How to add food in winter?
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2016
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    Deer Lodge MT
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    Default How to add food in winter?

    This is our second winter in the wonderful world of bees. I believe I have made sure there were plenty of stores to get them through the winter. I have also added sugar bricks and candy depending on which hive. Of coarse as a newbie, I still worry about them running out of food or the possibility of not being able to access the food.

    Has anyone developed a way someone like myself could check on the bees and add food without a huge disruption? I know that is a lot to ask but thought someone may have run across something I havenít thought of.
    4a

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2016
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    Rutland County, Vermont,USA
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    Default Re: How to add food in winter?

    If you are adding sugar bricks and candy quickly to the top bars, that's not very disruptive at all. Maybe I am unsure of your question or situation with your hives. J

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2015
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    Idaho Falls, ID
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    Default Re: How to add food in winter?

    Quote Originally Posted by Fivej View Post
    If you are adding sugar bricks and candy quickly to the top bars, that's not very disruptive at all. Maybe I am unsure of your question or situation with your hives. J
    Agreed. I keep a quilt box top of my hives, so if i need to add candy or pollen i lift the quilt box and plop them on the top bars.
    -- Joe
    "Make your own decision and embrace the consequences." -- jwcarlson

  5. #4
    Join Date
    May 2016
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by lemmje View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Fivej View Post
    If you are adding sugar bricks and candy quickly to the top bars, that's not very disruptive at all. Maybe I am unsure of your question or situation with your hives. J
    Agreed. I keep a quilt box top of my hives, so if i need to add candy or pollen i lift the quilt box and plop them on the top bars.
    I use quilt boxes as well. For what ever reason my bees move to the top early and stay there. If I remove the quilt box to add any additional food the bees are clinging onto the bottom of the quilt box. It makes it hard to do much when you are basically tearing the cluster apart
    4a

  6. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
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    Livingston county,Michigan,USA
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    Default Re: How to add food in winter?

    I use a quilt box, but separate from the feeding shim with a screen. The bees aren't so prone to cluster on the screen as they were when the quilt box was directly on the feeding shim.

  7. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
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    Rensselaer County, NY, USA
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    Default Re: How to add food in winter?

    Don't worry about "tearing the cluster apart" for the very short time you will have the box tilted up to access the space in the feeding rim, while adding more bricks. It will reform almost immediately that the box is back in place. I think there is a lot of over-anxiety about the integrity of a cluster.

    One of the reasons I prefer to have quilt boxes on during the winter (instead of the conventional inner cover, etc.) is that QBs can be safely tilted up, and don't need to be removed. I actually prop them up with my hive tool during the brick-adding operation, so I have both hands free to nudge the remnants of the last patty or bricks aside to make space for the new supplies. I almost never remove the QB entirely.

    Propping up a QB takes a bit care to get it in a secure position, but it's worth experimenting a bit to find the best way to do this with your equipment. I place the bent end of the hive tool down in a front corner on top of the frames and the blade just inside the rim of the QB above (against the fabric) where it is less likely to slip. An inadvertently slammed-down QB really ruins your day (and squashes a lot of bees), so take the trouble to get it securely in place. My Qboxes don't seem to slide while tilted up, perhaps because I have foam weatherstripping on the top edges, and I have foam insulation sheets in place behind the stack. YMMV, so be very cautious, at first.

    I generally don't disturb the cluster of bees hanging from the bottom of the fabric during the operation, and make sure that when I set the box back down, no bees will be pinched along the edges (which can be a challenge to accomplish.) I usually have enough room to add the bricks where the cluster won't be affected by the reduced space - I push any remaining pieces aside, or backwards. If I do need to shift the bees away from where they are, I just gently scrape them off the fabric with my hive tool held very lightly against the fabric - they seem to fall down into the seams with no harm, and usually with without getting alarmed and flying. This takes a very delicate touch.

    Of course, except in starvation emergencies, I do my re-supplying when temperatures are no lower than the high 30s or mid 40s, and always during during a windless period.

    I find that the first re-entry to add more bricks can upset the bees a bit but after that they seem very blase about it, as if they somehow ahve learned that the brief burst of light and cold air is the prelude to another delivery of tasty chow. For that reason, I try to plan on doing that second supply run on an ideal, slightly warmer day, so that the ones that fly out can get back inside safely. After that, though, I just keep on adding bricks (and later on, pollen sub patty) as needed, until they stop needing them.

