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Discussion Starter #1
I have not been able to check my hives in quite some time. I do have time this coming weekend but the weather is not going to cooperate with me. Sat high is 29. I was planning to pop the top, look and listen for any signs of life, then mtn camp everything. I am thinking cant hurt to open up in this weather, as I am assuming they are starving out like many other hives????

Maybe Ill lift a bit to see first before opening but I bet they are light as a feather.
 

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I had to check mine at 22deg. they were low on stores, almost out of sugar, and things didn't look good for them. I had the covers off for about 10 seconds to add more feed. they are still alive today, so i think i made the right choice.
 

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I would avoid opening the hive less than 40°F, however if there was no sound when I knocked I would take a quick peek to see if they were alive, and if not then tear the hive down to diagnose the reason for the dead out. If they are alive then they most likely have enough stores to get through the next week. Unless the hives really are as light as a feather I would avoid adding more food at his time because at those temperatures it is too cold for them to retrieve the food (fondant, sugar or syrup).
 

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I open mine up all the time between 25-40F but not for very long. Be prepared with everything you are going to need/add right next to you. 30 seconds may save a $100 package of bees. This year 25F is a warm day and 40F the girls are flying. Good luck.
 

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If they need feed then feed them. Have everything ready, open quick and add your feed, close ASAP. Done this many times and I have not yet had a die out from the simple act of just opening as above. Choose a day with calm winds I think that is most important.
 

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I think it is faster to add sugar blocks than a set up a mountain camp feeding station. Do you have a feeding rim on already? If not, then I think I might staple up a wire "floor" to to a shim and then install the newspaper and sugar in it before opening the hive, so as to minimize the amount of open time. If you had the shim on already, I'd make up some sugar blocks and use those instead. You can get blocks on in 10-20 secs, or less, if there aren't a lot of bees milling around on the top bars.

I have opened my hives in the high 20s (for very brief, less than a minute periods), but never when there is any breeze to exacerbate the chilling.

My hives have gone up/ stayed up on to sugar even during temps in the single digits F. But I also have quilt boxes on above the feeding rims (and insulation above that, as well as additional outcoverings) so the feeding "chambers" are pretty cozy. They will retreate back down into the honey supers when it gets well down below zero. The one risk I can see is that if they have started brood, theymay not leave it to go up for food, making the cost/ benefit (chilling risk/needed food) ratio different. I am slightly north of Albany and I've had at least a bit of brood for several weeks, even though I still have tons of bees munching up sugar blocks in the feeding rim, in all of my three hives.

I use Laurie's Recipe for sugar blocks; they are easy to make and, even better, very easy and quick to install.

Enj.
 

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I took the opportunity to open and feed mine this past weekend when we had that "warm spell". Had to do it real fast because they became very aggressive almost as soon as I opened the cover.
Personally I would not open my hives anything below 40....but that's my choice. Take my advice as you may....pound on the side of the hive and listen
for buzzing. If the hive is alive it will buzz, and hopefully they will remain so until you get a warmer day.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
I dont have a feeding rim on yet. Shim idea is a good one. I hope I dont have brood already. Seems unlikely but if others do maybe I do as well. I am just hoping I have live bees..
 

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I hope I dont have brood already. Seems unlikely but if others do maybe I do as well. I am just hoping I have live bees..
so far I'm finding hives that went into winter heavy are still alive, I have lost a few, expect to lose more. If they are light feed them, just be fast. I haven't found any brood in any dead outs yet but they had better be starting to raise some pretty quick. good luck
 

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I was a little surprised to discover I had brood, too. But there's no arguing with the fact that among the dead bees on the hive floor were one or two recently turfed-out larvae. (That was in the period from Jan 15 - Feb 1.) Whether these were the only brood and the bees wisely short-circuited their development, or they merely rejected these few for some inscrutable bee-ish reason, I have no idea. Because, for sure, since I saw this I have not had a chance to go into the frames and check the status of any brood. (I am in northeastern NY, so similar weather as Auburn.) It's been so cold that I haven't even opened the front entrances enough to sweep out dead bees since then either. (Though since early February when I discovered that sometimes the "dead bees" are merely cold-stunned and might recover if given warmth, I haven't done anything other than poke in and make sure the entrance hole wasn't clogged, leaving "dead bees", cold-stunned ones, assorted malingerers and any tossed-out larvae to their own devices.

If you make some cakes, you could slap a rim on and set a cake down in probably less than 20 second, tops. No fuss, no muss and easy refill, if needed, afterward. I have found that while my bees come up and mass around the sugar cakes in a very intimidating way, mine, at least, are mellow enough at refill time that I can just nudge them aside if necessary to set another piece down. Last week, I used my bare fingers to move them along, and I have never, ever, worked my bees without leather gloves before. Your mileage may certainly vary on that.

