Feeding dry sugar in top bar hive in winter
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  1. #1
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    May 2009
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    Default Feeding dry sugar in top bar hive in winter

    I have put some dry sugar at the bottom, dampened it, etc. Now I am concerned about feeding in the winter when the bees are clustered. I understand they won't leave the cluster. How does one feed on top of a top bar hive? I have no spacers. Should I remove a bar? How do the bees get up there if they don't break the cluster? I am just trying to picture this.
    My top roof fits pretty tightly on the top of the bars, too. I don't think I could fit any sugar.
    Please advise.
    Carrie

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
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    Default Re: Feeding dry sugar in top bar hive in winter

    Since there are no gaps, it's pretty difficult. Plus if you're not going to put at least ten pounds or so of sugar, there is little point to it. You can take a cardboard envelope, bend the corners to fit the top bar hive, fill it full of slightly moist sugar (add only a little and mix until clumpy) and put a couple of slits in the cardboard. But this will probably only be a couple of pounds of sugar. Maybe if you put one of these against the end of the honey and another a ways back from that and fill in between with sugar...
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 42y 40h 39yTF

  4. #3
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    Default Re: Feeding dry sugar in top bar hive in winter

    Michael,
    Thank you, but I'm not quite sure you mean by "Maybe if you put one of these against the end of the honey and another a ways back from that and fill in between with sugar... ".

    I just can't picture it!
    Regards,
    Carrie

  5. #4
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    Default Re: Feeding dry sugar in top bar hive in winter

    Think of two dams made of cardboard "envelopes" folded to fit the box. One at the edge of the cluster with slits in the cardboard to encourage them to chew through and filled with slightly clumped sugar (a small amount of water mixed in until it clumps). Then a ways further from this (with nothing between) another. In between these two dams you fill it with dry, slightly clumped sugar.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 42y 40h 39yTF

  6. #5
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    Default Re: Feeding dry sugar in top bar hive in winter

    Still cannot picture this and I am very frustrated. My top bars are flush with the roof, and there are no spacers between the bars for the bees to come up thru, even if I put the sugar on top.
    Thanks in advance for your patience Michael, but you say cardboard "dam" with sugar and another at the end of the cluster and nothing in between, then you say sugar in between. I don't want to give up on this. I have googled utube videos on winter feeding sugar and they are informative but I don't know how I can translate this to my top bar hive. My hive can be seen on www.customwoodkits.com.
    I am plan on building some hives later on this winter with a friend, and would adapt them to mountain camp feed on top, but for now, I'm stymied.

  7. #6
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    Default Re: Feeding dry sugar in top bar hive in winter

    I am not refering to putting sugar above the bees. I am refering to putting sugar at the end of the stores they have. "nothing" is refering to no drawn combs between the two "dams" so that the space can be filled with sugar. The sugar is inside the current confines of the hive.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 42y 40h 39yTF

  8. #7

    Default Re: Feeding dry sugar in top bar hive in winter

    I put a cup or two of some dry sugar ("organic," with larger grains than usual) into the bottom of my top bar hive. A month later I looked in and the sugar had mostly turned into a puddle or syrup with dead bees in it. The hive was dead. The were more dead bees in the syrup than on the floor of the hive where the syrup had not reached. I am guessing that the sugar absorbed moisture from the cold wet Oregon air and turned to syrup, leading to the drowning of many bees leading to the rest of the bees dying of exposure because their numbers were down. Does this sound right? The shame of it all is I should not have worried about feed, the hive was chuck full of honey.

  9. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2018
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    Vancouver BC
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    Default Re: Feeding dry sugar in top bar hive in winter

    Organic sugar has too much stuff (molasses) in it and will disrupt the bees' intestinal tract. Use only pure refined sugar. I make fondant and place it in thin cakes on the floor under the cluster.

  10. #9
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    Default Re: Feeding dry sugar in top bar hive in winter

    Quote Originally Posted by laurelmtnlover View Post
    I am plan on building some hives later on this winter with a friend, and would adapt them to mountain camp feed on top, but for now, I'm stymied.
    Inability to supply feed above Top Bars was one reason why I stopped using TBH's.

    I did made one possible solution:





    ... but never did try using the above.


    If I were ever to be faced with the same problem today (which admittedly is unlikely ...), then I'd probably make something similar to this:


    Think of it as a follower board made from (say) 10mm plywood, with a central cut-out at the top, extending down below the level of the Top Bars by around 10-15mm. If this board were then to be placed in-between Top Bars at the edge of a brood nest (NOT within it) that would provide access to feed placed above those Top Bars - either loose sugar, or with a suitable spacer - any kind of overhead syrup feeder.

    I'd also provide easy access through this 'follower board' either by holes as shown, or some suitable slots - whatever is easiest to make. I think it should work ok.

    LJ

    Almost forgot - with a flat roof, fit a shim between the Top Bars and the roof. A pitched roof automatically provides a space which can be used for an overhead feeder - much better idea.
    A Heretics Guide to Beekeeping http://heretics-guide.atwebpages.com/

  11. #10
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    Default Re: Feeding dry sugar in top bar hive in winter

    Quote Originally Posted by OregonBees View Post
    I am guessing that the sugar absorbed moisture from the cold wet Oregon air and turned to syrup, leading to the drowning of many bees leading to the rest of the bees dying of exposure because their numbers were down. Does this sound right?
    No, it doesn't sound right. We put sugar in when wintering mating nucs, pure refined sugar, the clean white stuff. It doesn't turn into a syrup, it turns into a brick very quickly, and I'm willing to bet Campbell River is much wetter than you are in Oregon.

    With organic sugar (the dirty stuff), all bets are off because it's not pure sucrose, it's got lots of other solids in there to prevent it from behaving like sugar. Feed that to the bees in the summer when they can get out for relief flights every day and you probably wont notice a problem. Feed it during winter when bees are confined to the cluster and cant get out for relief flights, it can be a death sentence for the colony. Once the tummy is full and they reach the point of 'cant hold it anymore', dysentry inside the hive will begin, and that will quickly kill the colony.

  12. #11

    Default Re: Feeding dry sugar in top bar hive in winter

    Thanks for the replies. Did not know that about organic sugar. Somehow it got very wet and many bees looked liked they died of drowning rather than dysentery, as they were immersed in the goo. Wish I had not been so eager to give them a hand. Live and learn.

  13. #12
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    Aug 2013
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    Isle of Wight, VA
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    Default Re: Feeding dry sugar in top bar hive in winter

    I have pressed fondant into brood combs to feed my topbar hives, but it is too much work. I prefer to make a sugar brick with 3 cups of sugar to 1/4 cup of water. Mix until it is like sugar sand. Press into a rectangle tin. Let dry a few days and then hang from an empty topbar in the brood nest near the cluster by using a mesh bag like Kroger sells their discount product in.

    sugar brick.jpg

  14. #13
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    Jun 2018
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    Default Re: Feeding dry sugar in top bar hive in winter

    Quote Originally Posted by ruthiesbees View Post
    Let dry a few days and then hang from an empty topbar in the brood nest near the cluster by using a mesh bag like Kroger sells their discount product in.

    sugar brick.jpg
    This is a neat idea, Ruth. I ended up building a feeding shim to go on top of the hive, but this would certainly be a better option.

    Feeding Shim.jpg 20191120_140423.jpg
    Ecclesiastes 11:4

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