    I also always have my smoker well- lit and close at hand even though it's mostly not needed. Very rarely, however, conditions warrant some strong bee-guidance to keep, or get, them safely back inside before they get chilled.

    I found it impossible to work in leather bee gloves when operating in such constrained spaces (a QB tipped up only a few inches). It was the first task where I had to brave being gloveless (I had not discovered nitrile gloves at that point) in order to get it done efficiently and quickly. At the time (my first winter) it seemed like a difficult challenge to accept. But looking back, I think it was a very useful one as it came at just the right point in my evolving aquaintanceship with my bees when circumstances forced me to put their welfare over my remaining fears of them.

    Nancy

  8. #7
    Join Date
    Aug 2014
    Location
    England, UK
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    1,684

    Default Re: How to add food in winter?

    Quote Originally Posted by Aroc View Post
    Has anyone developed a way someone like myself could check on the bees and add food without a huge disruption? I know that is a lot to ask but thought someone may have run across something I havenít thought of.
    Yes.

    Because our winter temperatures are so erratic (overnight temperature the day before yesterday was 10deg C (50F), the night before that below zero, last night also below zero) - the bees never really get to settle, and so it's almost impossible to predict their winter stores usage.

    So - I've adopted a method of placing small jars of fondant (soft candy ?) over holes in the Crown Board (inner cover), with a weekly monitoring of these 'fuel gauges' from January onwards. As long as honey (or stored syrup) is present, the fondant is more-or-less ignored. They may pick at it, but won't wolf it down otherwise. Here's a typical pic.

    scoffing.jpg

    Sorry it's such a poor photo - as soon as the icy cold air hit that jar, it started to mist-up inside - but hopefully you can still make out about a dozen bees at the bottom, scoffing away ...

    So - that jar will now be replaced in a day or two - without needing to open the hive itself in any way. All that's required is to remove the 3" block of expanded polystyrene insulation, perform a jar swap and replace the block, along with the insulated jar covers. Zero winter losses since I started using this method.
    LJ
    A Heretics Guide to Beekeeping http://heretics-guide.atwebpages.com/

  9. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2016
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    Rutland County, Vermont,USA
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    Default Re: How to add food in winter?

    I see what you mean now AROC. I had the same issue with one hive last year. For this year, consider Nancy's advice. There is really no need to remove the QB if that is what you are doing. For next year, you might consider modifying your set-up a little. I am trying this set-up for the first time this winter and so far, so good: On the top box I have a feeding shim with an upper entrance. On top of this I have my QB. Around the bottom inside of my QB, I have a 3/4" ledger. On top of this ledger, I have hardware cloth cut out so it fits inside of the QB. I hold this down tight to the ledger with a finish nail on all sides. On top of the screen, I have a small pillow case stuffed with wood shavings. This year I added duct tape around the bottom edges of the hardware cloth and on the ledger board to discourage them from crawling up onto the screen. So far, that has worked but it is too early to say for sure.
    So when I need to add a sugar brick, I just remove the pillow and 2-3 finish nails (which are pounded in just enough to hold but easy to remove),lift up the screen and add the brick. The box stays on so it protects them from the wind and cold. This worked fairly well for me last year except the bees would sometimes cling to the screen. I am hoping that the addition of duct tape will solve this problem as they do not like walking on it. We shall see. J

  10. #9
    Join Date
    Jun 2014
    Location
    West Jordan, UT, USA
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    1,119

    Default Re: How to add food in winter?

    here's my method;
    open the top and check to see of they have got to the previous sugar block. If not, close it up and move to the next. If so and they're eating it, quickly place new sugar block on top bars, close the top. When all are done, dash to the house for a hot toddy.

  11. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Alexandria, MN
    Posts
    723

    Default Re: How to add food in winter?

    I mountain camp in the fall. If you donít know what that is...you take a shim and place over the hive. Put newspaper down and dump sugar on top of that. Close up the hive. You can put as much or as little as you want. I generally just fill the shim with as much sugar as I can. This will serve as emergency feed all winter long. As long as you build a deep enough shim you will have sugar left over in the spring (at least I generally do). Over the course of the winter it will also soak up moisture and keep it off of your bees. Double plus. I find my bees will chew on the sugar even when they have honey. I also work in an upper entrance into the shim.

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