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Discussion Starter #1
There seems to be alot of discussion on feeding bees. Some just feed because they think they should. Feeding should be done with a purpose as with the following...

1)For feeding light or starving hives

2)for those doing early splits.

3) for those raising queens/nucs

4) Other

For many, feeding is not needed. If your bees have enough to make it till spring and the first early flow, feeding usually stimulates the bees too early. This will trigger swarming urges prior to the main flow. Losing half your bees prior to the flow, and missing the main honey season is something many do.

If your feeding, do you know why?

In many areas, early blooms of maple and other late winter/early spring plants do a good job allowing the hives to build up to the point that they are maximum numbers, as the main flow approaches. They do a good job of building up as nature allows. Yes, there are some regional factors for some. And feeding may be needed. But for many it is not needed.

Around here, in Pennsylvania, I see some feeding with 60 pounds of honey still in the hives. They feed in Feb/Mar/Apr. The bees swarm in mid-May, and then for the last two weeks of May and June, the bee numbers are less than what they should of been. And the hives miss out on a good part of the main flow.

Over-feeding also keeps the brood chamber from expanding and may result on a honey-bound situation, and then the bee population is limited. Another reason for poor honey yields.

Stopping swarms is always a major beekeeping management task. Are those who are feeding, just making this task alot harder by promoting swarming needlessly? Or are you feeding with a purpose in mind?

[ February 01, 2006, 08:09 AM: Message edited by: BjornBee ]
 

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Good points. I really think the bees should feed me. And If I left them enough honey/pollen at the end of last summer, they will make it to spring flow. If they don't make it, I goofed.

Hawk
 

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many people do make it sound as if you should feed in the spring.The trick i guess is know when or when not.One thing you mentioned about the maple flow.I am i beleiver that if the bees miss the maples it is going to be a tuff year.That said how long do your bees get to work the maple flow.Are the tyemps warm enough every year for them to work the maples?Here they do not get to work the maples every year.Just Oh weather near the Great Lakes.It seems most years the maples bloom one day and the next few days it is to cold fro the bees to work them.This is the issuse i have a hard time dealing with,i do not know what the weather will do.Have taken Hawks point of view many years and just say i goofed.Now the Maples bloom about the 1st of March here I am thinking if i feed syurp and pollen 2 weeks befor this would do the job of both starvation and get the bees off to a good start.My goals would be to keep a few lite hives from starving and get the rest off to a good start for splts or useing frames of brood to get some packages off to a good start.This is the conversation a fellow beekeeper and i have been haveing the last few weeks.Does this sound like a good plan?
Thanks Bob
 

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Bjorn:

I have do disagree when you say

"Over-feeding also keeps the brood chamber from expanding and may result on a honey-bound situation, and then the bee population is limited. Another reason for poor honey yields."

According to WalT Wrights Nectar Managment, he states that through his observations in his years, they will relocate the honey "backfiling" for population growth. I do not think the population suffers when feeding.

You right though... unless you have some point of making splits or feeding a light colony, than it isnt worth feeding.

but than again, shouldnt you error on the side of caution???
 

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>>"Over-feeding also keeps the brood chamber from expanding and may result on a honey-bound situation, and then the bee population is limited. Another reason for poor honey yields."
>According to WalT Wrights Nectar Managment, he states that through his observations in his years, they will relocate the honey "backfiling" for population growth. I do not think the population suffers when feeding.

But when they run out of room they do start backfilling the brood nest. Whether it's for the prupose of simply finding storage or for the purpose of preparing to swarm, they do it when they run out of room to store the syrup (or nectar they're hauling in).

I think a lot of people think that "feeding can't hurt". I think it often leads a package (which hardly ever swarms) to swarm becaue the hive is full of syrup. It also often sets off robbing, draws ants and makes other problems.

I agree with Bjorn. If you have a REASON to feed, then feed. If you don't have a reason, then don't.

>but than again, shouldnt you error on the side of caution???

