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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
3rd year beekeeper. I have each year put dry sugar on top of my hives for winter, aka Mountain Camp feeding. I do this to every hive, regarless of stores; any sugar left over in the spring goes into syrup, so little is wasted.

Talking with another more experienced beekeeper, he puts sugar on only in the early spring, only if the hive is light.

I am curious, those who use dry sugar, do you put it on proactively or reactively?
 

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Proactive, about mid-winter. Some use it and some carry it out the front entrance and dump it on the ground unfortunately.
 

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I put sugar blocks on all the hives every winter. The rim goes on ahead of time, then sugar is added later when flying weather is over.

Seems to serve a dual purpose for me. Not only is it there to help out a hive that might be light, but the sugar will absorb excess moisture that might condense and drip down off the cover. Eliminates the need for me to use a quilt box.

Some consider adding sugar a waste of time if you've done your job prepping the hives for winter, but as much time as I spend with the bees I don't mind giving them a few more minutes for this. It's cheap insurance against starvation, and has saved hives that would have starved from beekeeper error.
 

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If you do your work properly in October, and feed syrup until the colonies are packed with stores, there is no need for dry sugar.
 

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If you do your work properly in October, and feed syrup until the colonies are packed with stores, there is no need for dry sugar.
Location is everything. In my area October is way too late to get them ready for winter. They will take very little syrup because of the cold nights. Feeding for winter must be done in August and September. In fact, this year the bees pretty much stopped taking syrup by the 10th of this month. Winter access to your hives is also a factor. All of my hives are located at my residence. I can visit them on any day with no effort. If you will have limited access to the hives in winter, sugar blocks may be the perfect insurance to prevent starvation. Because of the easy access, I use sugar blocks on a case by case basis. There is no reason to add them if the hive has plenty of food still.
 

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Every hive is fed up to 125-140 lbs before cold weather (next week or so here is 30's day time high) so glad I am done. Every colony or double deep double nuc gets ten pounds on the top bars around early November. I do it when it is cold and bees are clustered. Then in January I start checking for hawgs consuming all the sugar and supplement them as required with sugar bricks. Adding more loose sugar at that time is too difficult for me.
 

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If you do your work properly in October, and feed syrup until the colonies are packed with stores, there is no need for dry sugar.
Yes, that is the ultimate goal. But sometimes life gets in the way and I can't always be perfect. I don't want any of my hives starving out due to an oversight or misjudgment on my part.

Feeding sugar syrup in the fall, or sugar blocks during the winter ... really, in the end what's the difference. The objective either way is to give the colonies the extra sugar they'll need to make it through to spring. I agree that proper preparation in the fall months is better by far, but with supplemental sugar as another tool in the box I'll use it as insurance.
 

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here in coastal Virginia, we have mild winters, so the bees are very active even in Dec/Jan. I put sugar bricks in each hive in late November and sometimes have to replace them in January. They tend to eat the sugar first and leave the capped stores for Jan/Feb when they are raising the spring bees. This works well for my area.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Me too. I use the bricks because they are easier to handle going on AND easier to take off when foraging begins in the spring. Loose sugar is a PITA to take off gracefully. :D
I find the "loose" sugar is a brick in the spring anyway ...
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Throwing my own 2.5 cents into my own thread, I like the "dessicant" effect of the sugar in the hive. Of course, that may be more imagined than real, but I think it is a real thing.
 

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I've killed nucs with MC. Very cold for along stretch, sudden warm up with wind off the water making snow fog that turned the sugar into a dripping mess. Happens.
 

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I've killed nucs with MC. Very cold for along stretch, sudden warm up with wind off the water making snow fog that turned the sugar into a dripping mess. Happens.
This means you had general moisture problems.
I am a heavy MC user - sugar turning into a moist mush means one thing - you have excessive moisture issue inside the equipment (so much moisture that even dry sugar pile gets saturated). Normally MC turns into a rock and stays a rock (and even what left are removed as pieces of sugar stones in spring) - how it should operate.

I had a very obvious moisture case last winter (some leak from outside resulting in a water/ice paddle on the hive floor and high moisture levels).
That was the only hive I ever found where the hard sugar turned into moist mush (and the corresponding dead bee cluster).
 

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I would not depend even a little bit on the dessicant effect. As honey or sugar is consumed the water produced in the process is more than 50% of that weight. It only takes a small amount of added water to make a runny slurry out of dry sugar.

I have used shavings quilt boxes with huge upper vents to the outside and in my climate much of the dry sugar in the feed rim space will still be dry enough to be a nuisance to remove in spring. If you dont get rid of excess moisture by some means and the feed area/top of frames area insulated enough to prevent condensation, dripping could be an issue.

There is a huge difference in local conditions in the area covered by this forum.
 

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I would not depend even a little bit on the desiccant effect. ....
One needs not depend on dry sugar as a desiccant - there are bigger issues in the moisture department.
The dry sugar, however, is a good indicator and a buffer (similar to buffers in chemical reactions) that absorbs the excess moisture to a point.
Runny slurry means the situation is beyond the point of return.
Anyway, dry sugar works fine and saves lives in the dry and cold upper-midwest winters.
 

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This means you had general moisture problems.
No, It means you do not have a good picture of snow fog off the water and how far and fast the temp swing can be off the water.
 

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I've killed nucs with MC. Very cold for along stretch, sudden warm up with wind off the water making snow fog that turned the sugar into a dripping mess. Happens.
With that much moisture in the hive along with such a drastic change in temperature, what would have happened if there was no sugar in the hive? I might be wrong but I'm picturing a large amount of moisture condensing on the cover and dripping down right on the bees.
 

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Well considering it was condensing on my porch roof as well it was extreme. Saw snow fog like that more in the sixties, saw cold like that more in the sixties as well. Not something I would expect often. Not sure it would have happened with less stores, was third box, two deeps and medium plus sugar. No way bees were going to heat up that mass. In part the problem was lack of space around the edges, only left a sugar gap at the vent hole, which was facing the wind direction. Vote for blocks over pour for venting, especially if you are near large open water.
 
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