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Feeding Frenzy!


#1

At the suggestion of a local beekeeper/mentor, I decided to start feeding the girls again when I added the second 8-deep brood boxes to my hives. While there is a decent flow happening in CO now, the mentor pointed out to me that since this is a new package that started with no drawn comb, these girls had to work extra hard to both build the comb and get stores put away for the winter.

So I added a round top feeder to each hive…and they are consuming almost a GALLON of feed PER hive per day. Yes. A gallon. By way of example, I put a full half gallon in the South hive (more mature of the two) yesterday before work, and when I got home after dinner, it was empty. Added another half gallon last night, and this morning it was 90% gone. I’ve closed the top entrance (inner cover) while I’m feeding, so I don’t think they’re getting robbed. And when I did a quick inspection yesterday, the North Hive had built out about 25% of the frames in the box I added less than a week ago. So I’m pretty confident the feed is going to its intended purpose. And the bees are still flying like mad!

Is it normal for a hive to consume this much sugar water?


#2

How many bees are in the hive? If there are only a few frames of brood with an appropriate number of nurse bees and foragers your hive is probably getting robbed. I would strongly recommend that you put an entrance reducer in at the smallest opening so your bees can protect their stores.


#3

Chipper,

The lower boxes on the frames (also 8-deeps) are currently being filled with brood and nectar, and are covered with bees. A little less so on the weaker hive, but not by much any more. One of the reasons my mentor had suggested feeding again was because, when we inspected the full brood box, there was hardly any capped honey, and not as much nectar as we would have expected. Full of brood, with just small amounts of nectar at the very top of each frame. It looked like the bees were using the nectar as fast as they could bring it in.

When we inspected last Thursday, we also took two of the outside frames from the lower box (a mix of larvae and capped brood) and put them in the upper box, putting two of the new empty frames into the center of the lower box. Those center frames are now almost 100% built out with a mix of brood and nectar. The two frames we moved up are covered with bees, but it didn’t look like the brood had hatched yet…not surprising since it had only been 5 days since the move.

So, I don’t think they are getting robbed. Robbers would have to make their way through a very full lower box and a partially full upper box to get to the sugar. Or am I thinking about this incorrectly?

Thanks!

mb


#4

If you feed it to them and they are a strong hive yes. And they will backfill the broodnest with it and swarm. That is also normal. Assuming it doesn’t set off robbing and get them robbed out.
http://www.bushfarms.com/beesfeeding.htm

If there is a nectar flow, I would stop feeding. If I felt they needed to be fed (unlikely) I would limit their access (a lid with between one and three holes instead of more) so they don’t dump all of that in the brood nest. And if I were feeding I would reduce all the entrances to all the hives. But then I probably would not feed unless they had no stores and there was a dearth.


#5

My mentor suggested to me a 2:1 (two parts water, one part sugar) solution for nucs and box o bees hives. Reasoning being that the 33% ratio of sugar to water is more similar to flower nectar and really seems to encourage bees to draw comb to store it and dry it out. I’m having pretty good success getting my first box o bees hive to draw out more comb using this method. Right now in our part of FL, we’re in about a two week dearth until the cabbage palms start blooming. My flow hive was started from a nuc and they’re going like gangbusters, but my box o bees langstroth hive is natural & foundationless, so they’re behind in a lot of ways compared to the flowhive. My mentor also suggests a 1:1 ratio simple syrup for spring/fall feedings and 1:2 water/sugar ratio for starving bees in winter months. He says the bees aren’t as fond to accept the simple syrup with higher sugar concentrations unless there’s a dearth or the hive is starving.


#6

Ack! I hadn’t considered that they would back-fill the brood nest and swarm. I did notice that the lower frames had more nectar in them than they did before I started feeding again, but it didn’t seem out of whack.

Yours seems like sage advice, Michael.

Since they have built out a good chunk of the new frames and are filling that with lots of nectar/sugar water, and there isn’t a dearth here, I think this morning’s half gallon of sugar water may be their last. And I’ll consider what I’ve already given them as a jump start for drawing comb. Worst case, I need to feed them in late fall. But I really don’t want them swarming on me!

Thanks,

mb


#7

Would you suggest having frames with foundation rather than foundationless & feeding?


#8

Foundation will slow them down. They draw their own come faster and with more enthusiasm and the queen prefers natural comb to foundation.


#9

Hi Kirsten, I can’t see how frames with foundation would slow the bees down. I’m talking wax foundation. I don’t know about the queen preferring natural comb to comb built on (wax) foundation. If the wire is exposed, the queen wont lay an egg in that cell for the first round of brood, but after that it’s full on. Anyway it doesn’t matter if the queen doesn’t lay eggs in those cells, the bees use those cells for other things. The big plus with foundation is: the bees make a lot more worker brood & you don’t get cross comb issues or comb accidentally falling off the frame right when you don’t want it to. Check out this video. The bloke claimed he was an idiot. I told him he wasn’t an idiot.


If his advice about not picking up a foundationless frame unless it’s built wall to wall is sound advice, that puts foundation frames way ahead of foundationless because you can pick up a foundation frame any time.


#10

Oh my…that could happen to anyone, but one thing I noticed on the video is that the frame he picked up looked like it had two separate “planes” of comb built on it, one big one, and a smaller one in front. Perhaps that added to the instability?

