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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
My question is how to tell if foragers are returning with a full crop of nectar. I’m in Vermont and the only thing flowering is silver maples. The bees are foraging actively and bringing in maple pollen but I don’t know how much nectar they’re finding. The hives are pretty light and it would help me know if I need to feed them, but it’s also something I wonder about in general. Are there signs at the hive entrance of returning foragers being full? I’ve heard of full bees “landing heavy” but never known what exactly to look for. Any tips would be appreciated.
 

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bees with full crops often actually look 'heavy', meaning that they come in to the landing board a bit low, causing them to crawl up a ways to enter the hive, or sometimes even crash landing at the entrance. They can also come in light, just partly full. Just bringing what they can scavenge. You'll notice their pollen loads are not real heavy at this time, either. A little is better than nothing this time of year.

Now is a good time to check in on their stores when you get a warmish day. 2 good frames is what they need, otherwise use a hive top feeder. If you see the need to feed, once you start just keep feeding until dandelion bloom in a few weeks.
If you have silver maple blooming there are likely some other things blooming, like winter aconite, or a few early crocus and other 'winter' flowers. Other trees will start producing pollen soon, too. Elms come close on the heels of silver maple in my neck o' the woods.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks Hops Brewster. Yes, there are a few other things flowering but I think silver maples would be the only significant nectar source at the moment. A follow up question: if my hives are low on honey stores, and the maples are producing nectar, will that be enough to keep them going as long as it's flowing?
 

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If they're low on honey at this time of year, I feed. If they take the syrup, great. If they don't take it, they don't need it because they get enough from the bloom.
 

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There is not much nectar coming in. I would feed them sugar water in zip lock bags with large pinholes in the bag. Place the bags on the top bars. Its nice today, but it is going to get cold and rainy, so do this today. The bags will allow them to feed in this weather.
Watch the bees now. When the nectar starts in earnest, you will notice the difference. Their abdomens will be extended and they almost look more translucent. J
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thanks Fivej. Do you mean that the maples aren't producing much nectar? The bees are foraging like crazy, but could be just pollen they're getting.
 

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I suspect that you are ahead of me in Burlington, but it doesn't matter in my way of thinking. They are light and even if maples have started, they won't be able to bring anything in the next few days if we get the cold and rain. It's easy to do, and you don't want them to starve or slow down just before everything will pop. Remember, they are now raising brood. Use 1:1 or 2: 1, doesn't matter. J
 

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As was mentioned earlier they come in big, slow, and heavy. They remind me of watching WW2 bombers. I would guess they are bringing in water if you have no nectar going on yet.

Light on honey is why I leave sugar blocks on until I'm sure they are bringing in nectar. I've been letting mine clean deadouts this year so they are well stocked.
 
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