Winter Feeding question
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  1. #1
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    Aug 2019
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    La Grange, Kentucky (Henry Co.)
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    Default Winter Feeding question

    NuB Question; Experienced based info Request:
    Scenario (hypothetical):
    Top Bar - Hive constructed with all walls 1.5" thick wood - Solid Floor - Vented Roof - End entry - Follow Board Feeder - Brick/Dry Sugar feed - Location zone 5-6 Kentucky

    Q#1: When they cluster for winter, where should the feeder be located for easy bee access (meaning for minimal cluster breaking) or optimal distance from cluster?
    Q#2: Why?

    Thank you for any information.
    If the Lord delight in us, he will bring us into this land; a land which floweth with milk and honey

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: Winter Feeding question

    Recommend you deploy the feeder well before Winter so that significant amounts of syrup can be stored and capped within the combs themselves - which is where the bees put it, because that's where they want it.

    As to where emergency stores could be located - that's one reason why I stopped using the classic Top Bar Long Hive setup, because there's no obvious place to put it - at least no obvious place that I could see. With a Vertical Top Bar Hive such as the Warre (and it's variants) this problem doesn't occur because the bees can easily migrate between the Top Bars.
    LJ
    A Heretics Guide to Beekeeping http://heretics-guide.atwebpages.com/

  4. #3
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    Default Re: Winter Feeding question

    Thanks LittleJohn.
    Top Bar is what I will be using.
    Primary reason for the bees will be pollination, so they are welcome to all their stores.
    What I am looking for is where to place the feeder if I determine it is needed in addition to their stores during the winter.
    If the Lord delight in us, he will bring us into this land; a land which floweth with milk and honey

  5. #4
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    Default Re: Winter Feeding question

    My winters are probably a bit more mild here in coastal VA than yours in KY, but I always put a sugar brick on the floor of each topbar hive by Dec 1 since mine are always breaking cluster and fly most days of the winter. I've also hung sugar bricks from mesh bags at the very end of their capped stores. Mine usually eat the sugar first and save the capped honey for Jan/Feb. I sometimes have to replace the sugar bricks in Jan.

    So to answer your question, I put the sugar either under the capped stores, if the comb doesn't go to the bottom of the hive floor, or I hang them from mesh bags from an empty topbar, but I place it at the far end of the capped stores. Also, be sure to plan for 1-2" of rigid foam insulation on the tops of the bars. That is a very important piece in overwintering topbar hives.

    sugar brick.jpg

  6. #5
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    Default Re: Winter Feeding question

    FWIW - imo emergency feed really needs to be above the combs, and so this is one solution I had planned to try with an overhead feeder in mind:





    It does detract somewhat from the basic principle of the contiguous 'roof' formed by the Top Bars butting-up against each other - but as you can see, I never did get to try this out, so cannot comment on whether such a mod is worth doing or not.
    LJ
    A Heretics Guide to Beekeeping http://heretics-guide.atwebpages.com/

  7. #6
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    Default Re: Winter Feeding question

    Quote Originally Posted by little_john View Post
    FWIW - imo emergency feed really needs to be above the combs, and so this is one solution I had planned to try with an overhead feeder in mind:
    Why do you feel the emergency feed needs to be "above the combs"? If the bees are truly starving, it needs to be adjacent to the cluster, hung as a comb or pushed into empty comb, but then the bees still need some type of moisture to utilize the sugar. I think the mountain camp method was used to take advantage of the moist air rising to the top to turn it into a bit of a slurry. That doesn't really happen in true topbar hives where the bars touch. I will sometimes see moisture on the side walls where they have propolized it well, or occasionally at the very end of the hive that is not occupied, but I've never seen moisture accumulate near the cluster of bees in a true topbar hive where the bars touch to form the roof.

    IMG_3377.jpg

  8. #7
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    Default Re: Winter Feeding question

    Well, whenever I've come across a colony which is anywhere near running out of stores - the bees have always been found at the top of their combs. Which is why I now place an inverted jar containing fondant on every (framed) hive directly on top of the Crown Board (Inner Cover) from January onwards.

    I don't disagree with the idea of placing feed adjacent to the cluster - but how do you know in advance where the cluster will be located if/when it runs short of stores ? I've no way of knowing upon which frames the cluster can be found, but I've a pretty good idea that they'll have some bees up there in the beespace between the frame top bars and the Crown Board - a few millimetres above which is the emergency jar of fondant. I'm not suggesting that my setup is perfect, but in practice each colony gets to scoff that fondant if they really do need it - so all I have to do now is remove the hive roof and the 'tea cosy' which insulates the fondant jar in order to inspect the level of remaining emergency feed - which I do weekly at first during late winter, and only increase the frequency of checks when I see the fondant beginning to disappear. Indeed, I now view those fondant jars in a similar way to how fuel gauges are used in automobiles.

    Since adopting this method, any anxiety regarding winter starvation has been eliminated.
    'best
    LJ
    A Heretics Guide to Beekeeping http://heretics-guide.atwebpages.com/

  9. #8
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    Default Re: Winter Feeding question

    Thank you all for the specificity of your advise. For now, I believe my questions have been answered. No doubt more to come.

    Thanks again! TonyD
    If the Lord delight in us, he will bring us into this land; a land which floweth with milk and honey

  10. #9
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    Default Re: Winter Feeding question

    Quote Originally Posted by ruthiesbees View Post
    Why do you feel the emergency feed needs to be "above the combs"?
    Because in cold climate winter the bees will readily go UP.
    But they will not go sideways (at the borderline conditions when the bees easily freeze individually when separated from the cluster - emergency feed just above the cluster has survivable micro-climate).

