Not enough honey stored; what to do?
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2015
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    Chicago, Illinois
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    8

    Default Not enough honey stored; what to do?

    Hello, Folks. We fear our hive doesn't have enough honey stored for them to overwinter. What should we do? We're in Illinois, so supplying sugar water throughout the winter isn't practicable due to the cold temps. Thanks!

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Location
    Mtn. View, Arkansas, USA
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    2,749

    Default Re: Not enough honey stored; what to do?

    Honey bee colonies are usually furnished with enough food in the fall in the form of sugar syrup to allow them to overwinter until the spring nectar begins, or until it is warm enough for the beekeeper to feed again.

    The amount varies with location, in your area it would amount to a full deep above a 10 frame brood chamber that has the 2 or 3 frames on each side filled. The syrup fed should be a 2:1 or a 5:3 mix, and the feeding should be completed before the weather is cold enough for the bees to cluster.

    I would recommend a Miller style top feeder, or gallon plastic paint buckets resting on 3/8 inch sticks on top of the frame top bars. This style feeding allows large amounts of syrup to be given in a short period, and this is what is wanted in fall feeding.
    42 + years - 24 colonies - IPM disciple - Naturally Skeptic

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2017
    Location
    Baltimore County, Maryland, USA
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    88

    Default Re: Not enough honey stored; what to do?

    Try feeding 2:1 NOW. I have a hive that is currently slurping over a gallon per day. I figure 8-10 gallons should get them through a worst than usual winter here in Maryland.

    Glen

  5. #4
    Join Date
    May 2018
    Location
    Hillsborough, Central NJ
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    128

    Default Re: Not enough honey stored; what to do?

    It's good to hear that I think I am doing what I am supposed to be doing as my first year with bees comes to a close.

    My colony had less honey stored than I had hoped they would when I inspected two weeks ago. I filled a frame feeder with 2:1 and put a quart feeder jar on top of the hive. They have gone thru 5 quarts of syrup from the jars in less than two weeks. Unfortunately, every day over the past week that I have had the time to go into the hive to refill the frame feeder and to check stores it has been raining.

    We have a great bloom of golden rod right now in central/northern NJ, so I am hoping that will help too!

  6. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
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    Rensselaer County, NY, USA
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    5,534

    Default Re: Not enough honey stored; what to do?

    Yes, you can feed syrup, but it will be less successful if there is both an absence of honey and no empty comb for the syrup to be stored.

    If the problem is that not enough drawn comb was created, feeding a lot of syrup may result in colony disruption, even swarming late in the season. Feeding syrup under those conditions should be done more cautiously.

    If the problem is that you harvested too much honey and there are now empty frames in honey supers, then put them back on and provide as much syrup as necessary to refill the cells. Bees probably do better on honey, as a general rule, but they will also do OK on sugar syrup. And in some cases syrup has less ash than late-season honey so it's easier for them to digest during periods when they can't get put to poop very often.

    If the colony didn't build out enough comb, it's also important to figure out why that occurred and correct the underlying problem, if possible. Some colonies just don't ramp up. In either case, I would also consider treating them as a nuc and get them into a reduced-sized space that matches the size of their drawn combs more closely.

    That needn't involve moving to nuc-sized boxes. You can reduce the interior space of regular equipment using follower boards and foam panels. If you only have enough combs for, say, somewhat more than a single deep, I'd divide the number of them in two, putting half in the lower box, and half in a second box above. Bees do better with food overhead than across a box, I think. If there is an uneven number put the extra frame in the upper box. The goal is a top layer of straight across honey or syrup, with a modest amount of pollen. (You can provide supplemental pollen later on if there is also a lack of it now.) The brood frames, bracketed by honey or syrup on both sides are left in the bottom box.


    So, feed 2:1 or 5:3 syrup like mad if you have the drawn comb to store it.

    Feed more judiciously if not and consider whether a small sized cavity within your boxes would be helpful.

    Add a feeding rim to stack the before winter so you can continue to supplement once syrup becomes untenable, which will happen when the nights regularly go below 50F so that the syrup will cool off too much. You can eke a few more weeks if you feed warm syrup every morning, and only enough so that the bees will take it all down before nightfall. The feeding rim on top of the colony will allow you to easily continue to provide sugar in solid form, either granulated, solid bricks, fondant or commercial winter patty as needed. It is not hard to provide (and replenish when needed) supplemental chow all winter long even in very cold climates.

    Figure out why the colony did not build-out, and fix that if you can.

    Check for mites and treat, as needed.

    If you need more info on setting up a reduced sized cavity within your boxes, post back, and I will be glad to add more details. I winter some colonies like that every winter.

