Beesource Beekeeping Forums banner

1 - 20 of 25 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
176 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I keep hearing about emergency winter feeding. What usually causes this situation? Why not leave enough honey in the hive so you don't have an emergency? I think honey would be better for the bees in the winter than sugar. I have put a pollen cake on my hives about two weeks before I think the natural pollen will start coming but I don't feed any sugar.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
635 Posts
I can't speak the the situations of others, but the only honey I harvested was a quick lick of the hive tool after accidentaly gouging open some capped honey. A rookie season with splits and caught swarms had a low to do with what are probably light stores, and some extreme weather forcing the bees to move vertically (this is just speculation) instead of eating all the honey on the way up.

I would lvoe to have left them another super full of honey, but thats just not the way it worked out for me.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
641 Posts
If the hive does not or cannot store enough honey going into winter, it will need to be fed.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,021 Posts
Why not leave them the honey instead of feeding sugar? Its simple, I can get $7.00 a pound for my honey and the sugar I buy is 44 cents a pound. I don't consider feeding dry sugar or sugar bricks in the winter as an emergency, I just supplement or replace the food I steal from them with sugar. ;)
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,625 Posts
Even with the best of intenions crap happens and one never knows from year to year if a hive or two will end up a bit short.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
693 Posts
My sole hive seemed to have plenty of honey back in late November yet it consumed 15 lbs of sugar fondant to date. I expect that it will go to 20-25 lbs before the spring.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
176 Posts
Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Do you think most of time when a hive needs "emergency feeding" is the bees fault or the beekeepers. I know for me it is very tempting to take more honey off in the fall than I should. However I always try to leave 70-80 lbs on the hive. Some hives I leave more on so if I have a hive that is a little low I can take honey from it to give to a weak hive. Although I do loose a hive or two in the winter (about 20%) I can truly say I don't think I have ever lost one because I didn't "emergency feed". I have found dead outs that have eaten the honey around the cluster but had several frames full of honey in the same box. I don't think "emergency feeding" would have prevented this. Usually when I loose a hive it is my fault, most times just poor beekeeping.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,028 Posts
I keep hearing about emergency winter feeding. What usually causes this situation? Why not leave enough honey in the hive so you don't have an emergency? I think honey would be better for the bees in the winter than sugar. I have put a pollen cake on my hives about two weeks before I think the natural pollen will start coming but I don't feed any sugar.
Very difficult to know what a normal winter is. This winter is certainly an outlier, I hope. I am not sure I could have predicted this and left enough honey on for this North Dakota winter in IN. Thus I put 5 pounds of dry sugar on every hive and when I checked a couple of days ago several had eaten all of the sugar and starved. They all started with what should have been plenty of honey stores.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,794 Posts
There are a few reasons I see for needing to feed. poor forage, a faltering hive due to any number of reasons. diseased but recovering. a poor queen. been pestered by any one of several predators such as skunks. what about a bear tearing up a hive and it just surviving? Unable to build back up on what forage is left. and yes just plain poor beekeeping. I have started nucs late in the season and fed them to get them ready for winter. is that bad beekeeping or just disagreeable to some?

Bees have to make enough honey for you to leave them enough. They do not always do that.

As for sugar being bad for bees. or not as good as honey. I have heard it is worse, no difference and even better for the bees. the no difference source has the most credibility. So even though a person may think it is worse. that does not mean it is worse. It may mean they think the obvious and have not really given it much thought. I know my bees do better with it than without. Even if I am mistaken and sugar is not good for them, starvation is worse.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,291 Posts
Lack of knowledge, experience and know-how. Some new folks have problems gaging stores appropriate for their climate. Take too much during harvest and/or don't check in fall and feed sugar syrup back appropriately. Sugar blocks are more or less insurance for those who cannot gage stores correctly. Also acts as a mild diseccant.

I doubt natural pollen will be available in 2 weeks.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,265 Posts
I have some double 5-frame medium nucs that are heavy with stores but they also have four pounds of sugar over the inner covers... as insurance.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,082 Posts
With this winter as cold as it has been, can the bees always get to a feeder? What was it I read a couple of days ago ... if it is too cold they can't leave the ball and dash off to a feeder? They may need stores close to where they have gathered to keep warm? It would seem they would be better with honey in comb, even if that honey is produced from sugar from feedings after the good stuff has been harvested.

Maybe it is not how much, but how close at hand?

