days, or just set it out like he did. a quart or two should be enough.

    if you put dry sugar in, they just might haul it out. better to moisten in with a little water, i.e. make a thick paste with it. plus, you can add some dry pollen sub to that paste.

    dry sugar is good for the cold northern climes in the dead of winter when condensation can be a problem.

    as stated, i believe you have a good enough flow with fresh pollen and nectar coming in to not worry too much about them starving.

    the real stuff is much healthier for them, and gives them better resistance to disease. be careful not to give them so much as to put them into swarm mode.

    jmho
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  13. #13
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    Clarendon County, SC, USA
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    Default Re: Is it too late?

    Rick, I'm about 90 miles SW of you. That's how my hives looked the first of January. I used a hole saw to cut a hole the same size as a mason jar top dead center in my migratory covers. I used an inverted mason jar with 7-8 pin holes in it. I put a black bucket over the jars to warm them. On new years day, I started feeding a 1:1 syrup and homemade pollen patties. They've sucked down a quart every 3 days, even when the temps didn't get out of the 40's and the lows were in the low 20's. None has been stored, its all gone to brood. My hives are booming, going to split in a week or so. The trick to feeding patties with the beetles is to put wax paper on both sides of the patty. The bees will nibble the edge, but it will go fast enough to keep the beetle eggs from hatching.

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Is it too late?

    Update: Just in case you are sitting on the edge of your seats

    We have had a couple of beautiful days here in Charlotte, NC - and this seems to be helping the cause. The forecast also appears to be in my favor for the next week+.

    The bees went through a gallon of syrup between Sunday afternoon and this morning. I added another gallon and a half today.

    The girls are coming back to the hive with pollen sacs packed! I ordered pollen patties, and I will offer them up when they arrive. If they do not seem to care for them, I will put the remainders in the freezer so I have them on hand for a future date - anyone know how long they can be safely frozen?

    I plan on opening the hive up again on Friday to check on food stores and see if the queen has decided that this has been enough to start laying again.

    Next challenge - figuring out how to tell if they have enough stores in the fall, when to supplement, when/how to help earlier in the spring. Would really like to avoid taking them to the brink next year.

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