This is my first year for bee keeping. I live in Alaska and am working on getting my hives ready for winter. I need some advice. We just get one harvest up here which happened last week. We had a great summer for the bees and now I need to feed them up for winter. I know it is best to leave them their own honey and that works great down in America....but that would pretty much negate the use for bees in Alaska as they would take it all every year. Over wintering is very problematic up here. So we steal alot of the honey and feed to try to overwinter them. I started feeding 2:1 sugar water three days ago. Boy can they pack it away. My strongest hive downed almost two gallons the first 24 hours.
My question has to do with total volume. They have 3, 8 frame supers and I am wondering if I am going to have a brood chamber with nothing but sugar water and no brood. Our first frost is usually the 15th of September but feeding in September can be touch and go as day temps may only be in the 50's. I am worried I will miss my opportunity to feed them enough to make it through the winter, but I also want to have brood as late as she will lay to get the winter bee population high enough to make it through. I have Carnies so they are fairly frugal on using winter stores.
I also have a few frames that are not drawn out fully yet. Will they draw those out this late in the summer and fill them even though the nectar flow is about over. Will the 2:1 give them incentive to draw out the comb?
Thanks for any input. I have been reading and learning as much as I can but bees are of course very local in nature..... It leaves me with so many unanswered questions. This forum has been a great learning tool for me.
The question you don't ask but should: is the volume of the three 8 frame boxes large enough for bees to over winter on there? Yes, you will probably end up with a box entirely packed with honey and no brood. And the frames that are not already drawn will most likely not be drawn ahead of winter. You really need local information on what is usual for stores and over wintering. Where I am in Maine, I would not think of overwintering less than four 8 frame mediums. But then, I don't take anything but surplus honey to the bees needs - in other words practices vary; and you need to find out what is really needed from truly local sources for successful overwintering in your area.
I kept bees at my place just outside Circle until the moss fire made the place a mess of fallen trees. So I an sort of familiar with the situation of beekeeping in the 49th state.
When we refer to supers we generally are referring to superstructures that are placed above the normal hive bodies, in most instances these are medium boxes. so the term super leaves many with some confusion on what you are using. here is how I managed my hives for overwintering when I was there.
Your timing is good the bees should be able to pack away enough syrup by September if you really pour it to them. I ran three 10 frame deeps on my hives. after extracting I fed 2 to1 syrup until daytime temperatures remained below 50F, I always had one hive that was fed whenever they would take it which was whenever there was no flow, to this hive I added deep supers. as many as the bees would fill. Which was rarely more than two. When daytime temps remained in the 50 I would use frames from this hive to fill in the three others I had there. with all hives full. And yes the top box was usually all stores. The middle about 65% stores and the bottom about 50%. I would them place a deep super on top which had a 4 inch space then a screened division which lined with two layers of burlap then was filled with hollow fill a 3" section of the frame rest was removed from each end for ventilation. Inside the 4 inch space directly on the top bars I stack two 2' thick sugar cakes. The inner cover and telescoping cover were placed on. The hive was then winterized with insolation. The first fairly warm day that came along I would add more sugar cakes if needed they usually were! Although my overwinter success was the worst I have ever had at about 25% it was good for the area at that time. Hope this helps.
Thanks for all the great input. I should have been more clear in my first post. I do run all medium boxes just to keep everything the same. It's easier to change things out and switch between hives. I didn't ask how much as I know the answer is always "it's local". I have been deciding that too. I have a friend who is helping me and he ran 3 mediums last winter on his hive and was successful. It was an warm winter and early spring however. The bees were bringing back pollen the first of April which is crazy for up here. I live in Anchorage so our weather is really not that cold, it's just a long winter. Circle is a hard place to winter bees I can imagine. I spend some time up that direction in the winter.
My plan was to get 125lbs of honey sugar into the hive along with all the other honey I left due to being uncapped or in the brood chamber. If I have to add a forth level to get them to take it, I can do that. I need to extract some of my frames soon to get them back into the hives so they can fill them. I don't have enough drawn frames being this is my first year. I guess my major concern was honeying out the brood chamber too early and having to old of bees going into the winter. The poor things have a long season of shivering in the hive ahead and I don't want them to fail due to lack of younger bees. It's a balancing act, at least in my mind.
I have a rocking hive, a decent hive, and one that was lacking a laying queen for a month this summer. They have a great layer now but she only got the first eggs laid around the 14th of July so they are short on recruits compared to the other hives. I'm sure that they will need different amounts of food based on having more or less bees. It will be a great learning curve for me I'm sure. I told my wife that if I can get one hive to make the winter, it will pay for all the sugar I'm buying now to get them ready. I think she thinks I'm crazy