I have definitely lifted foundationless frames where the comb was not built completely top to bottom, but I don’t remember it swinging around like his. Maybe I’ve just been lucky! :wink:

With the weather we have been having lately - bright, bright sun and temps pushing 100, I have made a conscious decision to put off my inspections. Mostly I have been afraid of comb instability caused by the heat - if they are more fragile because of the heat, they don’t need my meddling on top of things…


#11

Wise decision for the beekeeper too. Even with a ventilated suit, if it is hot and no breeze, wearing multiple layers is no fun at all! :wink:


#12

That is a wise decision to make when using foundationless frames. However when using foundation, there is no need to have to make that kind of decision. You can inspect any time, (& believe me, some times you’ll have no choice but to inspect) without the worry of the comb collapsing on you.


#13

A hot day is not a good time to open a hive. Especially one with new foundationless comb.


#14

Yes I meant wax foundation too (not a fan of plastic & hence my hesitation (as well as finance) in getting Flow-may change…?). As mentioned in reply to Michael B, I am planning to go mostly foundationless, using frames with foundation to encourage straight comb, I am also not planning on feeding bees unless is an absolute necessity for their well being.


#15

I am planning to have majority foundationless frames with some wax foundation to encourage straight drawn comb, and do not intend feeding unless the health/wellbeing of the colony absolutely depends upon it. I am curious as to why you would feed them at all when there is nectar coming in? Is it not preferable for the colony to grow in relation to available food source? Is the feeding simply to increase colony size in anticipation of a good flow & therefore more honey to rob, & wouldn’t doing so create issues with ratios of bees to brood/pollen/comb etc in terms of them managing the hive? I am simply curious as to what people understand as benefits/negatives.
I thought perhaps by giving them wax foundation you would offset need to feed if the purpose of that was to provide bees with necessary to increase their comb building. Oh and last thing why does having foundation make them slow down?


#16

I am curious as to why you would feed them at all when there is nectar coming in?

It is an irrational obsession…

Is it not preferable for the colony to grow in relation to available food source? Is the feeding simply to increase colony size in anticipation of a good flow & therefore more honey to rob, & wouldn’t doing so create issues with ratios of bees to brood/pollen/comb etc in terms of them managing the hive?

If you had a crystal ball, and if you were careful not to set off robbing and if you don’t attract ants, in theory you could help them build up in anticipation of a flow…

I am simply curious as to what people understand as benefits/negatives.

I think it’s the usual single level thinking. They think they are helping by feeding and don’t consider all the problems that feeding entails.

I thought perhaps by giving them wax foundation you would offset need to feed if the purpose of that was to provide bees with necessary to increase their comb building.

That is a theory, which I see no evidence of.

Oh and last thing why does having foundation make them slow down?

The way that bees build comb is that they festoon in a cluster and they work back and forth from one side to the other as they build. Foundation interferes with this process in several ways. It makes them build a particular size when they have in mind a different size, causing indecision, and it interferes with the communication involved in normal comb building. It gives them very little extra wax and according to many experts of the past, they will make the same amount of wax anyway, it’s just a matter of whether it gets used or not.

http://www.bushfarms.com/beesharvest.htm#expenseofwax

"Again, at all times of a heavy yield of honey, the bees secrete wax whether any combs are built or not; and if the sections are all supplied with foundation, and the hive filled with comb, this wax is wasted or else the foundation given is wasted; have it which way you please…To show that I am not alone in this matter regarding the waste of wax, I wish to quote from two or three of our best apiarists; the first is Prof. Cook, and no one will say that he is not good authority. he says on page 166 of the latest edition of his Manual ‘But I find upon examination that the bees, even the most aged, while gathering, in the honey season, yield up the wax scales the same as those within the hive. During the active storing of the past season, especially when comb-building was in rapid progress, I found that nearly every bee taken from the flowers contained wax scales of varying size, in the wax pockets.’
"This is my experience during “active storing,” and the wax scales are to be found on the bees just the same whether they are furnished with foundation or not; and I can arrive at no other conclusion than that arrived at by Mr. S.J. Youngman, when he says on page 108: ‘The bees secrete wax during a honey flow, whether they are building comb or not; and if they are not employed in building comb, this wax is most certainly lost.’
“Once more on page 93, of the American Apiculturist, Mr. G.W. Demaree says: ‘Observation has convinced me that swarms leave the parent colony better prepared to build comb than they ever are under other circumstances; and that if they are not allowed to utilize this accumulated force, by reason of having full sheets of foundation at hand to work out, there will necessarily be some loss; and I think that when the matter is computed, to find the loss and gain the result will show that the foundation really costs the apiarist double what he actually pays for it in cash’…Now, I have often noticed, and especially in looking back over the last year, after reading Mr. Mitchell’s “Mistaken Economy,” that swarms hived in June would fill their hives full of nice straight worker combs, and the combs would be filled with brood during the first two weeks after hiving; while a colony not casting a swarm would not make a gain of a single pound of honey; nor would a swarm having a full set of combs given them, or the frames filled with foundation, be a whit better off at the end of two weeks. Mr. P.H. Elwood has noted the same thing; thus proving that the theory that it takes 20 pounds of honey to produce one pound of comb, will not hold good in cases where bees desire comb and have free access to pollen. As most of my comb is built at this time, the reader will readily see that the combs cost me but little, save the looking after the colony once or twice while building comb, which is far cheaper than buying foundation, or fussing with a foundation mill.”–G.M. Doolittle ABJ Vol 20 No 18 pg 276


#17

Thanks Michael, I have been reading your work (website) & always find your references to other Beekeepers & resources really interesting.