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In the past I've used the Mountain Camp method of placing dry sugar on the top bars as insurance during the winter. Every year during the last five years it has worked very well and I lost few hives over the winter. If the bees ran short they'd hit the sugar and if they didn't run short they left the sugar alone and I'd collect it for later use. This year in the TX Panhandle we have had longer colder spells than typical and I've lost five hives. They didn't ever seem to get to the sugar and I wondered why the difference? The drought has been difficult on the hive during the last three years so they went into the winter a little short on stores but I had hoped the dry sugar would provide the extra needed. Bees are now bringing in pollen and some nectar so I'm hoping that the remaining hives will survive but I still wonder why the sugar didn't seem to work as well this year as in years past. One thing different was that I used some leftover sugar from last year instead of starting with all new sugar, but I don't see how that would have made any difference. Any thoughts?
 

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That was a very expensive lost. I wonder if fresh sugar is better than the old one. Maybe they caked that the bees cannot
eat them this time. Really not sure here. But definitely the cold spells will get them if they are short on stores or not able
to access them for some reason like not moving away from their broods.
For the remaining hives that survived give them lots of honey water and patty too. This will help them build up really fast so you can do
a split later on to replenish the other lost hives. Try to give them fresh sugar next year and use the old one to make syrup from.
 

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I am of the belief that if they don't have water they can't use dry sugar as they have no means to liquefy it. You mentioned drought.
 

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Things are never good when you have to feed your bees. In nature the hive will naturally bulk up on supplies before the cold times. They also never feed on sugar as a natural part of their diet. This is a practice mirrored by hobby bee keepers from commercial beekeepers world around. It should not be done.

Sugar has many disadvantages. For a start it's a cheap food for your bees. Not only in the sense that it's cheap money wise(this is why commercial beekeepers use it) but it's a cheap food nutrition wise.

There is not enough space and time here to go into the complete list of reasons why we shouldn't be touching sugar with a ten foot pole ourselves, let alone give it to our bees regularly.

However there is time for reasoning, so here goes.

The processing of bees to break down sugar is far different and much less natural than that of their normal diet.

The type of carbohydrate that sugar is, is not suited to a bees liking. The bee will take it though, out of need as it's the only thing available, but as you experience some hives die even with sugar feeding.

Taking in sugar is out of two things, instinct and desperation.

Instinct not because it's natural but because it thinks it's honey as it's content is closest to the make up of honey that is available nearby.

Desperation because of lack of resources at the time of hive building.

Bees are effected by sugar as we are. The sugar effects us in ramping up our blood sugar levels and dumping them like a train reck when it is used up.
Thus creating a sugar high and then a miserable sugar low. Playing havoc with our glucose levels and our insulin production.

Now I'm not saying that all these things above are happening conclusively, as I haven't been able to look up any studies. However I am saying that it's possible.

Also it is plausible that the bees brain cells are effected by sugar in the same way ours is. And that is that sugar damages the electro spark gap between our brain cell connections.

The remedy is to do two things.first make sure your bees are being built up for the cold. And early not late. Don't rob them if they are low. Leave enough for what your area requires and a bit more. Keep spare honey for your bees not for you or your customers.

How little are you loosing in stock in this method compared to a whole hive lost?

As a rule, here in Australia if your feeding bees sugar, it's already too late. As the take up time is very long and is not going to be on time to catch up to the starving bees. Same principle applies.

Second. Make sure you can help your bees through the winter.

Bees naturally survive in cold weather. But that's when they choose their home not us.

Wrap your hives in insulation film and provide good ventilation inside. Don't winter bees with a mess of comb inside that hive. Make sure all burr comb is cleaned off before sealing to provide ventilation.

If times get tough buy a heating pad that you can set up these days from 12 volt from a normal car battery.

Finally provide your hive with the best chance it's numbers will be high in winter.

To do this, donate a few frames from your strongest hive every week, if needed, before the cold. This is a far better way of
Getting numbers up than feeding.

The hive will then have enough stock to get any remaining nectar flow and will have enough numbers to keep that hive nice and warm which is the last factor the hive needs but I haven't covered much...

Take care and remember to bee positive
 

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It should not be done.
Perhaps it would be better to say that we should try to avoid it.

In the real world, there are times when bees in cold climates would starve if not fed sugar. Perhaps it is many times the result of poor management on the part of the beekeeper, but we all make mistakes from time to time, and I feel that sugar is preferred to starvation.
 

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Not sure why it did not work for you this year.