While Mountain Camp granulated feeding seems like less work (no cookie-making required), I find blocks so much easier to re-stock in the cold weather that I'm willing to do the extra work. Which of course is done in the snug warmth of my own hive. Plus in theory, at least, the high level of acidulation in Laurie's recipe (which uses both vinegar and citric acid) has inverted the sugar, making it more digestible. (I don't have the chemistry to know if the amount of acidulation is enough to completely invert all the sugar used, but my bricks have a distinctly sour taste, so maybe. Perhaps Chemguy or someone else could weigh in and set us straight on how much pH change comes from ingredients and whether it is enough to fully invert the sugar.)

Good luck with whatever you try this weekend. I have been tolerant of the long cold so far, but am getting impatient with yet another swing-by of the Polar Vortex. Last week I told the girls that we were past the worst of it, and now I'm proven wrong. They will not be happy, I think.

Enj.
 

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I won't know if I have brood for a long time the way things are now. A short look into the hives is justified but you need to pick a still day and be prepared to add feed before you open up. Bees simply can't learn to eat wood covers.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
If when I open up this weekend and i see top box is empty of stores and just taking up space, good idea or bad idea to remove? Just leave it ?? Temp forcast 39 Sat and cloudy. Wish it were 39 and full sun. Better than in the 20s though I guess.

Also.. what about the idea of pouring some sugar down in between frames to get to the cluster, if its a box or two down??
 

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Unless your top box was empty when you closed up for winter it won't be empty now. The bees will be up there in it. If it is empty of honey and bees I'd take it off. But I also wouldn't be going into my hives this time of year were they in NY anyway. Why are you? Do you have some reason to suspect that they are on the edge?
 

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I think it is faster to add sugar blocks than a set up a mountain camp feeding station. Do you have a feeding rim on already? If not, then I think I might staple up a wire "floor" to to a shim and then install the newspaper and sugar in it before opening the hive, so as to minimize the amount of open time. If you had the shim on already, I'd make up some sugar blocks and use those instead. You can get blocks on in 10-20 secs, or less, if there aren't a lot of bees milling around on the top bars.

I have opened my hives in the high 20s (for very brief, less than a minute periods), but never when there is any breeze to exacerbate the chilling.

My hives have gone up/ stayed up on to sugar even during temps in the single digits F. But I also have quilt boxes on above the feeding rims (and insulation above that, as well as additional outcoverings) so the feeding "chambers" are pretty cozy. They will retreate back down into the honey supers when it gets well down below zero. The one risk I can see is that if they have started brood, theymay not leave it to go up for food, making the cost/ benefit (chilling risk/needed food) ratio different. I am slightly north of Albany and I've had at least a bit of brood for several weeks, even though I still have tons of bees munching up sugar blocks in the feeding rim, in all of my three hives.

I use Laurie's Recipe for sugar blocks; they are easy to make and, even better, very easy and quick to install.

Enj.

i wouldnt recommend a screen bottom box for dry sugar. they need to be able to get through that sugar where the cluster is instead of having little slots all scattered for one be at a time to eat. basically enough bees wont beable to eat a time to do any good. just get in and get out. i mountain top feed them in early winter soo we dont have to worry. dry sugar is good insurance,a great absorber for moisture in the hive and the leftover sugar is there to make early spring syrup.
good luck
:)
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Thanks Mark. To answer your question: My hives were OK going into winter. Were they HEAVY? No. In my opinion, they were ok for a "normal"/mild winter. Obviously this winter is anything but mild. So.. my assumption is they are lacking in stores. I will heft them some first, but I think if I do nothing, I will have nothing come the warm weather.
 

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Then in all likelihood your top box won't be empty and your bees will be up near the top of the box. So you might want to give them some sugar on top of a sheet of newspaper, a couple pounds.
 

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So you might want to give them some sugar on top of a sheet of newspaper, a couple pounds.
I am curious...how much sugar do you think they'll need over the next few weeks? If they consumed all of that sugar (couple of pounds = 2lbs) that would be about the same as two and a half pounds of honey....right? A couple of pounds doesn't sound like enough to go very far, to my thinking.
 

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As long as the hives have good weight, I would not open them until it's about 60-70 F... but if they really are light I wouldn't hesitate to open them when it's -10 F to put some sugar on if that is as warm as it's going to get. They don't need you to look at them... leave them alone if at all possible.

It's not a matter of what you can get away with, it's a matter of having a good reason to bother them. They need to stay quiet and inactive and you will get them wound up opening the hive.
 

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If I had a hive, with a moderately large cluster that had begun brood production.....that I believed was on the brink of starvation and still several weeks away from a nectar flow.....and I hoped to feed with granulated sugar until that nectar flow began......I wouldn't give them less than 15lbs of sugar.....and even at that they would need to be able to access and consume every bit of it to survive. Just my opinion.
 
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