But which is caution? Feeding or not feeding? It's best to do it because you need it. I often err by feeding.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Chef, Is all of the following Walt's comments?

>he states that through his observations in his years, they will relocate the honey "backfiling" for population growth. I do not think the population suffers when feeding.

I would agree with Walts comment in regards to "nectar" management by the bees in talking about a flow, and the hive itself when supers are on the hive. When adequate comb is available for nectar storage, bees will backfill and keep the brood area free.

For feeding, when supers are off the hive, than backfilling comb is not always available or is at least limited. A hive, and one that I pointed out that may be already very full with stores, has no place to put it except to continue to constrict the brood chamber. My point was one that if a hive has 60 pounds of honey already stored, feeding will hinder brood expansion. I see many honey bound hives that were fed to the point that the brood chamber is limited. Going into the flow, the brood chamber should be filled with brood, not honey.


We all make errors. I am just suggesting many feed for no other reason that they think they should. There are pitfalls associated with not recognozing swarm increase potential, and hives being honey bound. Both situations can be made worse by improper feeding.
 

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I've worked with Walt Wright for a number of years now, and I need to point out that Chef's statement is not entirely representative of Walt's comments on feeding.

Walt uses the term "backfilling" in a very specific manner: When the bees have expanded the broodnest to its maximum volume and they are preparing for the swarm, they begin to "backfill" the brood nest. In this situation the bees are replacing emerged adult bees with nectar rather than another egg, The goal being to reduce the volume of the brood nest in preparation for the swarm. Hence what some refer to as a "clogged" broodnest.

Walt does believe that feeding during the buildup can impact population buildup in a negative fashion.
 

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Well I don't know about all of that, but I do know that my 2 hives are pretty weak and it seems like a good idea to feed them to get them to start building up a little bit. Also we are having a warm winter here and that means to me that they are going through their stores faster than normal due to more activity. My swarm prevention is to put empty frames in the middle of the brood nest. It's a 2 for 1 special, keeps the brood nest open and I get natural cell for the mite protection. If I had really strong hives right now I probably wouldn't be feeding. I don't think I'll ever feed pollen, because we always have pollen in late Jan or Early Feb so why feed pollen???
 

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Rod made my point. We've had a warm winter; the bees have been flying four out of seven days a week which means they've been eating. They've only just started collecting pollen. I don't open the hive for another month, but I've hefted them and they're all a lot lighter than they were in October. I've got entrance feeders on all eight, feeding 2:1. They don't suck them dry quickly and I don't feel I'm doing any harm. Besides, last spring I had to clean out a good strong hive that starved. A knee-high pile of dead bees! Don't ever want to see that again.
 

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If you are worried about feeding sugar syrup,
And the bees starting to store too much off it in the brood box,
When you want them to raise more bees for you spring flow etc,

Why not make a sticky sugar and water candy and feed that to the bees,

For my bees it seems to stimulate them to raise brood without filling up the brood nest,

Tony
 

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I'm still trying to make up my mind. I keep trying different approaches to getting a spring buildup. This year, of course, will ruin all my experiments with unseasonable weather so I won't know why it worked so well.


GM Doolittle would have agreed with Walt. He believed that feeding sugar syrup was not condusive to buildup. Putting combs of honey in was. A hive that is rich with honey and pollen will rear brood. A hive that is dealing with a flow (even if it's syrup) may be busy with the flow instead of the buildup.
 

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There are many types of feeding and they can be done for a number of reasons.
- I feed light syrup in the fall to stimulate the queen to continue laying as long as possible. The longer into the fall she lays, the larger the number of young bees for the winter cluster.
- I feed a light syrup again in late winter / early spring to stimulate the queen into producing young. I want these young bees to replace the older bees that have died since the queen stopped laying in the fall.
- In my light fall and spring syrups I use wintergreen and spearmint oils to reduce the mite load, inhibit mite reproduction and reduce the ratio of mites to bees.