    Nancy

  7. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    Seattle WA
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    1,153

    Default Re: Not enough honey stored; what to do?

    I had a colony a couple of years ago that really needed food early in the winter. I made up some sugar blocks and places them on the top of the frames in the top box. They clung to that block for the next 3 months. They overwintered using only the sugar blocks and did great in the spring. Feed what you can now and get some sugar blocks ready for emergency feeding.

  8. #7
    Join Date
    May 2018
    Location
    Hillsborough, Central NJ
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    128

    Default Re: Not enough honey stored; what to do?

    Can anyone point me in the direction of posts about how to make sugar blocks, fondant or other winter feed options?

    Oh, and for the love of god could someone PLEASE make the rain stop?? I have been trying for a week to find a day to get into my hive.


    TIA,

    Alan

  9. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    Seattle WA
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    1,153

    Default Re: Not enough honey stored; what to do?

    You will find several in the FAQ forum. The most commonly recommended one is here: https://www.beesource.com/forums/sho...r-sugar-blocks

    I use this one but leave out the electrolytes and citric acid.

  10. #9
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    Location
    Rensselaer County, NY, USA
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    Default Re: Not enough honey stored; what to do?

    I leave out the electrolytes, but leave in the citric acid to help invert the sugar and make it more digestible in the bees' wintering guts. The electrolytes in this recipe that are intended for large domesticated mammals.

    If this is your plan be sure to some kind of feeding/shim on before long. It can double as your winter top entrance.

    Nancy

  11. #10
    Join Date
    Apr 2017
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    Aylett, Virginia
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    3,753

    Default Re: Not enough honey stored; what to do?

    Hey Nancy, you know I think you are the greatest, but when did a chicken become a mammal? Agrilabs' "Vitamins and Electrolytes Plus" is for livestock and poultry. I use it and the bees love it. And aren't bees considered livestock?
    Thankfully, the bees are smarter than I am. They are doing well, in spite of my efforts to help them.

  12. #11
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
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    Rensselaer County, NY, USA
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    Default Re: Not enough honey stored; what to do?

    @JW,

    Oh shoot, I remember, now, When I tried to find the kind that Lauri specified, I couldn't find the same thing and all I could get locally was stuff for big animals. I used that for a couple of years, then re-thought it and 86'd it from my recipe-card. And I failed to recall that it wasn't exactly the same thing that Lauri started with in the first place.

    Yes, bees are livestock, but that descriptor alone isn't enough for me to be confident that it would be similar-enough for bees to what poultry also kept as livestock need to thrive. I doubt it is harmful, but I'm not sure it adds any improvement, either.

    When I started keeping bees, I was always looking for that magic ingredient, beekeeping practice, piece of equipment, etc., that would make up for my clueless inexperience. So I tried all kinds of stuff. But these days, I'm sort of devolving a bit from some of those things, while I hope keeping the best ones, like Lauri's basic sugar brick recipe (and how she makes them) and her genius-idea partial sheet modification to Matt Davey's notions about empty frames used as swarm deterrents.

    One of the most pleasurable things about beekeeping for me is being a member of what is the centuries-old craft of beekeeping which is populated mostly with Rube Goldberg-y types of people with their long tradition of coming up with novel ways to change things up. Sometimes I wonder if the personality type that thrives taking care of stinging bugs doesn't self select for an out-of-the-mold approach. It is a pretty odd thing to do, when you think about it.

    All beekeeping is local, and all beekeepers are a little bit idiosyncratic, don't you think?

    Nancy

  13. #12
    Join Date
    Apr 2017
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    Aylett, Virginia
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    3,753

    Default Re: Not enough honey stored; what to do?

    I'll admit I was taking a few liberties with the bees as livestock remark as it relates to the vitamin supplement. They specifically refer to cattle, sheep, swine, and horses in addition to poultry. The ingredients though are universally recognized as being essential to the health of all living things. For us, it would be like taking a One a Day with a sip of Gatorade.

    A "little bit idiosyncratic" doesn't even begin to describe some of us.
    Thankfully, the bees are smarter than I am. They are doing well, in spite of my efforts to help them.

  14. #13
    Join Date
    Oct 2013
    Location
    Lassen, California, USA
    Posts
    656

    Default Re: Not enough honey stored; what to do?

    Quote Originally Posted by Delia Seeberg View Post
    Hello, Folks. We fear our hive doesn't have enough honey stored for them to overwinter. What should we do? We're in Illinois, so supplying sugar water throughout the winter isn't practicable due to the cold temps. Thanks!
    I'm giving my hives Dadant Winter Patties, I neglected to make Lauri's sugar bricks this year. Usually I make Lauri's bricks and give each hive enough to cover about 3/4 of the frames. This year I was unable to make the bricks, so I'm going with the winter patties. Good luck.
    Some days it's not even worth chewing through the restraints.

