Very Warm Autumn

Feeding Honey Bees In Mid-December

Sunday was a record breaker for high temperatures in New York.  With 67º F in Central Park, it breaks a high temperature record set back in 1923.   Where we live the temperature was only slightly over 60º F and it was warm enough for the honeybees to come out of their hives, cleaning themselves and looking for food.  Daytime temperatures will stay above 50º F for the next couple of days and they will come to forage though there are hardly any flowers left for them this late in the season.

We have insulated all hives for the winter so opening the top to feed them is not an option.  We would have to remove the tape, foam, and inner insulation in order to put the feeder in.  A front feeder is not an option either because we would have to crack open the entrance to slide it in.  Anything we open forces the bees to spend more energy in sealing them again with propolis.  So I put the feeder out in the open and let them take whatever they can back to their hives.

Insulated with 2 inches of foam board and tape all around
Insulated with 2 inches of foam board and tape all around
The smallest hive even sealed off the top entrance with propolis and left only a little, round hole just big enough for one bee to go in and out at a time
The smallest hive even sealed off the top entrance with propolis and left only a little, round hole just big enough for one bee to go in and out at a time
This girl was trying to make a perfectly round hole and I didn't want her work even harder by opening the top
This girl was trying to make a perfectly round hole and I didn’t want her work even harder by opening the top

The advantage of feeding them this way, aside from not having to open the hives, is that they tend to clean themselves carefully afterward.  The surface they are walking on is coated with sugar syrup and dry sugar particles that stick to their legs, body and wings. After taking some sugar syrup, they will land on any dry surface near by, myself included, and clean themselves before flying off to their hives.  It’s not only to get sugar off their body, also get mites, if any, off themselves as well.

Bombarding a sugar syrup tray
Bombarding a sugar syrup tray
Some line up neatly along the side
Some line up neatly along the side

The disadvantage of this ‘communal’ feeding is that if there is a disease around it would easily spread from hive to hive.  As far as I know, there is no one keeping bees within a few miles but I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

A clean bee takes sugar syrup from a bee with legs and wings smeared with syrup
A clean bee takes sugar syrup from a bee with legs and wings smeared with syrup
Another pair doing the same routine, then the clean bee flies off leaving the other bee to clean herself
Another pair doing the same routine, then the clean bee flies off leaving the other bee to clean herself

I took the opportunity to do a mite count.  There were hardly any mites on the corrugated sheet with printed grid that I inserted under the screen bottom board.  I keep the sheet on from late autumn to spring, not just for mite counting, but to keep other insects from getting in under the hive and to help keep warm air in.  I think they can use all the help they can get to keep them going through the deep freeze of winter.

Finished checking for mites, cleaned the corrugated sheet and smeared olive oil on it before inserting it back under each hive.   Cleaned birdbaths, added clean water, not just for the birds but the bees drink it too especially when the syrup turns to tiny sugar particles.

Honeybee drinking water perched on a stone in a birdbath. I leave a stone in each bird bath to serve as a landing
Honeybee drinking water perched on a stone in a birdbath. I leave a stone in each bird bath to serve as a landing

Thus ends my record breaking mid-December day chores.  After all, the bees are my family and family always looks after one another.

2 thoughts on “Very Warm Autumn

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s