I am not concerned with the colony storing this light syrup or clogging the brood nest with it. By the time that the colony numbers have grown or could become a problem, I have already done a complete spring hive inspection. If I need to open the brood nest up or provide addition comb space, I do it.
I make my splits in spring approximately 3 – 4 weeks prior to the swarm season’s start. I go through and pull resources from colonies as I can and need to. Do hives swarm anyway, a few do, but the bulk do not and they produce well. I have averaged over the years to produce approximately 100 pounds of honey for the season for every hive that I can over winter.

Now, I also set my hives up for winter with granular sugar on paper on the top bars. This feeding is purely belt and suspenders for most of my hives. That said however, this year with the hives being more active, many colonies that were started this year, have gone through their stores which were lacking already in the fall from a poor late summer and fall flow.
I have never found that this type of feeding caused me any problems, but it has definitely save colonies over the years.

I had a chance to check my hives today. The best of my yards is in Catskill with 9 hives that started this winter doing well. This yard was started with hives that were over wintered for 2 years in 2002. Each of these hives can be traced by to one of the parent hives from 2000.
I have lost (1) of (4) hives at a yard in Round Top that was a swarm boxed this year and they did not get built up population or stores wise for winter. They starved with very little honey anywhere.
I have lost (4) of (30) hives at home in Round Top. Of the hives lost (1) was queenless over the summer and never recovered. The population was too small to cover.
(1) was a this year swarm that never got to where it needed to be. Simply starved -- no stores.
The other (2) were hives that were very light this fall. Simply starved -- no stores.
This yard was too saturated for the carrying capacity of the forage. My plans were to move half of these hives early summer, but time never allowed it.
 

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I would like to know how to determine if you should feed or not? I looked at three of my five hives today, on one of them the bees were up above the inner cover the other two they were down in the hive some is this a bad sign?
 

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If bees are up above the inner cover they are telling you they need food ASAP. One of my hives was that way last week and I gave them a candy board containing 6-7 pounds of candy. The recipe I followed is simple: 5 lbs sugar, 1 pint water. Bring water to a boil, stir in sugar. Heat mixture to 240 (soft ball stage) and cool. Stir often while cooling. Poar into candy board when temperature gets down to 180-190. The candy should harden up in 3-4 hours.

Be sure to use a candy thermometer. I've made some real messes when working by "guess."
 

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comment on feeding:

I do suspect that more bee hives die each year via starvation than by mites or shb. in regards to cause and effect and the pest mentioned I normally suspect both to represent a secondary vector in regards to a hive's demise.

in regards to feeding, timing and quantity are my primary considerations. at the price of a replacement package a few dollars not spent on feed sounds like a poor business decision.

reason for feeding: according to beeweave a bit south of me, last yes was the worst season in his memory for beekeeping in texas. all bee hives on permanent location here will be in poor condition and the warm winter simply reinforces this condition. I would not be surprised to discover that come spring there will be a lot of dead outs here in texas.
 

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squarehead, if you are worried that they maybe light on stores, a simple way to feed them for insurance is to place an empty box on the hive, place paper towl or a sheet of newspaper on the top bars and pour granualted sugar on the paper.
Then if need you can simple add sugar or paper and sugar.
 

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Rob,

Thanks for your clarification on backfilling. For the rest of you, be advised that Rob has been appointed as the spokesman for my observations contained in the “manuscript.” At my age and health status, I could croak without notice. Rob is familiar with the system of management and the rationale leading to it.

This subject, and the flap between MB and J.F. under the “Lazy Beekeeping idea #6 No chemicals/no artificial feed” thread has temporarily drawn me out of retirement. Rob noted that I am not a fan of “stimulative feeding,” but did not elaborate. That opinion is outside the scope of the “manuscript.”

