Wednesday, February 9, 2011
LESSON 96: Feed Your Bees in Late Winter (www.honeybeesonline.com) 217-427-2678
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LESSON 96: FEED YOUR BEES IN LATE WINTER
It's important for beekeepers to be well prepared to properly manage hives that have survived the winter. In our last installment we looked at how to inspect the productivity of the queen. Today we are looking at how to feed our bees in late winter just before spring. Use this acronym to help you remember how to prepare:
Stimulate For Rapid Foraging Force
Rotate Hive Bodies
Inspect The Productivity Of The Queen
Give 1:1 Sugar, Sugar Water & Pollen Patties
Beekeepers celebrate when they see that their hive survived the winter. However, to make this overwintered colony as productive and healthy as possible, providing proper nutrition is essential.
This is the time of the year when bees start running out of stored honey if they haven't already. To help them not die from starvation, it's important to feed bees. When bees die with their heads stuck in cells, they starved. If they haven't died yet, there are many ways to feed your bees during late winter and early spring. All feeding methods have some pros and cons so these are my experiences and opinions.
For those of us in the mid to northern part of the US we need to check our bees to be sure they still have stored honey. Here in Illinois, we have a long way to go, probably 6 more weeks of possible cold. Pollen patties are a good source of protein for the bees. These can be purchased or can be made from a dry powder mix.
If the bees are short on honey an easy solution is to feed solid sugar. I do this by placing a candy board with a pollen patty embedded in the candy. I never want to give the bees liquid sugar in late winter because the bees have less opportunities to defecate outside the hive and liquid sugar will require more visits outside the hive.
Once the bees are able to fly more, a sandwich bag of sugar water on the top frames just above the cluster works well. I poke a few holes on the top side of the bag and the bees figure out how to draw out the sugar water. I use the double zip bags. Another method is to use a jar placed on top of the inner cover just above the cluster over the oval shaped hole. Then place an empty deep hive body to surround the jar and then place the top cover on this deep hive body. Place a heavy rock or block on top to hold everything tight. Remember, it is best not to feed liquid sugar until the bees can fly to defecate.
Fondant is a good winter and early spring feeding method. Here is a recipe a fellow beekeeper gave me: 5 cups of water, 15 pounds of sugar, 3 cups of Karo light corn syrup. Bring water to a boil and put in sugar. When all the sugar is dissolved add corn syrup and bring
temp up to a soft boil or 252 degrees (F). Then pour into aluminum pie pans. When set, put fondant on a sheet of wax paper above bees. Cut slits in wax paper so bees can get at the feed. This is a fondant type feed, and not the recipe for candy boards. Some top feeders may work well as the temperature continues to warm up. But feed your bees! Your bees have survived the worst winter conditions. Do not let them die now that winter is almost over. Candy boards are an excellent choice for late winter. They can be tricky to make. To purchase candy boards from us go to: www.honeybeesonline.com/candyboard.html
Candy boards can make the difference in late winter.
...in our next article Dead Bees In The Snow
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David & Sheri Burns
Long Lane Honey Bee Farms