how to prep hive for winter with very little honey
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2018
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    Erie, PA
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    Default how to prep hive for winter with very little honey

    Background:
    Last years first bee keeping adventure ended with complete death over an insanely snowy and long winter (200 inches of snow).
    After pulling the hive in to clean up all the hive in prep for this year i found that there was still a significant amount of honey left in the super, and some left in the brood box


    This year:
    Put in a package of bees mid summer due to issues with supplier. They where slow to get going but I can say that the bee population seams to be very good. They are covering most of the free space in the hive it seams and there is alot of activity. On hot days the front of the hive is mostly covered with them. My assumption was that the honey super would be mostly full by the end of the golden rod season and that I would harvest maybe 1 frame of honey and leave the rest for them over winter.
    I can observe them coming into the hive with what seams like a lot of pollen on their legs.
    I decided to treat with mite away quick strips last week in order to have best chance of success going into the first winter.
    Opening the hive to my supprise there was very little to no honey in the super. The frames are covered with bees which look to be working but there just isnt much honey. In fact the honey that was left by the previous years bees is even gone (as stated earlier all of the honey super frames where at least 50% full and capped when i placed the super onto the brood box this year).

    So my assumption is without some kind of feeding from me there is no way the bees will be able to survive the winter.

    What do I do next???

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2017
    Location
    mt juliet, tn
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    37

    Default Re: how to prep hive for winter with very little honey

    It would be good if you put your location in your profile so people in your area could respond. I'm from a much warmer area then you. I know because we get about one foot of snow through out the winter so i can't really advise but in my area I would take the supers off and feed syrup until it gets too cool then put a sugar mixture on top of the frames.

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2015
    Location
    tell city, in.
    Posts
    95

    Default Re: how to prep hive for winter with very little honey

    You need to feed 2to1 sugar syrup until they are up to weight.or they won't make it through winter.

  5. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    Seattle WA
    Posts
    1,122

    Default Re: how to prep hive for winter with very little honey

    Your profile does not show where you are located so I have no timeline of how quickly winter is coming for you. If you have some time, start feeding 2:1 sugar water immediately. They will start storing it the same day. There probably is not enough time for them to store enough to get through winter so the next recommendation is to make sugar blocks. The most frequently recommended recipe for them can be found here: https://www.beesource.com/forums/sho...r-sugar-blocks. I have had hives survive for months on these sugar blocks and their use has been well tested. I don't add the electrolytes, scented oils or the citric acid and they still work great. Make a one half to one inch shim for the top of the hive so there is a nice space for the blocks to fit.

  6. #5
    Join Date
    Sep 2018
    Location
    Erie, PA
    Posts
    20

    Default Re: how to prep hive for winter with very little honey

    Quote Originally Posted by dudelt View Post
    Your profile does not show where you are located so I have no timeline of how quickly winter is coming for you. If you have some time, start feeding 2:1 sugar water immediately. They will start storing it the same day. There probably is not enough time for them to store enough to get through winter so the next recommendation is to make sugar blocks. The most frequently recommended recipe for them can be found here: https://www.beesource.com/forums/sho...r-sugar-blocks. I have had hives survive for months on these sugar blocks and their use has been well tested. I don't add the electrolytes, scented oils or the citric acid and they still work great. Make a one half to one inch shim for the top of the hive so there is a nice space for the blocks to fit.
    I am in Erie Pennsylvania (USA)
    The leaves are just starting to show signs of changing here.

    How is best way to feed the sugar water? I know there are feeders that I can hang in hive but i was hopping not to go that route.

  7. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2015
    Location
    Rosebud Missouri
    Posts
    3,941

    Default Re: how to prep hive for winter with very little honey

    I like hive top feeders that I can put a couple gal in at a time but since I have few of them, I like baggie feeders in a shim on the top bar. This will let you feed a gal at a time with two baggies on the top bars. If I had gal paint cans, I think I would really like that too. If you use baggies, 1.5 inch shim with about half gal in baggie, two baggies per hive and change every two days till you get what you want in the hives.

    Paint cans, just put enough on at one time and wait a week and take the cans off.
    Good luck
    gww
    zone 5b

  8. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2017
    Location
    Green Ridge, Missouri
    Posts
    76

    Default Re: how to prep hive for winter with very little honey

    Boardman feeders with half gallon jars with 2 to 1 syrup until cold - then sugar patties. I like the jars on boardmans so I can know how much syrup each is taking every day.

  9. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    Seattle WA
    Posts
    1,122

    Default Re: how to prep hive for winter with very little honey

    I use a hive top feeder that uses quart bottles. That way I can see how much has been used without opening up the hive. It is easy to switch out bottles with very little disturbance to the hive. It sits on the inner cover covering up the hole. There are no issues with robbing. Here is a picture from the Dadant catalogue: Capture.PNG

  10. #9
    Join Date
    Sep 2018
    Location
    Erie, PA
    Posts
    20

    Default Re: how to prep hive for winter with very little honey

    I made a 4 jar top feeder and was anticipating placing it on top of the hive.