First some background observations:
1. The honeybee is a greedy little insect. This gluttonous characteristic will cause them to take feed, or rob a less fortunate cousin colony when doing so is not in their own best interest.
2. The early season colony objective (late winter) is to build brood volume at their best rate to support reproduction by colony division. Target swarm issue time is the last frost date for that area.
3. To expand the brood volume, stored honey must be consumed to free up cells for brood.
4. The primary emphasis of foragers in late winter is pollen for brood rearing. They seldom go into winter with enough pollen to support late winter build up.
5. The sequence of brood nest expansion is:
a. Consume peripheral honey by dilution in blocks or areas of anticipated expansion.
b. Feed on those blocks until depleted.
c. Prepare the empty cells for eggs.
d. Have the queen lay in that block as a unit.
e. Select a new block or area for the next expansion increment.


In my area, early season expansion is lateral - frame to frame. When the basic brood chamber is filled, expansion proceeds into the next higher box. The expansion blocks become an increasing arc in steps above those already filled with brood.

My reasons for discontinuing “stimulation feeding” (SF) are based on the above observations. I told Rob that SF is a myth. If you have absorbed the above, it might already have registered that greediness conflicts with season objectives. What happens to the feed they can’t resist? It can be stored in cells being prepared for brood nest expansion, or it can be retained by individual bees used as storage tanks. Both those possibilities are counter productive to season objectives. Storing the feed in cells would slow brood nest expansion. Retaining the feed by individual bees pressed into service as mini storage tanks would decrease the available foragers to go to the field for pollen.

Incidentally, and not relevant to this thread, I suspect that the miniature storage tankers are responsible for early wax making. In the normal scheme of colony development, wax making does not appear until the “main flow.” But generous feeding, early, can induce new wax. My conclusion, for what it’s worth, is that the storage tankers, inactive, start wax making ahead of schedule.

Extenuating circumstances can, and should, temper your application of my opinion on spring feeding. The colony low on honey stores and in danger of starvation should be fed. Note that the colony low on available honey may suspend brood rearing to conserve stores.

The cluster declining in volume from T mite attrition can be separated from honey by empty cells. They will not abandon the brood to move to honey. They must be fed.

Learn to read colony status at the landing board. When incoming foragers in the early season are bringing good pollen loads mostly - about 80% - they are likely OK. Some with no pollen may be bringing water to dilute honey.

Large numbers of foragers with split loads indicates they have a need for both pollen and nectar. Your first indication of split load is light pollen loads. If large numbers have small pollen loads and slightly expanded abdomens its time to investigate the need for feed.

When the number of nectar foragers exceeds the number of pollen foragers, feed now and investigate later.

In the opinion of this maverick beek, stimulative feeding is generally counter productive. A colony in the early season is rearing all the brood it can safely protect. When expanding into capped honey, they must empty cells- not fill them. A light syrup could be used to dilute honey to feed consistency (if not over-done) when water foraging is limited by weather conditions. But contrary to literature statements, they do store water in cells. If you must use your feeder in the early season, put some water in it. Try to keep in mind that honey consumption is the order of the day to make cell space for brood nest expansion. Liquid feed at best slows consumption.

Pollen availability in the field and flying weather to retrieve it are all the stimulation a colony needs to meet reproduction schedules. If you live in an area without swarming, that may not be true for you. Keep in mind that the early season is dedicated to reproduction. That’s what build-up is all about.

Several references on this thread mention feeding for “early splits.” Is that feeding to stimulate the donor colony, or feeding the split? You certainly need to feed a split, but what do you perceive to be the advantage of feeding the donor colony?

Second question: Some of the referenced “splits” sound like colony division into two equal parts. If there is anything in beekeeping communication that we need to do, it’s settle on terminology. To me, a split is not equal division into two parts; it’s the removal of 2 to 4 frames of brood for a starter. My use of the word could be adjusted if I’m in the minority.

Let me close this out with a word of caution. None of my opinions have been examined by the academic community. Nor are they guaranteed by myself. They are offered to encourage the open-minded to seek the truth.

