As beekeepers, there come times when we need to feed our bees or offer them up reserves to help them get through dearths and winter. New colonies should be fed so that they can quickly build out new comb for the queen to lay and for them to store their foraged pollen and nectar. Existing colonies also require feeding, especially a back up method to help ensure their winter survival. Today I thought that I would place these all recipes in one place for you to easily find them.
Today I learned how to catch a honeybee swarm. I keep two beehives across town at my Mom’s house. Her father was a beekeeper so when I asked about keeping a couple of hives at her place, she and my step-dad were quite supportive of the idea. It reminded her of growing up as a little girl. For the past 3 years, two of my hives have lived at my Mom’s.
About a couple of week’s ago, one of my hives had practically succumb to a complete death. A day or so after I witnessed that, I began the rebuilding by adding a few frames of brood from another hive and two frame of honey. This past week, we combined an early summer nuc that we made with this weak hive with the hopes of a strong hive that will survive the winter. There a variety of reasons why folks combine beehives.
This past weekend a friend and I got together to harvest honey from the summer. Despite keeping bees for three years this was the first harvest that was large enough to need an extractor. Many factors come into honey production by the bees including weather, hive health, hive size, breed of bee, supply of blooms, and honey bee pests. This year we were lucky after three seasons of keeping bees!
Last week, I caught the bees outside on a warmer fall day. They were sipping water from the decorative cabbages on the front porch. I sat and watched them. Each dipped their proboscis into the water. They seemed to enjoy the warmth of the sun. Their movements were sluggish. These were not summer bees but winter bees, that the queen had laid for the sheer purpose of surviving the upcoming season. The summer bees were all gone. Their lifespan was only around six weeks. Unlike their sisters, these winter bees could survive for a few months.
Honeybees are in trouble. Each year they continue to die off at an alarming rate. One in three bites of food you consume is due to a honeybee. Only recently have scientist started studying bees, when they soon realized that they are headed toward possible extinction. There are many potential reasons why the bees are dying. Some believe that it is a class of pesticides called neonictinoids, other believe that exposure to environmental chemicals weakens their immune systems and causes neurological damage. Some blame the varroa mites and small hive beetles. The hypotheses are numerous.
Honeybees work. They work all spring and summer to store up enough pollen and honey for their colony to survive the winter. However, sometimes, their best efforts are not enough and they can end up starving to death if their supplies run out. As you have read, in the early spring and late fall when the nectar and pollen supplies are low, we feed our honey bees sugar syrup as a supplement. They can take this honey syrup or leave it. The choice is up to them and it provides them with access to extra food if need be. However, sugar syrup and freezing temperatures do not agree, thus those keeping bees in colder climates must feed their bees another way.I have researched this very topic quite a bit. The good news is that there are options. You can make fondant that sits on top of the frames, that they bees can eat as needed. You can use the Mountain Camp Method with some sugar poured directly on newspaper, or you can create a candy board. To me the choice is clear. The candy board once made requires little maintenance It is easy to refill. It can hold up to 15 pounds of sugar. The sugar itself, helps to absorb moisture and humidity from the hive. It is accessible to the bees from all the frames in the upper deep. It does not require the beekeeper to open the hives frequently to check and replenish the food.