insurance sugar hypothesis
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2014
    Location
    Tillamook, Oregon, USA
    Posts
    61

    Default insurance sugar hypothesis

    Last year, being new and nervous, I placed insurance sugar on the top bars early. In the spring they were into it, so I assumed that they needed it. Later I found that the bees had plenty capped resources down below and most likely would have made it through…

    Here’s my hypothesis: I’m thinking that bees might tend to move into the top box early when there’s sugar available, even ignoring capped resources down below and off to the sides…

    Am I off on this? I’m planning to only add emergency sugar if or when the bees are already up top.
    ~25 hives, 8 frame-medium; pacific coast; zone 8b; long, cool, wet winter; mild summer; 90" avg. rainfall

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2013
    Location
    international falls, Mn
    Posts
    699

    Default Re: insurance sugar hypothesis

    Good Thinking GarrickG.
    And I have a "Theory" that would include your "Hypothesis"
    1st---I think bees are selective with what they consume and when...
    I would like to think that they will consume the best carbohydrates available in mid-winter, which would be clean/white/sugar. Reason being that if they eat natural honey/pollon they will have to PooP which is undesirable both for them and me....
    2nd-- the second part of my theory is that they save the natural honey/pollen for spring when the temps are coming up and the queen is kicking it into gear and they need all the horsepower/pooping power available for making babies....
    -------
    A starved out hive has absolutely nothing left but wax and dead bees. I would much rather error on the safe side and have either sugar left over in the spring OR no sugar and the bees consuming the natural stuff in the spring when they really need it--Than---An dead box with nothing left but "undocumented consumer " bees

    ==McBee7==

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2015
    Location
    Jackson, Ohio (SE Ohio) USA
    Posts
    817

    Default Re: insurance sugar hypothesis

    IMHO, sugar is cheap, add some in the spring, worst case, they remove it during housekeeping. Best case, they need it and you've provided it.

  5. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2014
    Location
    Tillamook, Oregon, USA
    Posts
    61

    Default Re: insurance sugar hypothesis

    I guess my little dilemma is working out what my hive weight should be in the fall to have a bit of a buffer and not add sugar here mid winter. I got them up to 95lbs this fall. I'm hoping to add no sugar... Having them up top eating sugar last year goofed up my reckoning.
    ~25 hives, 8 frame-medium; pacific coast; zone 8b; long, cool, wet winter; mild summer; 90" avg. rainfall

  6. #5
    Join Date
    May 2014
    Location
    Washtenaw, Mi. USA
    Posts
    42

    Default Re: insurance sugar hypothesis

    $5 in sugar could save $150+ in bees.

  7. #6

    Default Re: insurance sugar hypothesis

    I do sugar boards. In the spring I reuse it by melt it down into surup. Melting might be a wrong word but it was all I could think of.

  8. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    Kirksville, Missouri USA
    Posts
    1,765

    Default Re: insurance sugar hypothesis

    I have had colonies side by side do opposite things. One was on the sugar from the beginning on, and the other was way down in the bottom box till it moved up through the boxes. I have had colonies start on top in the winter without sugar on top. This is just my theory, but I wonder if the warmest place in the hive is right under the roof. Heat rises and if they are right on the ceiling maybe the heat doesn't dissipate away so fast. I have some nucs that were on the ceiling like that, and when I added a 2" shim and sugar brick, they now cluster up off the frames up to the ceiling again right next to the sugar.

  9. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2013
    Location
    Marietta, Ohio USA
    Posts
    489

    Default Re: insurance sugar hypothesis

    In reference to the OP, more experienced beekeepers advise me not to put my sugar bricks and winter patties on too soon as it causes the bees to
    move up to soon in their boxes and then they are stuck at the top with honey and pollen below them. I have seen this with my own hives to I usually wait
    until mid to late December to put these emergency feeds in my boxes. Then I will check them in mid to late January to see how the sugar and patty are being consumed to
    determine if more is needed.

  10. #9
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Location
    KC, MO, USA
    Posts
    4,646

    Default Re: insurance sugar hypothesis

    Bees usually eat there way up when clustered, so having stores below the cluster might not help much if they don't get a cold break to go down and eat it. They also won't leave brood to work their way to stores.

