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I'm in South Carolina and we're having some pretty good weather lately and the bees are very active and bringing in a ton of pollen. I overwintered with one deep. Queen is doing great and great brood pattern and no queen cells and hive is very active with a lot of bees. Few weeks ago I put another deep on. This second deep had frames with just foundation and no drawn comb. I don't normally feed my bees but I was at Walmart and 10 lbs bag of sugar for $3 seemed like it was too cheap to not feed them and help them draw out some comb. Mixed it 1:1 in a bucket and put it near the hive and they didn't touch it for 2 weeks. I checked them earlier this week and they hadn't drawn any comb on the second deep. I expanded the brood nest by doing some checkerboarding and bringing some frames of brood into the second deep. After doing that they are now all over the bucket of syrup.

I am wondering if before they were just satisfied with rearing brood so the workers were letting the foragers know to get pollen to feed to the brood and that is why they were ignoring the syrup. But, now that i've disrupted their brood frames by checkerboarding I've induced them to start drawing brood and now the workers are telling the foragers "we need some nectar so we can make some wax" and that is why now they are finally interested in the syrup. It seems like it's something most of us have experienced before which is putting out syrup and the bees not touching it.

I've always read that the foragers go get what the workers tell them the hive needs. Does this observation seem correct? Hopefully in a few weeks when I check again I'll have some drawn comb in that second deep now. I need them to really build up numbers because our nectar flow starts in a few weeks and I'll put my supers on in about 2 weeks (and take away the bucket of syrup at that time).
 

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I tend to think there are times that pollen is the primary objective, but mostly I tend to wonder if your syrup was just too cool.
 

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I left SC back in '97 but still go home as often as possible. I really don't know the temps this time of year in your area. Here are my thoughts:

1) Too early to put foundation on for the bees to draw comb. Should be some kind of flow going on and the temp gets in the upper 60s.

2) Too early to checkerboard. See item 1 above. Not warm enough. You have basically doubled the area that the hive has to cover to keep the brood and queen alive. A very cold snap of 3 or so days could wipe out all of your brood and possibly starving the bees themselves.

3) While they are all over the sugar water that is no guarantee that they are using it to draw comb. They may be frantically trying to backfill around the brood to keep them fed since you completely disrupted their brood nest.

4) My advice would be to remove the checker boarding and the second box for another couple of weeks. If you have frames of drawn comb, use it instead of the foundation. Then gradually swap out the drawn comb for foundation by checker boarding with another box or moving the drawn comb (which will probably have brood) to a weaker hive and replacing with foundation.
 

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I have watering points which are small ponds, I put these in to water the bees and they would be less than 10 metres from the hives. We've been having some warm days and the ponds are covered in bees which I thought was great. Until I was sitting down and started bee lining the bees and in the time I was there I did not see one bee return to the hives. I found this amazing but have heard that bees don't tend to forage close to their hives either although I have seen them at times.
My point is that of you are open feeding the feeding bees are not necessarily from your colonys and you may be feeding a neighbouring apiarists colony which is not ideal. No one wants syrup in their supers. Best to feed internally.
 

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Another factor not yet considered in this discussion is the fact that the wax producing/comb drawing worker bees are in their first couple of weeks of life (I've forgotten the exact days) and with the queen beginning to lay, you have a predominance of that aged bees. Thus those girls are in the mood to make comb.

Steve
 

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Not sure how you "checkerboarded" the brood frames when you added the second box but I would never open up a brood nest that much, especially this time of year. In an expanding booming hive inserting one or two frames at a time is enough, spreading the brood nest out too much creates a situation that could really set the hive back.

My preference when adding a new box is to simply move a couple of brood frames up into the center of the new box, surrounded on each side by frames with foundation. In the lower box slide all of the brood frames in toward the center of the box and put the new frames on the outside. You want to keep the brood nest tight, in kind of a pyramid shape, and let the bees expand upward and outward into the new frames. Later on when they have most of the frames drawn with brood and plenty of bees to cover empty space you can insert a frame or two of new frames and give them something to work on.

Skeggley has a great point on the open feeding. The activity you are now seeing could be neighboring bees taking advantage of the easy pickings. That is not an issue now, but open feeding "near the hives" could turn into a real issue later on when you get into a dearth. When outside bees find your feeding station it draws them close to your colonies and could create a serious robbing situation for your colonies. My suggestion is to pick up a hive top feeder or use another method of feeding hives internally so you are not attracting bees from other colonies to your yard.

If the bees were bringing in a lot of pollen and ignoring your syrup it could be that they were also bringing in nectar with the pollen from natural sources. In the spring months the bees always seem to prefer nectar over syrup.
Do your colonies still have a decent amount of nectar/honey remaining in the hive? If so, they might be focused right now on pollen rather then nectar.
 
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