Wintering Honey Bees - The Outdoor Community
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post #1 of 3 (permalink) Old 11-01-2016, 01:44 PM Thread Starter
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Wintering Honey Bees

There hasn't been much chatter on here about honey bees this year, i guess I'll kick it off late.

I lost my bees last fall. I attribute it to a cramped hive. I saw queen cells during my inspection, I should have been more proactive.

Those bees left me with a full hive body & a medium super full of honey. I took all the frames and froze them (to keep the mice away) through the winter.

The following spring I put the new bees with the old filled hive. I tried feeding but they didn't get through even a liter of syrup if memory serves me correctly. Makes sense, why eat sugar when you have 60lbs of honey to eat?

This summer I noticed I had a problem. My bees ate themselves dry. Nearly no capped honey, Both boxes maybe had a few pounds of honey in them. From mid august until now I've been feeding 1:1 (should have been feeding 2:1). I think they took about 10-15 liters of syrup. I added to the syrup honey B Healthy & Hive Alive.

I did a check again last weekend with the nice weather. They added some capped "honey" and they had a few frames with uncapped "honey". I think I need to start emergency feeding & continue through the winter into spring.

I have a few pounds of fondant & I've been using an entrance feeder. Should I be looking into other feeding options.

Based off some of my research I could use pure granulated sugar, wetted down & piled on top of my inner cover or using a paper towel or news paper piled right on top of the frames. Frame feeders also seemed to be a viable options.

I'm concerned because right now they've been in cluster so I'll need to get the food close. I also thought about building a frame feeder out of some screen/mesh that I can fill with fondant or bee candy.

Any thoughts? I'm not looking forward to possibly loosing another colony this year.

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post #2 of 3 (permalink) Old 11-06-2016, 04:47 PM
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Let me begin by saying I am not a professional beekeeper. I have been keeping bees about about 5 yrs, but I will share what I have learned mostly through trial and error. Let me address some of the things you mention in your post.
(1) - I would stop feeding syrup and I would not put wet sugar in the hive either. MOISTURE IS THE NUMBER ONE KILLER OF WINTER BEES. Bees can stand cold, but they can't tolerate wet and cold. Condensation will form on the top inside of the hive and will drip on the cluster. This happens to some extent because of the heat inside and the cold outside. It's bad enough for the bees without adding any extra moisture to the hive. I personally would not use a frame feeder during the winter either because of the moisture issue and because the bees tend to feed upward a lot. I have had hives that had 3 supers on in the winter and they only ate half the super of honey then moved up to the next one. I use a sugar board that goes on the top super which has screen that's big enough for the bees to get up into it. A sheet of newspaper on top of the screen. The bees will eat through it to get to the sugar. Use fondant or sugar bricks that are WELL DRIED. You can pour loose sugar on the paper if that's all you have, but I prefer the sugar bricks. Here is a youtube video that shows you how to make a simple sugar board.

(2) I would not put newspaper and sugar right on top of the frames. You will have sugar/paper falling between your frames and to the bottom board. I would also like to recommend that you have an upper entrance to the hive. If for some reason the bottom entrance gets blocked they can still get out the top. Bees do come out of the hive on nice days even in winter. Plus it helps with airflow which will reduce moisture build up.

(3) I would also suggest a moisture board on top of the hive to help absorb moisture in the hive. Another thing I do is to tip my hives forward and put a 1" to 1 1/2" thick block under the back. That way any moisture that does form on the inside of the hive will run to the front and drip down instead of dripping straight down on the cluster (hopefully).

I hope this helps some. Again I am not a professional but the one thing I have learned is that MOISTURE IS A KILLER DURING WINTER. Do what you can to reduce the moisture, add a sugar board and I think your bees will be okay. If you have any other questions i can help you with shoot me a PM.
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post #3 of 3 (permalink) Old 11-06-2016, 09:55 PM
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I've been keeping bees since 1974.... And I still am puzzled sometimes. I'll start with my experience, most winter losses aren't because of starvation do to lack of honey stores. Low bee numbers ( too small of clusters do to later swarming), high varroa counts, condensation, and lack of pollen stores all are common in winter dead out hives. I took off about 700 lbs from 7 hives in late Sept., and then fed them 80lbs of sugar in 2:1 mix in Boardman feeders. With the weather we had this fall, bees haven't clustered and would still work entrance feeders.

I treat for Varroa with oxcilac acid after supers come off in the fall, and put a wrap of foil insulation around each hive. It makes a good wind break but doesn't super heat the hive on sunny days like the black wrap does. I do put mouse guards on the entrances and put the inner cover in it's winter position.

Winter losses in Pa have been bad as of late...I believe they might push 50%. I knew of folks who lost 90% last year. I lost 1/8... The dead hive swarmed in July and never got back to good fall numbers.
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