    Having sugar blocks above the cluster will help them to have stores within reach as the cluster moves up.

    I too put block on in Dec, found most of the bees were already near the top. I think they may followed the heat.

  11. #10
    Join Date
    Jul 2013
    Location
    Erda ut
    Posts
    96

    Default Re: insurance sugar hypothesis

    GarrickG,

    Question for you , what kind of bottom boards do you run? The reason why I ask is because I run both screened bottom boards and solid bottom board and I have noticed that all the bees on the screen bottom boards all ways start in the upper deep going into winter regardless of the stores below. The solid bottom board bees will, most of the time, start in the lower deep and move up.

  12. #11
    Join Date
    Jul 2014
    Location
    Rutherford Co. NC
    Posts
    549

    Default Re: insurance sugar hypothesis

    I think that as sugar attracts moisture and becomes liquid syrup, even if only small droplets on the edges, the bees see it as nectar and collect it whether they have stores or not. If they have the luxury or viewing as extra, they will put in cells and cure it like honey from nectar.

    They stay buzy and it you put this in box, they are going to work it, hungry or otherwise.

  13. #12
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    Brasher Falls, NY, USA
    Posts
    34,541

    Default Re: insurance sugar hypothesis

    If there is a band of honey, or a full super of honey, above the clustered bees, those clustered bees will not leave the cluster to get to the sugar above them.
    Mark Berninghausen

  14. #13
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Algoma District Northern Ontario, Canada
    Posts
    5,074

    Default Re: insurance sugar hypothesis

    I think the speed and timing of feed in the fall will have an influence on where the cluster forms. The type of bee, Italian or Carni will have an influence as well. My bees are definitely NOT Italian by habit and as I feed syrup in double deep ten frame hives the bees fill and cap from the top downward as the brood emerges and the queen lays further and further down into the bottom deep.

    At about 130 lbs gross hive weight there will be only a small arch of brood cells in the upper box middle three frames. That works good for my conditions and no top feed is needed; After three years I got tired of cleaning it out in the spring. Everyone has to work out what is best for their own condidtions though.

    If you pull supers late, leaving the two deeps you will often find the brood mostly in the upper box and they will be above a good portion of their food. That may work for warmer climates as they will get many days they can break cluster and move honey up or in from the sides. Not so good with long sub zero periods with no breaks.

    Some people deliberately move frames of honey up above the cluster to make sure there is food directly overhead. I dont like disturbing things late in the season but it might be necessary depending on your weather, flow conditions, harvest schedule, mangagement style etc. Running an unlimited brood nest system will show a different picture than using excluder. Warmer climates and different bees could well need more stores so there is no "one size fits all" answer............ I probably only muddy the water!
    Frank

  15. #14
    Join Date
    Dec 2014
    Location
    Nova Scotia Canada
    Posts
    87

    Default Re: insurance sugar hypothesis

    Quote Originally Posted by smokin_trout View Post
    $5 in sugar could save $150+ in bees.
    what he said

    however i was talking to a professional beek the other day and he had a totally different view on the matter . he does not like to feed or add sugar to his hives , he had several good reasons for this but mostly it came town to time and money . with so many hives it was not practical from a time or financial point of view to add sugar as insurance .
    plus he has years of experience that enable him to better gage just how much the bees need , and the resources ready to hand if he has to recover .

    as a hobby beek , i don't have the experience or the resources . if i loose a hive it hurts my operation far more than it would a pro beek with hundreds of hives . so spending a few bucks and a hour or 2 making sugar cakes is well worth it for me .

  16. #15
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Great Falls Montana
    Posts
    7,837

    Default Re: insurance sugar hypothesis

    I first kept bees in the never ending winter in North Dakota in the seventies and we had winters where it did not get above zero let alone freezing for literally months. I wish I would have been putting sugar on top then. I tried candy boards but never got them right and bees would end up a soggy dead mess or made literally a stove pipe hole up thru the full top deep and starved to death on the lid. A ten pound bag of sugar would have saved me scores of colonies. Now in less stringent climatic times (for now) I may not need the insurance but am convinced that it saves more than enough colonies who did not go into winter as well prepared as they should have. Like Uncle Orville said, "if you don't like my gate, don't swing on it."

