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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I dropped 3 jars of feed into my bees yesterday for early stimulation of brood rearing. The weather forecast is for about a week of warmer weather with daytime highs in the 60 (16) to 70 (21) degree range. Daffodils are on the verge of blooming which usually coincides with willow pollen coming in. So long story short, the two strongest colonies took in a quart and a half of feed in less than 24 hours. The smallest colony is about half way there. Moisture condensation was very high in all three colonies so I gave them a tad of top ventilation. The temperature is due to go down to 20 degrees F tonight so I will pull the feed jars to prevent flooding out tomorrow morning when the temperature rises. Any time there is a temperature difference of more than 35 degrees, expansion will force syrup out of jar feeders and flood whatever is beneath. This can kill small or weak colonies.

I will visit my other colonies this weekend and give each at least a quart of feed. It is important in spring feeding to limit the amount to what the bees can use in about 2 weeks and to continue feeding on a regular basis as the population grows. It is also important to ensure there is enough storage space for the bees to maintain egg laying space. Small amounts of feed given on a regular basis are much more effective than large amounts given all at once.

So why am I feeding, after all, I haven't fed my bees for the last 8 years? I want them to hit peak population by about April 1st which is 3 weeks earlier than normal. This will allow me to split them to double from 10 to 20 colonies this year. I also plan on selling a few nucs to get other beekeepers started with mite tolerant queens.
 

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Moved to Huntsville 2 years ago after living south of Bham and Atl for the previous 10 years. Still learning the calendar here in HSV. Since you are starting to feed, then I will too! I sell 20-30 nucs each year but usually wait until March to start feeding. Hey, I'm in if you're in!
 

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I am a few hours drive north of you and I feed mine continuously throughout the Winter. As long as they take the sugar syrup and Ultra Bee, I keep feeding it to them. Once the Spring booms come, they will refuse the sugar syrup and Ultra Bee when they have the natural stuff available. I think it keeps the queens laying and maximizes the colony populations in anticipation of Spring as well as makes for conducting early splits. I have had a drastic drop in colony losses doing this. Knock on wood........I went into the Fall with 16 hives and still have them doing well.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I went through 3 colonies yesterday and gave feed to one that needed it. They had about 15 to 20 pounds of honey left in combs, but would not have built up in a timely manner without some additional resources. This colony was a 2 frame split made last year that was not quite able to store enough honey for both wintering and spring buildup. Previous experience with similar colonies suggests they would have survived but would not have built up early enough to split and would have made a reduced honey crop.

All three colonies were given a second brood chamber with new mann lake PF100 frames and a shallow super with starter strips. This is way too early for normal addition of space in a colony, but I do not visit this yard often due to distance.

One of the three colonies completely fills a deep brood chamber. When tightly clustered, they cover 7 frames. They already have 2 frames of brood well underway. This colony will have 6 to 8 frames of brood by early April and can be split 3 for 1. Detailed examination 5 weeks ago showed this colony to have a few bees with deformed wings from mite damage. This would normally be enough for me to cull the entire colony, however, the overwhelming good traits of high honey production, good wintering, and near optimum cluster size convinced me to raise a few queens and let them mate here at my home where the population of mite tolerant drones is highest. Hopefully, this will allow selection of some daughter queens with enhanced mite tolerance while retaining the other good traits.

RiverHawk, This will be an excellent week for early stimulative feeding. Keep an eye on them over the next 4 weeks and watch stores carefully, they can run out if early flows are poor. By late March the bees will be busting at the seams.
 

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Any time there is a temperature difference of more than 35 degrees, expansion will force syrup out of jar feeders and flood whatever is beneath. This can kill small or weak colonies.
I'm planning to do this too, though it isn't warm enough here yet. I have to be more cautious with jars as most of my hives are distant, and I can't go round putting them on and taking them off again.

Reading your post has made me realise that flooding was probably the cause of a colony loss found at the weekend. Mind it was tinytiny - 100 bees at most I should think - a straggler made too late last year that ought to have been combined. Sadly I found it had plenty of stores (for that size). I shouldn't have tried feeding it.