    More importantly - often enough they will NOT be able to go sideways when they need the emergency feed the most (well known phenomenon of starving inches away from food).
    Especially this is applicable to small clusters, i.e. nucs.

    This is my, USDA Zone 4/5, prospective.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  11. #10
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    Default Re: Winter Feeding question

    Quote Originally Posted by little_john View Post
    I stopped using the classic Top Bar Long Hive setup...LJ
    Classic Top Bar is very inconvenient in cold climate (impassibility of the top bars is a huge hindrance).
    However, the passable top bars in combination with soft inner cover (burlap, canvas, duck cloth, plastic, etc) - gives lots of options immediately.
    With this modification AND some utility space above the bars (a modified Top Bar, as a result) can be usable.

    Now days I consider sticking to the Classic Top Bar a dogma and a subject for a critical review.
    No need to follow the dogma blindly; even people build different houses, based on the local climate (tropical shack will not work in Alaska too well, pretty obvious).
    Classic Top Bar is a tropical hive where this particular issue (feeding bees in cold, borderline conditions) just does not exist.
    An important consideration.
    Last edited by GregV; 09-21-2019 at 12:11 PM.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  12. #11
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    Default Re: Winter Feeding question

    Thank you GregV. Appreciate your Zone qualified response. I had not heard of the starvation inches away from food. I shall consider that.
    If the Lord delight in us, he will bring us into this land; a land which floweth with milk and honey

  13. #12
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    Default Re: Winter Feeding question

    Feeding in winter isn't doable where you actually have winter. Whenever the syrup falls below 50 F the bees won't take it. If they do take it, it makes too much moisture. Feed BEFORE winter, not during winter.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 42y 40h 39yTF

  14. #13
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    Default Re: Winter Feeding question

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Bush View Post
    Feeding in winter isn't doable where you actually have winter. Whenever the syrup falls below 50 F the bees won't take it. If they do take it, it makes too much moisture. Feed BEFORE winter, not during winter.
    Emergency winter feeding using the hard feed is part of the subject, really.
    At least the OP should know about it and how to use it.
    It may just save the day.

    Hard feed (not liquid feed) is the only real cold climate option after the bees already set in winter cluster.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  15. #14
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    Default Re: Winter Feeding question

    Quote Originally Posted by GregV View Post
    Emergency winter feeding using the hard feed is part of the subject, really.
    At least the OP should know about it and how to use it.
    It may just save the day.

    Hard feed (not liquid feed) is the only real cold climate option after the bees already set in winter cluster.
    Thank you all again.
    If the Lord delight in us, he will bring us into this land; a land which floweth with milk and honey

  16. #15
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    Default Re: Winter Feeding question

    Similar question in Olympia WA with relatively mild winters. TBH with a few thin spacers between three top bars all with either brood or honey combs. Have been fondant feeding using follower board throughout the autumn dearth and even this neat little milk carton syrup feeding behind the rows of combs. We have been hit with exceptionally unseasonably cool weather this past week as in frosts 4 nights in a row. It is not uncommon to go an entire winter with just a small handful of frost nights. Continuing to feed fondant and have compressed the follower board up against the top bar furthest from the end entries. This is regarding the "spacers". Could I remove these and place fondant/hard sugar or even "commercial winter feed" over those spacers without compromising hive integrity? The hive itself has a full lid with approximately 1 1/2" of dead air space between the top of the lid and the bars AND there is a separate roof pitched at 30 degrees over that with foil insulation installed in the winter months on the underside of the roof if any of that or even the question makes sense.

  17. #16
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    Default Re: Winter Feeding question

    Quote Originally Posted by 1garysaccount View Post
    This is regarding the "spacers". Could I remove these and place fondant/hard sugar or even "commercial winter feed" over those spacers without compromising hive integrity?
    Why, sure.
    I have done it many times and not concerned about "hive integrity".
    If your bees die of hunger, the "hive integrity" is irrelevant.
    I as well moved the touching bars apart to get the same effect - in winter the between-bar space can be widened with beneficial effects.
    You will compress them back in spring again when brooding becomes the next priority.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  18. #17
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    Default Re: Winter Feeding question

    Quote Originally Posted by GregV View Post
    ...
    I as well moved the touching bars apart to get the same effect - in winter the between-bar space can be widened with beneficial effects.
    You will compress them back in spring again when brooding becomes the next priority.
    This is why I am evolving away from the "touching bars" designs now.
    Hive/frame design should not be obstructing normal operating procedure (e.g. feeding a nuc from above).

    The THB design is OK for tropical hives where the winter bee immobility is unknown; they just don't know of such an issue; you can feed from a side, from below, open feed in January, all the options are available. And yet the hive sellers keep pushing the TBH hives all over regardless of the local conditions (be it Alaska).

    This design is NOT OK for cold climate hives - in cold climate you want to be able to feed from above (often the only option to save the starving bees).
    Simply putting a dry sugar brick onto the bars should be a trivial 5-minute move with least bee disturbance (not a major surgery).

    Yes, people have TBH hives in Wyoming - there is one well known case that is being used for references.
    However - very deep TBH hives in that one case - too bad the site went down before I copied it down; did not think at the time.
    This one picture - all I have saved:
    SmallCell-TBH-Mod.jpg
    Most people in my location have failing TBH cases - because they just keep copying shallow Southern designs (great for TX and similar areas).
    I don't know anyone here having good, long-term success with TBH.
    Last edited by GregV; 10-02-2019 at 12:33 PM.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

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