Given your success in past years, I would suspect something other than a food issue. Mites or other health issues?
 

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Things are never good when you have to feed your bees. In nature the hive will naturally bulk up on supplies before the cold times. They also never feed on sugar as a natural part of their diet. This is a practice mirrored by hobby bee keepers from commercial beekeepers world around. It should not be done.

Sugar has many disadvantages. For a start it's a cheap food for your bees. Not only in the sense that it's cheap money wise(this is why commercial beekeepers use it) but it's a cheap food nutrition wise.

There is not enough space and time here to go into the complete list of reasons why we shouldn't be touching sugar with a ten foot pole ourselves, let alone give it to our bees regularly.

However there is time for reasoning, so here goes.

The processing of bees to break down sugar is far different and much less natural than that of their normal diet.

The type of carbohydrate that sugar is, is not suited to a bees liking. The bee will take it though, out of need as it's the only thing available, but as you experience some hives die even with sugar feeding.

Taking in sugar is out of two things, instinct and desperation.

Instinct not because it's natural but because it thinks it's honey as it's content is closest to the make up of honey that is available nearby.

Desperation because of lack of resources at the time of hive building.

Bees are effected by sugar as we are. The sugar effects us in ramping up our blood sugar levels and dumping them like a train reck when it is used up.
Thus creating a sugar high and then a miserable sugar low. Playing havoc with our glucose levels and our insulin production. .....
If you do look, I don't believe you'll find research that supports this theory. Bees are NOT affected by sugar the way we are. They are insects not mammals.

This link from here on beesource may help you understand basic bee nutrition and especially the use of sugar: http://www.beesource.com/resources/usda/supplemental-feeding-of-honey-bee-colonies/

HTH

Rusty
 

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Marklon - it would also be more natural if dogs killed animals and ate them - no dog chow in nature. More natural if calves drank their mothers milk instead of soy based milk replacer so we can drink the real thing, chickens scratched around for bugs, etc... Who knows what "natural" is when it comes to the human diet? Pre agricultural? Hunting and gathering? And of course when you say "natural" and european honey bee then you must be talking about insects living in a hollow tree in the woods in Europe.

The type of carbohydrate that sugar is, is not suited to a bees liking. The bee will take it though, out of need as it's the only thing available, but as you experience some hives die even with sugar feeding.

Sorry man but that is a steaming crock of falseness. Bees will take dry sugar in the winter (my bees in my winter anyway) even when they have ample honey stores. They will also take pollen sub when they have pollen - even fresh pollen coming in the front door. My research is that I saw my own hives yesterday with bees on top eating sugar and pollen sub - covering it up - simultaneous with fresh early spring pollen coming in. These are not starving hives without natural stores - rather healthy hives with plenty of stores and lots of early brood to feed.

BTW, hives die sometimes no matter what you do or don't do, but so far this very harsh winter none of mine have.
 

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If the bees never got up to the sugar, how is that a failure of sugar use? I suspect something else happened.
 

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but I still wonder why the sugar didn't seem to work as well this year as in years past.
Every year is different and every situation is different. It is pretty hard to nail down a procedure that is fool proof with bees.

My question is did they run out of honey and not go to the sugar or leave the honey and go to the sugar? In very cold weather they will still die. In one case by running out of food and in another case by running out of water.
I know the mountain camp method is very well excepted but I was wondering if an empty frame, or even a partial frame could be prepared with dry sugar and placed between frames of honey when you know stores are low.
 

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I agree with Bluegrass. They need water to go with that sugar. What month did you loose the hives in? As rule of thumb I consider anything pryer to January 1 as suspect of diseases. anything after is suspected to be starvation or freezing. Bees die of what is suspected to be starvation when on combs with honey in them. I have no idea what that is about but I do not think it was starvation. Freezing is more likely.

If sugar has worked consistently in the past I would not be my first suspect as to the problem.
 

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Bees die of what is suspected to be starvation when on combs with honey in them.
When a colony is not of a sufficient size/mass to maintain its own optimum temperature what looks like starvation, dead cluster w/ heads in cells, will occur. This is actually a case of freezing, due to the lack of enough bees to maintain temperature. What led to that may be the actual cause of death, what led to the colony dying. Which could have been nosema predation, or varroa/virus.
 

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Dry sugar is certainly not as good as honey for the bees, but in the absence of enough honey, ensures survival. Ditto for pollen sub -- hardly optimum, but results in live rather than dead hives.