Are you using a thin syrup Darrel, or medium?

Another reason I'm holding back is the record damp weather we've been having. My floors are badly designed - exposed ply edges carry the water inward - and so I'm reluctant to put ekes on, lifting my nice deep rooves higher.

Mike (UK)
 

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I'm always torn on the topic. In the North, I don't think stimulative feeding pays and many of the greats of beekeeping came to that same conclusion. In the South, it's harder to say how that works out. In the North about the worst thing that can happen is that I succeed. Meaning I get them to raise more brood earlier. Because then they often get caught in a hard cold snap and won't leave the brood they started and they starve. It seems to work out better to have locally adapted bees who have the sense to start rearing brood at the right time instead of me manipulating them into rearing it at the wrong time... In the South it's unlikely they will get caught in that cold snap (at least most years)... The other issue in the North is the moisture added to the hive by the syrup and the fact that you can't get them to take cold syrup...

Here are some of the great beekeepers who were all in cold climates:

http://www.bushfarms.com/beesfeeding.htm#stimulativefeeding

"The reader will by now have drawn the conclusion that stimulative feeding, apart from getting the foundations drawn out in the brood chamber, plays no part in our scheme of bee-keeping. This is in fact so." --Beekeeping at Buckfast Abbey, Brother Adam

"Very many, at the present time, seem to think that brood rearing can be made to forge ahead much faster by feeding the bees a teacupful of thin sweet every day than by any other method; but from many experiments along this line during the past thirty years I can only think this a mistaken idea, based on theory rather than on a practical solution of the matter by taking a certain number of colonies in the same apiary, feeding half of them while the other half are left "rich" in stores, as above, but without feeding and then comparing "notes" regarding each half, thus determining which is the better to go into the honey harvest...results show that the "millions of honey at our house" plan followed by what is to come hereafter, will outstrip any of the heretofore known stimulating plans by far in the race for bees in time for the harvest." --A Year's work in an Out Apiary, G.M. Doolittle.

"Probably the single most important step in management for achieving colony strength, and one most neglected by beekeepers, is to make sure the hives are heavy with stores in the fall, so that they emerge from overwintering already strong early in the spring" --The How-To-Do-It book of Beekeeping, Richard Taylor

"The feeding of bees for stimulating brood-rearing in early spring is now looked upon by many as of doubtful value. Especially is this true in the Northern States, where weeks of warm weather are often followed by 'Freeze up.' The average beekeeper in the average locality will find it more satisfactory to feed liberally in the fall-- enough, at least so that there shall be sufficient stores until harvest. If the hives are well protected, and the bees well supplied with an abundance of sealed stores, natural brood rearing will proceed with sufficient rapidity, early in the spring without any artificial stimulus. The only time that spring feeding is advisable is where there is a dearth of nectar after the early spring flow and before the coming of the main harvest." --W.Z. Hutchinson, Advanced Bee Culture

"While it is often advocated that stimulative feeding be resorted to early, in order to build the colonies up to a sufficient strength, the author inclines to the belief that colonies in two stories will build up just as rapidly if there is an abundance of sealed honey in the hive, as is possible with stimulative feeding. Sometimes it seems that uncapping a portion of the honey has a stimulating effect, but feeding in small quantities, for the purpose of stimulating the bees to greater activity, rarely seems necessary..."--Frank Pellett, Practical Queen Rearing
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Yes, those beekeepers have the preponderance of evidence on their side. However, I happen to be in one of those dead zones that has an abundance of early pollen but little or no early nectar. This makes early stimulative feeding effective so long as it is not too early. Mid February is the earliest that it is viable in this area.

There should also be a disclaimer that one should feed bees any time there is a lack of stores in the colony. They will surely die if they run out of stores while there is no nectar available. This condition is most often caused by a beekeeper who does not leave enough on the colony for winter.
 

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I think the point with Darrel and I is that we're trying to build up numbers for a rapid increase program. We want to be making lots of nucs up in spring, giving them all summer to build comb and fill it.

So its for a specific purpose rather than just a habitual thing.

