Empty of stores, booming bee population, scared to overfeed/swarm? Suggestions?
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  1. #1
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    Mar 2016
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    Johnstown, OH
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    Default Empty of stores, booming bee population, scared to overfeed/swarm? Suggestions?

    Help! I have three hives, all with very late starts to the season due to splits & requesting (won’t go into the lengthly details here). Last year, I overfed during dearths which in turn led to late summer swarms, and determined not to repeat that mistake, I avoided feeding my hives this year in an effort to just “let them be.” Well, now I have three hives, all with queens laying very well, lots of activity, bringing pollen in, but next to NO HONEY stores at all - like none! My one one had overwintered with a near full medium that I left on and that has recently been consumed during the latest dearth as well!

    I, of course, know that there will be no harvest this year, but I was expecting that as I was focusing on building up hives and knowing that there was a lot of comb to draw out in the deeps going from one hive to three. Still, a few of the frames in the newer deeps on each hive aren’t even drawn all the way out. Each hive had a few queen cells that were empty, so I don’t know that they would feel pressured to swarm with so few resources and so much extra space for expansion. Still, I know I need to work on feeding but am scared to put the pressure on three nearly empty hives (empty of stores but FULL of bees!).

    I’m in Ohio and while I’ve been seeing a lot of golden pollen coming in, there doesn’t seem to be a large amount of goldenrod popping up along the field edges here yet. Does anyone have any suggestions/precautions other than feeding? Each hive has two deeps with several full frames of brood (of varying ages) plus the one hive with the empty medium that I was going to let them winter with (although it has since been emptied). I I am using enclosed hive top feeders under an empty super (picture below). Should I just keep feeding what they’ll take? Back off and hope for some goldenrod nectar for a more natural food source? I do have fondant in the freezer, put aside knowing that I may need to add emergency feed for the winer of course.

    Any suggestions, words of wisdom, or encouragement appreciated

    (Will also add that recent mite counts below threshold, all queens have great laying patterns, no other big red flags other than booming brood but lack of stores.)

    feeder.jpg

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
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    Sandpoint, ID, USA
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    Default Re: Empty of stores, booming bee population, scared to overfeed/swarm? Suggestions?

    If you have booming brood, then you have to have some sort of nectar coming in. It just may be that since they are such a booming hive that the turnover rate is quicker therefore it looks like nothing is being stored. If that's the case then I'm jealous of your dearth.

    If your banking on a golden rod flow, then wait to feed until after your sure it has bloomed. If they're not up to snuff after golden rod, feed them the heavy syrup hard and fast. Just depends on your window from the time the golden rod stops blooming and when it becomes too cold to feed syrup.

    I don't remember how much those hive feeders hold at one time, but even if its a gallon, you might be hard pressed to keep it full before your next opportunity to fill it. I have a 2 gallon frame feeder and when i fill it with heavy syrup like i am now, it can disappear within days. But the next i lift a box to feed them i know it all went into the comb and not to the bees, so to speak.

  4. #3
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    Mar 2016
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    Johnstown, OH
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    273

    Default Re: Empty of stores, booming bee population, scared to overfeed/swarm? Suggestions?

    I should have added that I've minimally fed two of my three hives in the past week and a half (not even a total gallon each) and that the third hive had that extra medium from last winter that they depleted during the hive, so I think that's what allowed them to keep raising new brood. Almost none of the fed syrup ended up as stores as of yet. The nice part about those feeders is that they're easy to refill frequently without actually opening up the hive boxes. I'm just going to feed syrup for now (currently mixing some up for the third hive, which I wasn't planning on feeding until after this morning's inspection) and cross my fingers. I just get worried that they'll be over-stimulated and with the relatively large population of bees (and more on the way in the brood nest) will want to late swarm, which is the LAST thing I want at this time of year!

    Learning a lot in my second year, hoping the observations and skills actually translates into a honey harvest my third year!

  5. #4
    Join Date
    May 2016
    Location
    Washington, USA
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    473

    Default Re: Empty of stores, booming bee population, scared to overfeed/swarm? Suggestions?

    Starved hives don't swarm.
    Somebody forgot to give my bees a copy of the book.
    Zone 6B

  6. #5

    Default Re: Empty of stores, booming bee population, scared to overfeed/swarm? Suggestions?