  17. #16
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Location
    FRASER VALLEY, BRITISH COLUMBIA
    Posts
    2,069

    Default Re: insurance sugar hypothesis

    Quote Originally Posted by GarrickG View Post
    I guess my little dilemma is working out what my hive weight should be in the fall to have a bit of a buffer and not add sugar here mid winter. I got them up to 95lbs this fall. I'm hoping to add no sugar... Having them up top eating sugar last year goofed up my reckoning.
    95 pounds seems very light to me. I see you have 8 frame Dadants. When you overwinter the colonies are they in 2 or 3 boxes?If it is 3 boxes that seems light to me. If they are in 2 boxes that seems more or less right. I would say instead on mucking with placing sugar bricks or dry colonies feed earlier and a little more so that they do not need dry sugar later.

    Jean-Marc

  18. #17
    Join Date
    Jan 2016
    Location
    Ozark, AL
    Posts
    821

    Default Re: insurance sugar hypothesis

    Quote Originally Posted by NSBee View Post
    what he said

    however i was talking to a professional beek the other day and he had a totally different view on the matter . he does not like to feed or add sugar to his hives , he had several good reasons for this but mostly it came town to time and money . with so many hives it was not practical from a time or financial point of view to add sugar as insurance .
    plus he has years of experience that enable him to better gage just how much the bees need , and the resources ready to hand if he has to recover .

    as a hobby beek , i don't have the experience or the resources . if i loose a hive it hurts my operation far more than it would a pro beek with hundreds of hives . so spending a few bucks and a hour or 2 making sugar cakes is well worth it for me .
    Well stated. As most insurance it is better to have it and not need it then need it and not have it. Even if my bees do not need the extra sugar/feed if I rest easier with each hive having a few pounds of sugar added then it is worth the cost and my time.

  19. #18
    Join Date
    Nov 2014
    Location
    Tillamook, Oregon, USA
    Posts
    61

    Default Re: insurance sugar hypothesis

    Quote Originally Posted by jean-marc View Post
    95 pounds seems very light to me. I see you have 8 frame Dadants. When you overwinter the colonies are they in 2 or 3 boxes?If it is 3 boxes that seems light to me. If they are in 2 boxes that seems more or less right. I would say instead on mucking with placing sugar bricks or dry colonies feed earlier and a little more so that they do not need dry sugar later.

    Jean-Marc
    All my hive are 2 or 3 medium 8 frame boxes high. My goal was 95lbs. before mid-November. My winters are mildish (just very, very, wet) and I imagine my bees have plenty of opportunity to move cluster. I'll monitor and see if this is a good weight for me and feed heavier next fall if it isn't...
    ~25 hives, 8 frame-medium; pacific coast; zone 8b; long, cool, wet winter; mild summer; 90" avg. rainfall

  20. #19
    Join Date
    Nov 2014
    Location
    Tillamook, Oregon, USA
    Posts
    61

    Default Re: insurance sugar hypothesis

    Quote Originally Posted by brownbuff75 View Post
    GarrickG,

    Question for you , what kind of bottom boards do you run? The reason why I ask is because I run both screened bottom boards and solid bottom board and I have noticed that all the bees on the screen bottom boards all ways start in the upper deep going into winter regardless of the stores below. The solid bottom board bees will, most of the time, start in the lower deep and move up.
    My hives are 8 frame mediums with slatted racks on solid bottoms. It's always wet here and my idea is to keep the hives kinda buttoned up and let the bees regulate the hive through the one entrance...
    ~25 hives, 8 frame-medium; pacific coast; zone 8b; long, cool, wet winter; mild summer; 90" avg. rainfall

  21. #20
    Join Date
    Jan 2017
    Location
    Indiana
    Posts
    15

    Default Re: insurance sugar hypothesis

    As a hobbyist I cannot afford to lose even a single colony. I use sugar as insurance to keep the bees from starving. 5bucks of sugar to keep hundred dollar bees from starving.

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