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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I overwintered 9 hives this winter, one was a nuc. They all started with a good amount of honey, and they are all still doing good. I didn't want to pull frames and check for honey since its been so cold lately. So I put sugar on top of the frames over a sheet of newspaper as a "just in case they need it" remedy. A few of the hives have bees all the way at the top devouring the sugar and they have ate away the newspaper the size of a saucer. And the rest of the hives haven't touched it, it looks like I just poured the sugar on the newspaper.

I think I already know the answer to my question and it seems to me to be common sense, but is it safe to assume that the hives where the bees have ate most of the sugar really need it and are out of honey ? And the other hives don't need it yet ? Or is it possible that its a preference thing or coincidence.
 

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I personally would not feed sugar on a piece of news paper as granulated sugar is in its raw state and your bees will have to collect water and work it to make it suitable for them to eat, too much work for bees in winter to do, probably your bees were starving and thankful for the sugar and bees don't eat news paper the chew it up and dump it outside the hive. Make or buy fondant for winter feeding and roll out, cut into strips and place on top of frames. Try hefting or weighing your hives to estimate store levels
 

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Eating granulated sugar is no more work than having to uncap honey and eat it. I think sometimes we worry too much about inconveniencing the bees.
 

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I checked out the mountain camp method and not too dissimilar to what I do in an emergency which is to soak a two lb bag of sugar and place directly over the feed hole in the cover board
 

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Steve I can attest that I also have 9 hives going and put dry sugar via the Mountain Camp method and have had the same results. The only thing I can tell you is that some of my hives that are consuming the dry sugar still have plenty of capped honey that they have not even touched. The sugar has also benefited me by absorbing moisture in my hive. IMO if you have live bees come March and April be **** glad and hopefully you will have supers that runneth over by mid June.
 

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I checked out the mountain camp method and not too dissimilar to what I do in an emergency which is to soak a two lb bag of sugar and place directly over the feed hole in the cover board
So what is different about your emergency way of feeding sugar, and the OP's way of feeding sugar on a piece of newspaper(something you wouldn't do)?
 

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What is the most likely way the bees use the sugar? Do they just lick at the sugar granules and in the process mix it with saliva, which in turn makes a syrup? Or do they have to gather some moisture elsewhere in the hive and make a syrup with that. Or both. And when they make the syrup, do they store it in combs in the immediate vicinity of the cluster, or do they just consume it quickly with no intent of storing it?
 

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The sugar's ability to absorb moisture is even more valuable than it being there for emergency feed IMO. This was my first year doing MCM, think I'm going to make it routine from here on out.
 

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I think it is just the behavior of the honey bees. I put sugar cakes on each of my 3 colonies. On one of those the bees were up on the sugar in December. The next week there were no bees on the sugar. Two weeks later they were back up....go figure.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Thanks for all the replies. I remember reading about the mountain camp method now that it was brought up, but didn't remember that it was what I was doing. I plan on putting a more semi permanent feeding source in the hives before spring, but something just made me panic and really want to get food in there for them. This will be my 3rd season keeping bees and I haven't lost a hive yet. I realize that I eventually will lose one to something, but I didn't want it to be from starvation, especially when they are only 30 yards from my front door.
@Redwood - I pulled the corrugated bottom from under the screen on one of those hives and noticed perfectly shredded pieces of newspaper where they had taken it down and dumped it through the screen.
 

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I'm afraid I have a low confidence that much of the dry, granulated, sugar is ever actually consumed by the bees it is fed to. And, if its availability is dependent on an assortment of environmental conditions being optimum, as it seems to be, it is definitely a "crap shoot". I have no doubt that sugar crystals, if they absorb water and reliquify, are then eaten and completely utilized by the bees. I am just unsure as to how often the crystals reliquify before they are removed by the bees, as waste.

Bees, unlike we humans, are not really capable of hydrating dry sugar with saliva, in order to dissolve it. They are not capable of eating dry granular sugar crystals, as is. They need a source of warm, liquid, water, so it might be possible, if a copious supply of such water were readily available, for them to use it to dissolve sugar crystals, either natural honey, or fed sugar crystals.

First, I must prequalify that liquid water is available and accessible to my hives on a nearly daily basis - all year long.

And I once assumed that even granulated honey, as I observed that it was removed from the comb, by the bees, was re-liquified and eaten, until I began using screened bottom boards, that have no access for the bees, to the area beneath the screens (because I would seal them by placing a piece of foamboard beneath them). Now, many times, after noticing these areas of granulated honey having been removed by the bees - I find that there is often a corresponding accumulation of sugar crystals just beneath the screen - on the foamboard, aligned with where the crystallized honey had been above. So, apparently the bees often only clean out these crystals, and do not reliquify and eat them.
 

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When I look into a colony that hasn't flown in a month and see half of the mountain camp sugar gone and the bees actively feeding on more, I have a pretty good idea where the sugar is going. That being said, your conditions are very different, your bees can fly almost constantly and you never see the conditions I am speaking of, I think most colonies kept under conditions that make liquid feeding impractical do benefit from dry sugar feeding.
 

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I would have to agree that the bees in our climates act very different from what you experience Joseph. It may be that the bees in your area expel the granulated honey from their hives, but here, in the dead of winter, my bees arent going to do such a thing. Rather I have seen just as most others describe, bees feeding on moistened sugar crystals. I did notice that they dont seem to work the dry sugar until a fair amount of water has been absorbed into the sugar, and actually drying the hive out in the process, a real win win here in the north.
 

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Most likely the largest differences we can infer is that relative humidity and condensation are important (pronounced, "location") to helping the sugar be available to the bees. I've kept a bag of granulated sugar, in a wooden shed, for several years, and it is still dry and flowable. I realize that if that bag of sugar were in a wooden shed almost anywhere else in this country, if it didn't completely liquify, at least it would have absorbed some moisture and become solid or lumpy. For some purposes, this is a good thing, for others, such as feeding bees, it isn't so good.
 

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I dont think i could leave a bag of sugar in a shed in my location for more than a few weeks before it became a soild sugar block. One of the largest issues that new beekeepers in this area deal with is condensation issues in the winter time. With well over 100" of annual snowfall, its safe to say that we dont have a lack of available moisture around here. Combine a moist environment with the warm air coming from a wintering cluster, and there is a lot of condensation in a wintering hive around here. The mountain camp method of feeding, atleast in these parts, can be a huge help for overwintering, if for no other reason than to absorb some of that moisture.
 

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Here no one put granulated sugar in hives.. Long long time ago was some. But now none. Beside water, this inverting from granulated sugar to "honey" exhaust winter bee and shorten its life rapidly in my point of view.

Interesting to me to read..
 
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