Just In Case…
It’s over 50°F again today and the honeybees came out of their hives even though it’s cloudy. I observed them carrying out their dead and picked up a few for a closer inspection. I found that dead bees from hive #2 have their tongues sticking out, a sign of starvation. So I decided to open the hives for emergency feeding.
Even with heavy feeding last September, hive #2 still shows signs of depleted food storage. I think either they were robbed then or new bees emerged during a few very warm days early this month to reduce the supply further. As I mentioned in the previous post, hive#2 seemed to have more bees than hive #1 now.
I took my cue from them, even though it’s a cloudy day and the temperature is slightly over 50°F they still came out, so it’s ok to open the hives. What I saw in both hives is very encouraging.
After I saw inside hive #2, it confirmed my belief that I made the right decision in an emergency feeding today. I don’t know when the next warm day will be and I don’t want to find too many starved bees by then. Mid-winter emergency feeding can be done either with fondant (mixed sugar with high-fructose corn syrup), or granulated white sugar. I tried to make fondant once but it didn’t come out well. I didn’t want to buy the fondant either since most corn syrups are made from non-organic, GMO corn and there is no guarantee that the company I buy from uses quality ingredients. So, I use granulated sugar. It’s easy too.
- I put a shim on top of the super to provide a little room between the sugar and the inner cover when re-placed on top.
- Put a sheet of paper on top of the frames, either make a little cut in the middle or leave a gap. I used plain natural packing paper, newspaper is fine too.
- Pour white granulated sugar on top of the paper. Level it down to a little bit lower than the shim height. I put 3 pounds in each hive.
I find that winter emergency feeding this way is fast and painless. The moisture in the hive will rise up and condense which will help soften the sugar. The bees will slowly feed on it. They will chew the paper, which will be wet with moisture making it easy to chew off, and carry out of the hive.
I feel better now after feeding them. I also removed dead bees off the screen bottom of hive #1. I saw that bees from this hive had been using only the top entrance lately. I checked the bottom entrance and found it blocked with dead bees, too many for the bees to carry out. Once I cleaned out the dead, they started using the bottom entrance again.
Hive #3 is confirmed dead. There are plenty of dead bees and plenty of food left in the hive. I think they froze to death when the temperature dropped to -5°F earlier in the season. They were the smallest of the 3 hives.
Seesaw temperatures make it difficult for both bees and their keepers to maintain the health of the hives. The bees wasted energy coming out in warm-mid winter weather with nothing to take back to the hive to replenish their stores. Then they starve if not closely monitored. In my earlier days of beekeeping, one of my hives died of starvation. It wasn’t a good feeling to see them that way so I do my best not to repeat it again.