  15. #14
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Location
    Catskills, New York, USA
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    1,551

    Default Re: Not enough honey stored; what to do?

    I have never had a problem with feeding my bees sugar over winter (in addition to stored honey); I mean the bees don’t have a problem, not me! I use a shim with slightly dampened sugar packed in it over attached hardware cloth on bottom w entrance, acts as a moisture absorber too. I do not add anything to the sugar. Some hives have devoured that sugar early and it’s easy to throw in a winter pattie if needed. The bees seem healthy and have a good Spring build-up.
    Proverbs 16:24

  16. #15
    Join Date
    Oct 2018
    Location
    Ithaca, NY
    Posts
    27

    Default Re: Not enough honey stored; what to do?

    Hi I have a question about the
    "If the problem is that not enough drawn comb was created, feeding a lot of syrup may result in colony disruption, even swarming late in the season. Feeding syrup under those conditions should be done more cautiously."

    I just acquired my first hive due to a swarm landing in my peach tree, very concerned about them making it through the winter, I do have bee patty but just started giving them sugar water in a top feeder, which they don't seem to have the least bit of interest in. Obviously there is very little comb as it has only been 2 weeks since I captured them. How do you recommend I proceed, should I stop the sugar water feeding??

  17. #16
    Join Date
    Oct 2017
    Location
    Swarthmore, Pennsylvania
    Posts
    197

    Default Re: Not enough honey stored; what to do?

    Just wanted to add to what Nancy said about the potential pitfalls of feeding if not needed (though doesn't seem to apply to you specifically- but I wanted to pass along my experience): as a 1st year (this year), I had the misconception that syrup=good in most or all circumstances. I fed in spring when I hived the nucs. I fed again during the dearth. And- no question that I caused 2 late season (as recently as last week) swarms by recently feeding hives that had honey. I had read on here that people were feeding 2:1 for winter, and figured I'd follow suit. The issue is my hives didn't have enough room- it didn't matter that I was adding another box if they weren't drawing out the foundation (as a newbie I don't have drawn frames laying around). I figured if I threw a patty on they'd draw out new comb too- but they didn't.

    Anyway, my observation is that the bees are like some dogs that no matter how much food you put out, they eat it (or store it). That was the case with my hives- they backfilled empty cells and next thing I know 1/2 the hive is up in a tree.

    The most important thing I've learned this year is how much I don't know- and moving forward I'm going to be super picky about feeding: early spring before flow, and late (like much later) fall one I actually see lots of open cells and room for them to put it. I'm definitely learning that one size or approach doesn't fit all and I think I'd be way better off had I not fed them.

    Just my 2 cents as a newcomer who seems to be learning by error!

    brad

  18. #17
    Join Date
    Feb 2015
    Location
    Chicago, Illinois
    Posts
    8

    Default Re: Not enough honey stored; what to do?

    Thanks so much, everyone! Thankfully, there are a bunch of frames with drawn out comb. We've been feeding them 2:1 sugar water and they're happily eating up. We'll try sugar blocks, I think.

  19. #18
    Join Date
    Jul 2013
    Location
    Louisville, KY
    Posts
    3,291

    Default

    Weigh your hive. Just feeding to feed isn't a good practice. 18 of my 24 hives at one yard needed no feed at all....we had an exceptional honey year this year.


    Ps Sugar blocks are a waste of time imo.

    Eric Burns

  20. #19
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
    Location
    Portland, Tennessee, USA
    Posts
    285

    Default Re: Not enough honey stored; what to do?

    Respectfully speaking, sugar bricks have saved my hives from starving several times when weather conditions were less than favorable. Each to his own, but they do work. BTW I haven't lost a hive to starvation since I started using sugar bricks 8 years ago.
    Beeman
    All things may be lawful; but not all things are advantagous.

  21. #20
    Join Date
    Dec 2017
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    Dane County, WI, USA
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    2,914

    Default Re: Not enough honey stored; what to do?

    Quote Originally Posted by beeman2009 View Post
    Respectfully speaking, sugar bricks have saved my hives from starving several times when weather conditions were less than favorable. Each to his own, but they do work. BTW I haven't lost a hive to starvation since I started using sugar bricks 8 years ago.
    +1 to sugar bricks/chunks/cakes/sugar-whatever.

    Dry sugar works and not a waste of time where justified (e.g. loosing a late swarm due to food shortage vs. pulling it through the winter).
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

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