I ran across these photos and thought I'd post them again.
I put a sugar block on every hive that is in a single or when the cluster is near the top of the hive.
25# cane sugar
one quart cider vinegar
sprinkle of electrolytes
1-2 T citric acid (Found in your canning dept)
splash of pro Health or other scented essential oil of choice
Mix together about 1/3 of the sugar and vinegar at a time in a five gallon bucket with a large drill and paint paddle mixer. If you try to mix it all at once, you will get uneven moisture distributation.
Mixture will feel very soft, but not wet or sticky.
I use a shallow aluminum baking sheet that fits right into my Cabelas food dehydrator. You can use any size pan you want, but be sure your bricks are no taller than your frame extension under your inner cover.
Here I sprinkled some dry Beepro on the bottom of the pan.Don't do it, it just gets gummy. Sugar will not stick to the pan after it has dried.
Fill the pan to desired depth with moistened sugar mix:
Roll out and lightly compress in the pan:
NOW sprinkle with Beepro or other protein mix if desired. I don't want to force them to eat protein if they don't want to, especially if they can't get out for cleansing flights regularly:
Be SURE to cut the sugar into block sized before it hardens. You'll never do it after it's hard. It takes about 2 weeks sitting out in the unheated greenhouse to harden.
But will set up and harden in 1-2 days in the food dehydrator at about 130 degrees:
You can also let it sit several hours in your oven on low temp
Here is the brand of electrolytes and vitamins I've been using for two years with excellent results:
I bought it online at ValleyVet.com (I use about 1/2 tsp per 25# sugar)
Here is the application and overwintering results.
Heer is a double nuc with a large volume of bees.
You can see the sugar block is almost gone. This photo is late winter 2012:
Even hives that are heavy will still consume this block. I was surprised they would do so, but it didn't worry me they would reserve their natural stores for spring when they started raising brood. And that is exactly what they did.
Here is a photo of a hive that was just bursting at the seams in a single deep late summer. In Sept. Relucently, I threw on an undrawn shallow and left for hunting for 2 weeks. I was surprised to see by the time I got back they had drawn and filled the center of the frames. So now..dummy..I thought, now they get to go through the winter with empty new frames on the outside. DOH! Here is another good example of feed directly above the cluster. Although the bottom deep was packed and heavy, they still seemed to appreciate the sugar.
All the hives I put sugar blocks on treated them the same they consumed the middle of the block first, directly above the cluster. The condensation from the cluster forms syrup droplets on the brick. Easy for them to take up. Every hive I had, when checked in late winter has open syrup in cells near the brood nest. With no flow that time of year, I attribute this to the sugar brick.
Even without experience, I think most people would guess new undrawn frames have no use or insulation value in an overwintering hive. Here is a dorkey video I made to show you, in the event you have drawn frames that are empty available, to fill them with at least something-for R value if nothing else. The sugar recipe is exactly the same for filling drawn comb:
Here is how they take to the sugar filled comb:
Feed on the top bars, directly above the cluster is very important. I wouldn't use the frames filled with sugar as a reliable feed source overwinter. But it fills up the empty spaces within the hive. And as you can see, do eventually get to it. This frame is in early spring. Below the sugar is new larva and eggs, then pollen. Actually a nicely worked frame. Did they eat the sugar, or haul it out? I don't know for sure, but saw no evidence of sugar granules on the bottom board or entrance area.
Compare the photo above to a natural, honey filled frame below. You can see they work a sugar filled frame just like a honey filed frame:
On a closing note:
Since beekeeping details are critically local, I'll give you a few more details to consider:
My bees are all very dark Northern bred with Carniolan genetics in the background. I overwinter in large colonies, which appear to be frugal with their stores. You might not be able to get away with overwintering Italians this way.
I feed my bees fortified syrup and protein patties during late summer dearth. Large hives heavy with stores get just enough syrup to keep brood rearing somewhat active. Nucs get fed regularly. I go into winter with a lot of young healthy bees and heavy hives.
My climate, although wet, is fairly mild. My bees can get out for cleansing flights on a regular basis. There has been some discussion previously on Beesourse that feeding sugar during winter months causes dysentery. I have never had one case of dysentery, ever. I never treat with fumagillin, ever. I do however put cider vinegar in every feed I provide to them. I go through several cases of cider vinegar a year. I wouldn't spend the $$ if I didn't think I got a benefit.
Northern colonies have to endure a fairly long winter inactive period.
Use REAL cider vinegar, I might add. Not Cider FLAVORED vinegar.
It is possible, these sugar blocks are not necessary. But I don't have the years of experience some do, and feel comfortable with the extra security. I had excellent overwintering results.
Hope this helps with your winter prep. Others feel free to add recipes and your techniques.