    Today when i went in to inspect the hive (and remove the mite away quick strips) I found that the girls had been very busy of the past week and a half albeit there is no capped honey in the super nearly all the cells are about half full based on my observations.

    I did put the feeder on.....but should i take it off so that they continue to forage for nectar and make a better stockpile of honey. My thought is that why leave the hive and do work when we can just get fat on sugar that is sitting right here?

    Let me know

  11. #10
    Join Date
    Apr 2017
    Location
    Aylett, Virginia
    Posts
    3,411

    Default Re: how to prep hive for winter with very little honey

    You should have several frames of either capped honey or sugar syrup by now. If not, keep feeding them. It sounds like you had a small dearth and they consumed all the resources in the hive. Might be a good idea to check pollen stores too. You should have at least half a frame or more of solid pollen.
    Thankfully, the bees are smarter than I am. They are doing well, in spite of my efforts to help them.

  12. #11
    Join Date
    Apr 2015
    Location
    woodland, wa usa
    Posts
    37

    Default Re: how to prep hive for winter with very little honey

    Just saying, for knowledgeable baseline. You stated "package of bees mid summer". Here, SW WA, our flow this year ended well before June 1st, ie. even before the beginning of summer. So, here, anyone starting a hive about June 1st would have had much problem getting a hive built, due to the fact we were well into the dearth by the 1st and it would have been necessary to feed copious amounts of sugar water to go with the pollen the bees were still able to bring in. And we have a poor fall nectar supply, once the rain begins again (which it recently has).

    Many of my hives backfilled their top deep (of the double deep) during the flow, even with the supers still on, and forcing queenie and brood down into the bottom deep, and forming that honey crown they'll be using starting 5-6 months from capping it. and forcing queenie and brood down into the bottom deep.

    My point: Every locale has an annual ebb and flow that generally is lead by the blooms/nectar flow, and simply followed by the bees, with their own ebb and flow. Happens every year about the same. What the beek needs to do is get a good grasp of their locale's ebb and flow, so they know whether they need to feed, or not, and how better to assist that late season started hive.

    In your case, it would seem you need decide whether to feed sugar water this fall to help create the honey crown, or simply feed dry sugar cake (such as 12 sugar:1 water) through winter. Both methods will work and both have their own pros and cons.

  13. #12
    Join Date
    Sep 2018
    Location
    Erie, PA
    Posts
    20

    Default Re: how to prep hive for winter with very little honey

    Quote Originally Posted by jnqpblk View Post
    Just saying, for knowledgeable baseline. You stated "package of bees mid summer". Here, SW WA, our flow this year ended well before June 1st, ie. even before the beginning of summer. So, here, anyone starting a hive about June 1st would have had much problem getting a hive built, due to the fact we were well into the dearth by the 1st and it would have been necessary to feed copious amounts of sugar water to go with the pollen the bees were still able to bring in. And we have a poor fall nectar supply, once the rain begins again (which it recently has).

    Many of my hives backfilled their top deep (of the double deep) during the flow, even with the supers still on, and forcing queenie and brood down into the bottom deep, and forming that honey crown they'll be using starting 5-6 months from capping it. and forcing queenie and brood down into the bottom deep.

    My point: Every locale has an annual ebb and flow that generally is lead by the blooms/nectar flow, and simply followed by the bees, with their own ebb and flow. Happens every year about the same. What the beek needs to do is get a good grasp of their locale's ebb and flow, so they know whether they need to feed, or not, and how better to assist that late season started hive.

    In your case, it would seem you need decide whether to feed sugar water this fall to help create the honey crown, or simply feed dry sugar cake (such as 12 sugar:1 water) through winter. Both methods will work and both have their own pros and cons.
    the girls never fail to suprise me.

    So to recap about 3 weeks ago i put on mite away quick strips as a preventive measure. When i did so i inspected the super as well as some of the brood box to find that there was little to no honey stock piled.

    When I pulled the quick strips out about a week ago they had def made some progress with filling up the super with honey but there was no honey capped in the super, but id say to estimate almost every cell had honey in it and id guess the majority where about half full

    This weekend I took a peek and nearly every cell in the honey super is full to the point where i expect them to start capping it any day. It is amazing that they went from empty to full in just 3 weeks like that.

    I did place the Sugar water on a week ago when i pulled the quick strips. Do the bees "store" the sugar water like honey in the super or is this just used day by day as an energy source?

  14. #13
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Location
    Mtn. View, Arkansas, USA
    Posts
    2,730

    Default Re: how to prep hive for winter with very little honey

    The bees process and store sugar syrup the same as they do nectar. They will use some for daily food and any surplus they will store in any available cells, whether in the brood nest or in supers.
    42 + years - 24 colonies - IPM disciple - Naturally Skeptic

  15. #14
    Join Date
    Sep 2018
    Location
    Erie, PA
    Posts
    20

    Default Re: how to prep hive for winter with very little honey

    Quote Originally Posted by AR Beekeeper View Post
    The bees process and store sugar syrup the same as they do nectar. They will use some for daily food and any surplus they will store in any available cells, whether in the brood nest or in supers.
    Is it safe to assume that the cells with sugar water in them are much lighter in color than actual honey cells?

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