I have top feeders that I'll try next year. Maybe if the top covers are insulated these will be warm enough.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
635 Posts
Phoebee, It is rather difficult to get bees to take syrup in the winter. the inside of teh hive is not al lthat warm and the bees can't easily deal with cold syrup. this is why folks feed fondant, or candy, or hardened sugar. The bees are able to consume it in solid form once it is moistened with the water vapor they generate within the hive. In addition, the hardened feed can be situated directly above the frames, so if the cluster mves up and has no food, they are already in contact with the emergency feed. This works better for them than trying to access a frame feeder, or a top feeder.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,082 Posts
Thanks. Now this thread is making more sense, because what little I know suggested feeding sugar syrup in winter was not going to work.

Still, opening the hive to put in candy, etc, must be stressful too. On a warmer day, I'm guessing? And what sort of diagnosis could you make to be sure it is worth the risk?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
635 Posts
I'm not an expert, so take this all for what it's worth.

Yes, opening the hive in the winter is risky business. with experience that i don;t have, one can lift one side of teh hive and kinda guess the weight of it and get a feel for how its doing. if its light, then you've got a problem and need to feed. Then again, it could be fairly heavy, but the bees moved up vertically becasue it was too cold for them to move horizontally to get to honey stores...in which case you're also in trouble.

Ideally, we could add sugar to them when it is above 50deg. heck, I'd be happy to do it if it were 40, sunny, and no wind. We haven't seen temps like that since november or december, so there isn't a "safe" way to add emergency feed. The safest thing to do is add it quickly and disturb bees as little as possible. It's a tough decision to make...do you risk killing them with cold, or risk them starving and staying warm?

I have a 3/8" hole drilled into a shim box that I loaded with candy before the cold hit. I can see a mass of bees in there if i check it at night with a laser shining through the hole. So, the bees are up in the candy. I don;t know if they just like it, or if they're eating it out of necessity.

My plan is simple. I have made up more shim boxes filled with hardened sugar to add atop what is already there. I will give a firm shake to get the bees off of where i don;t want them to be, then I'll add the new layer of candy. If they havent eaten much of the candy, I'll simply add a bit that i have made into "sugar pucks" by using cupcake tins as molds.

Anyways, thats about what i know about winter feeding.

Anotehr common way of adding winter feed is to pop the top, lay a piece of newspaper down and then pour sugar on top. Whatever you do, do it fast! Not as in do it tomorrow, but as in don't be dilly-dallying around when you do it.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,433 Posts
Easy enough to check -- if you can lift the hive with one hand in the handhold in the bottom box (tip it, really) this time of year you definitely need to feed, they are going to start brood rearing here shortly (as soon as it warms up a bit) and they will consume every bit of honey left to do that.

A winter like this year can catch you flat footed, even if you had normal stores for winter. And some hives will go into winter with quite a few more bees than others, and hence will require more food.

It is by far much better to feed them up in the fall than to open the hive and add sugar in one form or another, but feeding is much preferable to having a hive die from starvation.

Peter
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
654 Posts
I left some splits to forage for themselves but when august hit there was something with the way the golden rod did not produce much nectar and the bee inspector explained that there were several places he went where the bees were starving at an unusually alarming rate. I had an Italian hive with 3 shallows of honey that I though t was plenty but by the end of august there was zero honey. I ended up feeding my bees as best as I could but some were still light so it was a situation where there just wasn't much for the bees to get and many people had the same issue around here. I did a little candy over a few but could and will do more. a 4lb bag of sugar over some newspaper would be a wise financial move at this point considering a package of bees is way more money and I don't want other bees I want my bees to start with in the spring. The emergency feed is more of a hopeful insurance against starvation which is the main reason that I see people losing bees in my area. Perhaps mites is part of it but the result is bees with their heads in the combs starved. Hopefully my girls will make it to spring and I will pamper them once it warms up. I am looking forward to the time on the forum when floods of excited beekeepers are discussing how wonderful the spring is and how happy the bees are:)
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,082 Posts
The hive scales I'm building are sounding better and better. Hope they work!

In Virginia we've had 5 degree mornings and we've had a few days in the 50's. The day before we picked up our woodenware, there were bees out taking a ... cleansing. The next day it snapped cold again. In WV where we expect to put the hives I don't think they've seen the ground in three weeks (very unusual) and the kids may be in school to July (unheard of).

I'm eager to pick up our nucs, but I guess I should be glad that this was not our first winter.

My resident Master Gardener thinks Golden Rod is unreliable. I was not paying much attention ... either some strains make little nectar or maybe sometimes it just doesn't. Fortunately we have a great diversity of summer and fall wildflowers ... we'll see how it goes. The top feeders hold two gallons and we're prepared to use them if needed.
 
1 - 20 of 25 Posts
Top