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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I checked all of my hives yesterday and all the honey is still capped and the bees are eating the sugar bricks. Why are they preferring the sugar over the honey?
 

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Because in winter conditions dry sugar is easier to consume.

Keep in mind - bee don't just eat honey in winter as-is, by the spoon.

They must:
1)warm honey mass up to the internal cluster temp and maintain it so (they will not consume cold honey) - that takes a lot of energy
2)liquefy it to be less concentrated (especially if honey is crystallized to a degree)
3)move side-ways onto the cold comb/cold honey if no more above left (which makes them work even harder - try warming up a slab of cold honey one frame over).

Eating honey in winter takes energy and water - for a smaller cluster this maybe prohibitive and deadly.

Dry sugar (assuming it is above the cluster):
1)takes no energy to warm - it is dry and is already warmed up somewhat by normal exhaust from the cluster (in fact, you want the sugar to be the water-condensing body anyway and, thus, cool/cold)
2)takes no water to liquefy - water created by normal exhaust gets condensed onto sugar itself
Bees simply lick off the sweat water droplets created by condensation while being in most optimal conditions (the warmest place in the hive).

Simply - dry sugar is cheaper to eat when it is cold.
That's what bees are doing.
 

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OK, Sugar is fity cents a pound and I don't want to chance losing $200 dollars worth of bees and bees cannot eat lids.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
That makes sense about the energy required to consume honey vs. sugar. I'm a new beek so I'm learning as much as I can from you guys. I added the sugar at the beginning of winter when I saw a lot of moisture accumulating inside the hive and thought the dryish sugar would help. It was more for that reason but I also thought it would be an insurance policy in case they don't have enough food. At this point everything I do is a learning experience.
 

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it's like michael says insofar as the bees will consume whatever feed is open and save the capped reserves for later.

that, and the warmest place in the hive is at the very top so they like to hang out there when it's cold.
 

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It would not serve bees well to eat all of their stores when other sources of food are available. They will always eat other sources first or they would starve to death in the winter. Sugar blocks or mountain camp sugar are not considered stored food to them.
 

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Not sure the bees are smart enough and capable enough to "save food for later" in the winter conditions.

IF they were that smart and capable, they'd always setup their clusters strategically aligned with their food stores and never die inches away from food (due to their non-existent planning ahead :) ).

IMO, they just eat what takes the least effort and try to conserve energy and life-resourc best they can - just taking the least resistance path (intuitively at that - no thinking is involved; same as wintering fish going deep, what not).

Winter operating mode is "survival and now" and the constraints are very tight.
Summer operating mode is different and no life-or-death constraints are present - indeed, "save food for later".
Different bees too - summer programmed.
 

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I checked all of my hives yesterday and all the honey is still capped and the bees are eating the sugar bricks. Why are they preferring the sugar over the honey?
They're not preferring it - they are working it (as others have said) simply because it's there ...

Indeed, they're not just eating it - if you look very carefully you may be able to spot - with damp-set sugar - that they'll be dumping some of it, eating some of it, and storing the rest 'as is'. If fondant were to be given instead (again, when it wasn't strictly necessary to do so), then they'd be eating some of it and storing the rest. 'Dumping' thus appears to be related only to crystal size.

Crystalline sugars like these are often stored 'as is' and without cappings, and it's far easier to spot this behaviour in single box colonies where the brood nest may well be undergoing back-filling. Indeed, on inspecting such combs the uncapped white sugar deposits can frequently be mistaken at a quick glance as being chalk-brood. With my failing eyesight I've often had a moment's concern before examining those combs more closely ... :)
LJ
 

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IMO, the bees work the sugar because it is there. The bees won’t allow spilled syrup or honey to sit around the house. If the bees had enough feed in the combs, why would you add sugar bricks. Do say something other than just in case.
Do you feed any syrup in the spring?

Some Commercial Beekeepers here feed up to weight in the fall and leave a frame feeder in place. In early spring when the ambient temp is on the cool side, they open the side of the inner cover and fill the frame feeder.

I know you don't use frame feeders, so would you have need/use the paint cans in the spring to feed.
 

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I'm a new beek so I'm learning as much as I can from you guys.
..... I also thought it would be an insurance policy in case they don't have enough food. At this point everything I do is a learning experience.
Too many "new" beekeepers lose colonies due to late winter/early spring starvation. Sure, it could be prevented with proper feeding at the right time and is completely avoidable. But something as simple and inexpensive as supplemental sugar, I think it is good insurance to bridge the learning curve gap for beekeepers just starting out.

I agree that we should all learn appropriate ways to prepare our hives for winter, but it makes no sense to me to discourage new beekeepers from taking additional precautions while they learn the ropes.

I've been at this for a while, and although I try my best to prep all of my hives for winter, sometimes I'll end up with a few colonies that I dropped the ball on and seem to be a little lighter than I am comfortable with. I'll add sugar blocks to those colonies, and whether they needed them or not I'll have live bees in the spring. I'm not embarrassed about it or feel like I'm a slacker beekeeper. I fully understand that I'm not prefect, and I don't want my bees to suffer for it. I don't keep that many hives but I want as many as possible alive and kickin' in the spring, in spite of me ;).
 

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Do you feed any syrup in the spring?

Some Commercial Beekeepers here feed up to weight in the fall and leave a frame feeder in place. In early spring when the ambient temp is on the cool side, they open the side of the inner cover and fill the frame feeder.

I know you don't use frame feeders, so would you have need/use the paint cans in the spring to feed.
Yes, some colonies need a bit of syrup in the spring. Depends on the Autumn and the winter and the spring. My target weight is a guideline for me. Many colonies are 20-30 pounds over weight in the autumn, and never require any feeding. Some are 30-50 pounds under weight and do need Autumn feed and some will need spring feed. Yes, I give them a gallon can of feed. We have a late spring here. Last spring the first pollen came on April 20. Long time from the end of Autumn feeding 'till spring pollen. Even longer until any maple or dandelion nectar is available.
 

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In the original posts with MC, he talked about feeding syrup until Thanksgiving. St 2000’ in Catskill mountains of New York. Then he had a moisture issue which he corrected with his MC method. Gave a 5 pound bag, six times in the winter. It wasn’t about emergency feed. It was about moisture control...of a problem that he created by feeding too late. Now it seems it’s about emergency feed, or for just in case...more likely. The key word should be emergency. The proper management would to feed light colonies enough thick syrup early enough so it is in the comb and properly ripened. And yet it has become a default just in case method of making the beekeeper feel better. Why are there so many posts from beekeepers who say the top box is full of capped honey and the bees are working the sugar.
 

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2nd year 6a - 5 hives have feeding shims, ample fondant, winter patties, ample honey stores and super dry cavity. Noticing they go for the honey stores when they can get out for water. After those flying days they stay quiet and down in their combs.

Glad I have the extra stores because it may be almost too dry now. There is a lot more to the water humidity discussion this year thats very interesting.
 

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I was just having a discussion along these lines with another beekeeper. If supplemental sugar such as MC, fondant, or sugar bricks are provided to a hive that is otherwise well provisioned, what happens to all the capped sugar syrup they did not use prior to the flow commencing? Well, it gets moved up into the supers to make room for the brood. Best bet is to monitor hive weight and only add dry fed sugar if the hive is light.
 
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