Otherwise I agree it would be best to allow/encourage local climatic/forage alignment. But that's both wierd nowadays round here, and dependent on station - what's available is highly variable within a mile or two. I'm working at establishing out stands that will be able to attune themselves a bit over time.

Mike (UK)
 

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In general I'm not a big fan of stimulative feeding, but I may make an exception this year. My rationale is that this winter has been far worse than those we've experienced in the recent past. Last year we had maples blooming in mid-January, this year the buds haven't even swollen yet, which probably puts us at an early March bloom. If temps get back to near normal, our main flow has the potential to start on schedule, which would suggest that the build-up time will be dramatically compressed this year if we allow bees to build up on their own. It also suggests that our typical post-maple dearth may not be as severe this year, resulting in less of an issue with large populations during this dearth.
 

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Michael it seems that the greats you referenced are from days gone by. My experience is the opposite. The difference is substantial. Our bees start taking protein well as soon as night time temps are regularly in the upper thirties. That being said I feel that protein is more important than syrup. I refrain from asking the bees to process syrup in cold wet conditions, especially if they have ample stores of honey on the comb. I like to place the protein patties in the brood area, and without fail our best bees are the ones who take the most protein. Be warned though, swarm season will come earlier... Which is not a problem if you have a plan for the extra bees.

Were any of those greats feeding protein? It is the key for brood production if there are ample carbohydrate stores.
 

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>Michael it seems that the greats you referenced are from days gone by.

As are the greats in most fields...

>Were any of those greats feeding protein?

Not that I am aware of. My problem with substitute is that by the time they should be rearing a lot of brood there is real pollen available, and real pollen makes good long lived bees, where substitute makes short lived bees. I have no need of short lived bees, and the bees ignore the substitute once the real pollen is available. I agree that pollen is what really triggers brood rearing in the spring.
 

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>Michael it seems that the greats you referenced are from days gone by.

As are the greats in most fields...

>Were any of those greats feeding protein?

Not that I am aware of. My problem with substitute is that by the time they should be rearing a lot of brood there is real pollen available, and real pollen makes good long lived bees, where substitute makes short lived bees. I have no need of short lived bees, and the bees ignore the substitute once the real pollen is available. I agree that pollen is what really triggers brood rearing in the spring.
One could argue that the beekeeping landscape has changed immensely since those great days gone by. Protein patties can be made with real pollen to allay concerns over substitute. Further, I would wager "results may vary" with the subs... a well balanced diet with the right ratios of aminos, lipids and sugars can yield some very fat bees with measurably high levels of vitellogenin, a prerequisite for a long lived bee.

"What if I told you that there was one amazing molecule in the honeybees’ bodies that allows them to store protein reserves, make royal jelly, promotes the longevity of queen and “winter” bees, is a part of their immune system, allows them to brood up in spring in the absence of pollen, and has an effect upon their foraging behavior? Surely you’d want to be familiar with such an important molecule!

Its name? Vitellogenin" Randy Oliver
 

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One could argue that the beekeeping landscape has changed immensely since those great days gone by. Protein patties can be made with real pollen to allay concerns over substitute. Further, I would wager "results may vary" with the subs... a well balanced diet with the right ratios of aminos, lipids and sugars can yield some very fat bees with measurably high levels of vitellogenin, a prerequisite for a long lived bee.
Well said, John
 

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I am a few hours drive north of you and I feed mine continuously throughout the Winter. As long as they take the sugar syrup and Ultra Bee, I keep feeding it to them. Once the Spring booms come, they will refuse the sugar syrup and Ultra Bee when they have the natural stuff available. I think it keeps the queens laying and maximizes the colony populations in anticipation of Spring as well as
makes for conducting early splits. I have had a drastic drop in colony losses doing this. Knock on wood........I went into the Fall with 16 hives and still have them doing well.
How do you feed the ultrabee? Anything here that looks like a patty becomes a shb breeding ground. I'm still trying to figure out a "good" way to get the pollen to my bees. This year, I'm going to try packing it into a comb... Not sure if that is a good idea or not, but one of the hives is getting a pollen sub frame... *grins*
 

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I make hard candy to which is much harder for shb to use. In a 5 gal pot bring 6 cups of water to boil add 25 lb sugar a few pounds at a time, stir continuously and bring back to boil after each addition. Turn off the burner and stir in 5 lb ultra bee with a good drill and paint mixer - you won't be able to do it by hand. Pour immediately into greased brownie pans. Feed on top of top bars.
 

