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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Question for anyone with experience overwintering indoors.

I'm in Northern BC Canada and have a few colonies that are pretty weak in numbers.

I have them in an overwintering cabin I keep dark and as close to 5C as possible.

Was thinking of mixing some freeze dried pollen with sugar syrup and making some pollen patty to boost their numbers a bit.

They won't really be foraging until late Feb/Early March when the temps are good enough and the willows get going.

I could combine them but I'd rather keep the queens if I can.

Wondering if it will do more harm then good, and what else I might be able to do to get their numbers up overwinter so they have a better chance come spring.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
By pollen feeders I mean. I dry feed them "fresh" pollen (not freeze dried) mixed with a bit of flour, brewers yeast, etc... They go crazy for it because there is nothing else around but they gather nectar from the willows.
 

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I would personally not feed a protein laden food source during the winter. If they cannot take regular cleansing flights, it is asking for trouble. I’m not overly familiar with your exact climate but here in Maine feeding pollen sub is not a good idea at all during the winter.
 

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Wondering if it will do more harm then good, and what else I might be able to do to get their numbers up overwinter so they have a better chance come spring.
I wouldn't be putting on feed with them stored in a place that doesn't allow relief flights.

I also wouldn't get super concerned about cluster sizes at this time of the year, it's to late to change things, they either make it or they dont. As far as asking 'will they make it', getting thru till first pollen in March timeframe is the easy part. The hard part is during the turnover from winter to new bees when they start brooding. Here on the island we are about a month ahead of you folks in the interior for spring buildup. More colonies die here during late March than in the period from November thru February. The issue is, we get a warm spell in February and the bees start brooding up when they get pollen which starts with the Hazelnut trees, our bees get that pollen by first week of February. Then we get another cold snap and a bunch of the early brood gets chilled when the cluster contracts. Trying to induce brooding to early with supplemental feeds will in some years do more harm than good because you get winter bees that 'expend' themselves feeding a batch of brood, then that brood chills and dies, now there aren't enough bees left to get a decent buildup when the weather gets warm again.

As far as the cluster size needed to successfully winter a colony, it really doesn't have to be huge. I winter some queens in our mating nucs, and have had success doing so. They are on 5 half size deep frames per compartment, 4 compartments in a standard deep. I was inspired to start wintering queens this way after watching a presentation by Liz Huxter from Grand Forks, they have wintered lots of queens in 4 way medium frames up in Grand Forks over many years. The real 'aha' moment for me came about when she mentioned that one year they got behind in bee work, didn't get the 4 way units into the winter shed before the cold and snow hit, by spring they realized, survival outside was just as good as putting them in the shed, but a LOT less work, so they stopped putting them inside.

At this time of the year, my opinion, in our northern climates, the best strategy is to 'just leave the bees' and wait for spring to show up. When spring shows up, assess the situation and work ahead from there. We did our best to get the bees prepared for winter back when it was still warm, and now its time to wait and see if what we did was good enough.
 

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As others have said as far as too little too late, let them be. This pollen feeding could/should have been done in Mid August to early September to try to get 2 more rounds of brood out of them. If the splits were made at that time , it was probably done too late or you did not give the bees the resources needed to overwinter succesfully. Then again they may live, I have not seen them to give an opinion, but rather am going by your assessment.

Jean-Marc
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 · (Edited)
Thanks for the replies everyone. I'll hold off feeding them, and hope for the best.

I had a hive similar in size make it through last year. It was a late summer swarm I caught.

These hives are weak in numbers because we had a terrible year this year. Wildfires caused a lot of problems with smoke, and had a drought.

My beekeeping mentor said this is the worst year hes ever had and hes been at it for over 20 years.

I made some splits in early July and they didn't do well. Another problem I had was very cold mornings all summer. So the broodnest didn't expand.

Better luck next year I hope!
 
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