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Experimental Feeding

Our honeybees are resting in the comfort of their hives now.  The recent weather is good for staying inside since it either rains or is very cold and windy.  We fed them early on using the inner hive feeder but we removed the feeders before we sealed off the hives.  There were some warm days in between which we decided to experiment with a new way of feeding. We used a bird water feeder where I had sanded the tray to provide some traction for bees.

The idea came from seeing honeybees looking for the last nectar and pollen from flowers left in the garden during days that were warm enough for them to come out.  There wasn’t much left but they found the inner feeders I left to dry outside and had gone for the residual honey in them.  I filled the adapted feeder and hung it up by the patio away from all the hives.  I knew I was taking a risk with my bees for contracting diseases from this communal feeding method but the closest apiary is around seven miles from us.  No one else keeps bees around here.  All our hives are disease free so far.  So I think the risk was minimal.  The bees seemed to enjoy it.

A bird water feeder, filled with sugar syrup, with the sanded tray to provide traction

A bird water feeder, filled with sugar syrup, with the sanded tray to provide traction

Honeybees lined up at the feeder.

Honeybees lined up at the feeder.

I have learned from this experiment that:

  • I don’t have to open the hive or use the front feeder for extra feeding in late autumn when I have already closed the hives.  I just hang a feeder filled with sugar syrup up and watch them take their food at will.  This has also minimized robbing since the feeder was far away from the hives.
  • The bees also obsessively clean themselves which helps in reducing mites, if any.  From my observation, after they have loaded up with syrup, they fly to an area close by and clean the dry syrup (fine sugar particles) off their legs and bodies before flying off to the hives.
  • There were some wasps at the feeder as well.  I got rid some of them one at a time using a plant clipper.

I will not know if this feeding has helped or hurt them until next spring.  I will try again in spring when I see them come out looking for the early spring flowers before I can open the hives and do spring feeding.

From this feeding experiment, I have also seen some darker colored honeybees.  My original bees are Italian bees that are light in color.  Some of the later generation developed slightly dark color but not this dark.  I have no idea what they were but they were friendly enough to crawl on my hand and clean themselves like the other bees.  I suspect that they were Carniolan bees since the breed is as common as the Italian whereas the German and Russian are a little less common.  But, they could also be some feral, mixed breed honeybees from the woodland nearby.  I can use all the help out there to identify them and I thank you in advance.

The dark colored unidentify bee on the left

The dark-colored unidentified bee on the left

One of the unidentify bee upclose

One of the unidentified bees up close

Talking about wintering the honeybees, one fellow blogger and a seasoned beekeeper, Emily Scott, has posted an interesting question regarding summer and winter bees on her latest blog Burdens of Bees.  Between a winter bee that has a longer lifespan with ready to eat food storage and doesn’t have much to do but coop up in a hive and a summer bee with a shorter lifespan that works itself to death but in the interim is able to enjoy the warmth of the sun and explore the world…. which one would you rather be?