    If you are feeding do 2to 1. I would plan on a candy board for this winter. 25 lb of sugar to a qt of water or Apple cider vinegar. Some thing you can make now and let get hard in the shop. Then late oct you can put it on. You will need some type of shim.

  7. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2015
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    Jackson, Ohio (SE Ohio) USA
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    817

    Default Re: Empty of stores, booming bee population, scared to overfeed/swarm? Suggestions?

    I'd feed, if they take it, you know there's not much coming in, if they don't the question is answered. Sounds like you're going to be feeding in a month or so anyway. Sugar is cheap compared to bees.

  8. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
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    Sandpoint, ID, USA
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    Default Re: Empty of stores, booming bee population, scared to overfeed/swarm? Suggestions?

    It's also past the solstice so the idea of them swarming is next to nothing...

  9. #8
    Join Date
    Sep 2014
    Location
    Dayton, Ohio
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    249

    Default Re: Empty of stores, booming bee population, scared to overfeed/swarm? Suggestions?

    On the hives I have that are similar to your description I have switched to feeding 2-1. I am concerned about an early and cold winter based on the weather we are having.
    Someone on this site once published, or referred to a publication, about how fast bees could fill and cap syrup. I'll try and find it for you. Anyway, could help you plan better.

  10. #9
    Join Date
    Apr 2015
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    Jackson, Ohio (SE Ohio) USA
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    Default Re: Empty of stores, booming bee population, scared to overfeed/swarm? Suggestions?

    jvalentour. Totally agree, about three hours from you, 54 night before last. This is Ohio in late August?

  11. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
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    Johnstown, OH
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    Default Re: Empty of stores, booming bee population, scared to overfeed/swarm? Suggestions?

    Thanks, all! And yes, any articles or resources would be appreciated!

    I've got feeders on all three and will try to keep feeding. The amount I put in the first two earlier today was already completely sucked dry by this evening when I went out to put the feeder on the third hive, so I guess that shows that they need it! I'm going to need to go buy more sugar now! I was glad to see them bringing in pollen, so at least they'll have some real pollen stores so that all their stores aren't artificial I guess. I did a candy board last winter (well a candy board in an overwintering type cover from Mann Lake), and while it worked okay it sort of fell apart and I was thinking fondant this year as my back up. Hoping, of course, that they can still bring in at least some nectar from a late goldenrod flow and store/cap some syrup.

  12. #11
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    Sandpoint, ID, USA
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    Default Re: Empty of stores, booming bee population, scared to overfeed/swarm? Suggestions?

    Essentially depending on how much they weigh, whatever is needed for them to over winter you are going to need to buy the difference in sugar.

    If they weigh, say 50 pounds and they need to weigh 150 by winter, that's 100 pounds difference. You'll need to give that hive 4 25 lb bags of sugar. This doesn't account for the water weight as the syrup at an approximate 17% moisture content. But its better to have too much than not enough for later, IMO.

    That and they're going to consume some of it converting the sugar over along with rearing brood.

  13. #12
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    Dec 2012
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    Sacramento, CA, USA
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    Default Re: Empty of stores, booming bee population, scared to overfeed/swarm? Suggestions?

    A situation like this I would start feeding. The winter is coming soon up there. You don't have
    much time for them to make the new bees before the winter sets in. You don't have to worry about
    over feeding because you can monitor the brood nest for back filling every 2 week. And check for QCs too. Before
    you knew it winter is just around the corner where you're at. A controlled feeding will not let them swarm. Over filling the
    brood nest will. Just feed to see if they will fill up a super or 2 instead of back filling the brood nest. If they are short then
    you can add the sugar bricks during the winter months too.
    Don't mix foreign bees into a virgin hive. She might get balled 100% of the time! When will you ever learn, huh?

  14. #13
    Join Date
    Dec 2015
    Location
    Sawyer County,WI USA
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    Default Re: Empty of stores, booming bee population, scared to overfeed/swarm? Suggestions?

    This is what we've already done up here, as August is when we begin preparing for Winter.

    The OP did not say how many boxes are holding these colonies, so I'd recommend 'condensing' them right now if they are in more than two Deeps, which means removing any 'empty' frames and/or boxes. Rearrange frames if necessary, making sure that brood is on the bottom, and any honey is to the sides and above. Feed 'thick' syrup sparingly until Goldenrod has completely stopped, then feed hard and fast once you've gotten a hard frost.