Walt


P.S. If you consider this blurb unduly lengthy, you should see the pile of ifs, ands or buts on the cutting room floor.
Back to retirement.
 

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The following are my observations and what I have found to work for me in my area of Upstate New York.

First, I think that one problem that we seem to have with beekeeping is that too many times we try the one size fits all solutions for all locations. Beekeeping in Florida / SC is different than Upstate New York, which in turn differs from Alberta. Climates, growing seasons, crops / nectar sources vary over a wide range of conditions. What I do in Upstate New York to winter my colonies would be of little use to someone on the Gulf Coast, and what they do would not help me, unless it was sending me some nucs that they have been able to raise since February & March in late April.


>Pollen availability in the field and flying weather to retrieve it are all the stimulation a colony needs to meet reproduction schedules.
>Several references on this thread mention feeding for “early splits.” Is that feeding to stimulate the donor colony, or feeding the split? You certainly need to feed a split, but what do you perceive to be the advantage of feeding the donor colony?

I start feeding light syrup and pollen long before any natural pollen or nectar sources are available. Here, in Upstate New York, good consistent flying weather does not show up till sometime in May. Cold temperatures, snow, frosts, and freezing rains are common into late April / early May.
I do my splits / divides up the later part of April, when I have a good day of weather. I allow the splits / divides to raise their own queens and time the mating flights with the start of swarm season, about mid May. To ensure that there is a supply of drones.
Due to this fact, natural pollen and nectar sources just don’t cut it to stimulate the colony’s growth to this point. My feeding gives me a 3 -4 week head start on the season compared to waiting for the colony to naturally build-up. Our season is limited to a about a 5 month window, less with bad weather.
Another factor is the type of bees one is keeping. Italians tend to build up for spring regardless of the weather conditions and if there is pollen or nectar coming in or not. However, NWC and Russians tend to hold back till they have nectar and pollen coming into the hive. I have mostly NWC, Russians, and mutes.

Second, running 2 to 3 deeps with the last natural forage occurring sometime in late September to mid October, depending on the year, I have never had a problem with the queen / cluster finding open comb. In fact most years, by the time I do my splits / divides, the bottom box is usually almost completely empty of stores, with the cluster extending down into the tops of a few frames.

Third, I feed for several reasons:
-I feed light syrup in the fall into early winter, to try and stimulate the queen / colony to raise brood as long as possible. I want as many young bees going into winter as possible. The young bees are what will keep a colony alive till spring. I also feed wintergreen and spearmint oils in my fall and spring syrups. I do this for “mite” control.
-I start feeding in the later part of February to again stimulate the colony to raise brood. I want to replace the older bees that I have died and I want to increase numbers to allow my splits / divides as early as possible.
-I also feed a part of my program to control mites or limit their effects on the colony as a whole. I do not want any oils being feed during any period close to when supers are going on. So they are feed in the fall after all the supers are pulled and in late winter / early spring 6 – 8 weeks before any supers are going on.


>Second question: Some of the referenced “splits” sound like colony division into two equal parts. If there is anything in beekeeping communication that we need to do, it’s settle on terminology. To me, a split is not equal division into two parts; it’s the removal of 2 to 4 frames of brood for a starter. My use of the word could be adjusted if I’m in the minority.

From my perspective a split is anytime a colony is divided up. A division as you mention, is a colony divided into two equal parts. I would call removing 2 to 4 frames of brood for a starter, a nuc whether giving them a queen or allowing them to raise their own. I have no real preference, as mentioned I can change based on the terminology that the group wants to use.

[ February 21, 2006, 02:20 PM: Message edited by: MountainCamp ]
 

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MountainCamp writes "I also feed wintergreen and spearmint oils in my fall and spring syrups. I do this for “mite” control. "

Thanx for your perspective. I reside in a similar geography. I'm relatively new at this so could you explain how these oils help control mites and what details are involved.

Dale
 
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