Dry sugar feeding can "fail" to keep a hive going in a couple ways. First, if the bees cannot access it soon enough, it's as useless to them as the honey in the next hive over. Gotta put it on early enough for them to actually get to it. It is also necessary for there to be enough water in the hive (humidity will do) for a layer of syrup to form on the sugar, as that is what the bees actually consume, not dry sugar. The bees will collect condensation off the comb and use that to liquify dry sugar, they do this with honey too.

As far as emergency feeding goes, it's far better to do the feeding in the fall and let the bees arrange things for themselves than it is to put dry sugar in the hive. If you do have to do emergency feeding, as I did this year when my hive went really light in early Feb, it's better to put 2:1 syrup into drawn comb and put that over the cluster or insert it into the brood nest. Reason being, of course, that they will have food inside the cluster that way rather than being forced to cluster high in the hive to get to the sugar. If it's warm enough for them to move things, they will move the syrup down to the brood nest and you won't have brooding start high in the hive.

Going back to the original question of why dry sugar didn't work this time, I also suspect something else was a problem there. If there was honey in the hive an you didn't get weeks in a row of very cold weather, likely the hive was sick or weak for some reason (protein deficiency comes to mind) and the cluster was too small going into winter and they froze. No amount of sugar on the top bars will compensate for a cluster too small to stay warm.

It happens even to long term successful beekeepers. I had a nuc reserved from a beekeeper in the Indianapolis area this spring, and he lost 90% of his production hives and thinks he lost nearly all his nucs, too. Same thing, very small clusters that froze out. He will have to do some investigation to see what happened, but winter feeding of dry sugar wouldn't have helped him either.

Peter
 

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Good discussion. thank you Mr. LaFerny, You said what I know and feel without me having to froth at the mouth. You are a better man and advocate for reality. need to go out and move some snow. It is 5F and I am glad my bees are bouncing off a roof of beet sugar beneath the cover and not starving.
 

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Comparing human use of sugar and bees is completely a fallacy. Humans have a vascular system which transports sugar through our bodies and we have hormones that regulate the storage and release of that sugar. Bees have a heart, but no vascular system, their heart pumps everything from blood to food and waste through their bodies. They regulate the use of sugar by consuming what they need and physically storing what they don't in honey comb. No hormones or fat storage involved. Also their brains are nothing like ours which have trillions of cells and are contained in our sculls, they have a few brain cells in their heads and the rest is scattered throughout their bodies. (which is why if you cut a humans head off they stop moving, but a bee can still craw away after being beheaded.)

And humans need protein, carbohydrate, and fat to survive, bees like humming birds only need carbs.
 

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You say there was a drought. If you don't have young bees going into winter, they won't last to spring. If there is a dearth in the fall, they sometimes don't raise that last batch of young "fat" winter bees who can live that long and instead you have a lot of old "thin" summer bees who will only live another six weeks at most...
 

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I am often puzzled why some hives die. You will have 8 hives sitting side by side all treated exactly the same and 4 might die and 4 do fine. I have 2 locations doing that this year where a some of the hives are dead and others doing just fine.
 

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In the past I've used the Mountain Camp method of placing dry sugar on the top bars as insurance during the winter. Every year during the last five years it has worked very well and I lost few hives over the winter. If the bees ran short they'd hit the sugar and if they didn't run short they left the sugar alone and I'd collect it for later use. This year in the TX Panhandle we have had longer colder spells than typical and I've lost five hives. They didn't ever seem to get to the sugar and I wondered why the difference? The drought has been difficult on the hive during the last three years so they went into the winter a little short on stores but I had hoped the dry sugar would provide the extra needed. Bees are now bringing in pollen and some nectar so I'm hoping that the remaining hives will survive but I still wonder why the sugar didn't seem to work as well this year as in years past. One thing different was that I used some leftover sugar from last year instead of starting with all new sugar, but I don't see how that would have made any difference. Any thoughts?
I had some similar issues this winter with hives that would have normally survived on the sugar that didn't. The only theory I can come up with is that this winter was not only colder, but drier. The cold spells that we had probably didn't allow them enough moisture to utilize the sugar. Funny we usually say it's not the cold that kills, but instead the moisture is what kills them. This year I think since these hives didn't have enough honey, but plenty of sugar, it was the lack of moisture to use the sugar that starved them.
 

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I am often puzzled why some hives die. You will have 8 hives sitting side by side all treated exactly the same and 4 might die and 4 do fine.
That happens all the time in nature. It doesn't happen so much with humans because we tend to save the weak. If you try to save your weak bees you will probably encourage more weak bees.
 
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