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I have two hives in 100 feet of each other. One a wild queen the other a Calif. queen. The wild bunch has gobbled up sugar and pollen sub like crazy and is built up for spring, the other just nibbles and is s-l-o-w-l-y building up. Go figure.
 

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Less more often...yes this is a good way


I'm always torn on the topic. In the North, I don't think stimulative feeding pays and many of the greats of beekeeping came to that same conclusion. In the South, it's harder to say how that works out. In the North about the worst thing that can happen is that I succeed. Meaning I get them to raise more brood earlier. Because then they often get caught in a hard cold snap and won't leave the brood they started and they starve. It seems to work out better to have locally adapted bees who have the sense to start rearing brood at the right time instead of me manipulating them into rearing it at the wrong time... In the South it's unlikely they will get caught in that cold snap (at least most years)... The other issue in the North is the moisture added to the hive by the syrup and the fact that you can't get them to take cold syrup...

Here are some of the great beekeepers who were all in cold climates:

http://www.bushfarms.com/beesfeeding.htm#stimulativefeeding

"The reader will by now have drawn the conclusion that stimulative feeding, apart from getting the foundations drawn out in the brood chamber, plays no part in our scheme of bee-keeping. This is in fact so." --Beekeeping at Buckfast Abbey, Brother Adam

"Very many, at the present time, seem to think that brood rearing can be made to forge ahead much faster by feeding the bees a teacupful of thin sweet every day than by any other method; but from many experiments along this line during the past thirty years I can only think this a mistaken idea, based on theory rather than on a practical solution of the matter by taking a certain number of colonies in the same apiary, feeding half of them while the other half are left "rich" in stores, as above, but without feeding and then comparing "notes" regarding each half, thus determining which is the better to go into the honey harvest...results show that the "millions of honey at our house" plan followed by what is to come hereafter, will outstrip any of the heretofore known stimulating plans by far in the race for bees in time for the harvest." --A Year's work in an Out Apiary, G.M. Doolittle.

"Probably the single most important step in management for achieving colony strength, and one most neglected by beekeepers, is to make sure the hives are heavy with stores in the fall, so that they emerge from overwintering already strong early in the spring" --The How-To-Do-It book of Beekeeping, Richard Taylor

"The feeding of bees for stimulating brood-rearing in early spring is now looked upon by many as of doubtful value. Especially is this true in the Northern States, where weeks of warm weather are often followed by 'Freeze up.' The average beekeeper in the average locality will find it more satisfactory to feed liberally in the fall-- enough, at least so that there shall be sufficient stores until harvest. If the hives are well protected, and the bees well supplied with an abundance of sealed stores, natural brood rearing will proceed with sufficient rapidity, early in the spring without any artificial stimulus. The only time that spring feeding is advisable is where there is a dearth of nectar after the early spring flow and before the coming of the main harvest." --W.Z. Hutchinson, Advanced Bee Culture

"While it is often advocated that stimulative feeding be resorted to early, in order to build the colonies up to a sufficient strength, the author inclines to the belief that colonies in two stories will build up just as rapidly if there is an abundance of sealed honey in the hive, as is possible with stimulative feeding. Sometimes it seems that uncapping a portion of the honey has a stimulating effect, but feeding in small quantities, for the purpose of stimulating the bees to greater activity, rarely seems necessary..."--Frank Pellett, Practical Queen Rearing
 

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I have two hives in 100 feet of each other. One a wild queen the other a Calif. queen. The wild bunch has gobbled up sugar and pollen sub like crazy and is built up for spring, the other just nibbles and is s-l-o-w-l-y building up. Go figure.
Diversity - of building strategy - that allows populations to adapt to their local forage conditions.

Mike (UK)
 
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