    Its kinda late to do much else IMHO.

  15. #14
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    Washington County, Maine
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    Default Re: Empty of stores, booming bee population, scared to overfeed/swarm? Suggestions?

    Quote Originally Posted by hex0rz View Post
    It's also past the solstice so the idea of them swarming is next to nothing...
    And I caught a swarm yesterday.

  16. #15
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    Nov 2008
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    Grand Rapids, Ohio
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    Default Re: Empty of stores, booming bee population, scared to overfeed/swarm? Suggestions?

    FEED, FEED, and FEED. Weather hasn't been right here in Ohio for the golden rod, pollen yes, nectar no.

  17. #16
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
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    Johnstown, OH
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    Default Re: Empty of stores, booming bee population, scared to overfeed/swarm? Suggestions?

    Just following up. Thanks again for all the input! I fed over the past week and checked in on Monday to find that they'd filled a few frames, either just syrup or some other nectar coming in too as well as put away some more pollen. I was encouraged by what I saw but know I have a ways to go! It seems that there's some goldenrod popping up here and fair (chilly-ish but not too bad) weather this week here in Ohio, so I took the feeders off and will keep them off for the next week and a half or so to encourage them to forage while they can. The feeders I have let you put about half a gallon in at a time and are easy to access without opening the whole hive, so after that it will be easy to feed in the morning on some days with the hope that they'll be able to take the nectar down to the comb before the temp drops in the evening (this past period of feeding they had sucked the feeders dry in that amount of time). Hoping to add the feeders next week and do another mite check to evaluate the rest of my winter plan.

  18. #17
    Join Date
    Apr 2016
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    Rutland County, Vermont,USA
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    Default Re: Empty of stores, booming bee population, scared to overfeed/swarm? Suggestions?

    I am a second year also and was concerned last fall because my hives were not storing the sugar water very quickly. What I learned here from more experienced beeks is that you need to feed large amounts all at once and do not let the feeders run dry. Last year I used hive top feeders. This year I will be using several 1 gal paint cans placed on the top bars and putting it to them. There are several threads on this method. Look up Michael Palmer. Best of luck, J

  19. #18
    Join Date
    Oct 2014
    Location
    Omaha Nebraska USA
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    17

    Default Re: Empty of stores, booming bee population, scared to overfeed/swarm? Suggestions?

    The OP's situation in a nearby thread was similar to yours: feeding to get colony to winter weight. Oldtimer's response was spot on - IMHO - and applies equally well in your situation, where you want to feed but not induce swarming.

    Here is what Oldtimer wrote (he is in New Zealand): [QUOTE] Thing with feeders, is go big. For the kind of work you are doing I use 4 gallon top feeders. A reasonable colony can empty them in from 3 to 7 days, this is too much feed all at once for the bees to use, so they store it, which is what we want. A colony getting near winter with no stores, I'll give it 4 gallons of 2.1, and a couple weeks later another 4 gallons. This is too quick to stimulate the hive much and make them waste syrup raising brood, and will be enough stores in the comb to get the hive through winter, at least where I am.

  20. #19
    Join Date
    Apr 2015
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    Jackson, Ohio (SE Ohio) USA
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    Default Re: Empty of stores, booming bee population, scared to overfeed/swarm? Suggestions?

    FWIW, when I got into beekeeping, looked at feeders, entrance, etc. and decided if a hive needed feeding, IT NEEDED FEEDING, so went with hive top feeders, think they hold 3-3.5gallons. Always surprised how fast they get emptied. I might have learned something about temperature and syrup last "winter." I was filling feeders the end of January, daytime temps were 55-60 bees foraging everywhere and coming back empty. Got cooler at night, but when the temp was up, they fed. Answering the obvious, I'd checked the hives in the fall and they were in good shape as to weight. Then, we didn't have a winter and foragers were flying almost every day used up a lot of resources. There was an email sent out by the state beekeeper in January that essentially said, "check your hives." I did and was surprised at how light they were until I thought about it. Something else I learned, if there is syrup in a feeder, bees are flying, but not taking syrup, it's because they're bringing in nectar which they prefer. I'm fine with that, syrup is cheap, compared to losing a colony.
    Last edited by exmar; 09-06-2017 at 08:38 PM.

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