Feeding the Bees Late Autumn

Yet another newbie question!
It’s late Autumn here and the weather the last month has been more like Winter than Autumn. My hive is not strong but recovering (so I thought) from a major ant infestation in January. More recent inspections revealed good amounts of honey on the frames, but in the last week I decided to feed them sugar syrup 2:1 to see if they took it and needed feeding. They have devoured it and this morning after polishing off a litre in less than 24 hours, they were in a right frenzy, coming and going from the hive, bringing in pollen.
But, it was only 12 degrees © :cold_face: and windy! I noticed a lot of bees with full baskets struggling to hit the landing board. A small number died around the hive with full pollen baskets. Prior to this I spent time ferrying spent bees up to the landing boards using a stick.

Do I continue feeding them 2:1 syrup or something else?

Thanks and PS - there is only a single brood box in the equation.

Hi @Outbeck,

  1. Not sure what is called “good amounts of honey”, but why would you want to feed them if they have good stores?
  2. If it was a climate where winter feeding wasn’t possible, than - yes, fill them to the brim. Here it always possible to add a bit if hive gets light. Just monitor the weigh.

Continue feeding them Beck, could be a lack of nectar about in the area to have taken up that much syrup in a day. The colony will have a hard time surviving the Winter with just a brood box for the colony and stores. Not enough room for enough stores for Winter I suspect. If nectar is about the bees wouldn’t take that much syrup up as they would go for the nectar.
Any chance on getting hold of a box with frames of comb and put that under the brood box and insulating the hive.?? If you can do that then feed 1:1 syrup that they will store more readily. Don’t fit a QX. Sounds a bit radical but I fear that with a single brood hive in your location isn’t good.

Thanks ABB,
Let me rephrase ‘good amounts of honey.’ Last time I did an inspection there were two frames of honey, plus 4 frames of brood with honey across the top of all four of them. I will call that adequate honey for the three weeks between the last inspection and now. I was expecting to feed them over winter as it’s a weak hive and that amount of honey wouldn’t be enough (over winter). However, I expected it to be enough over the last 3 weeks. I’m wondering if, given the rate of uptake, that:

  1. Yes, they need more, more more
  2. I’m feeding them the wrong thing and stimulating pollen gathering and honey storage when it’s too cold

In the last two months or so they seemed to have rebounded well after a long struggle with the ants. I started to think they might be strong enough to get through winter. But maybe I’m wrong as winter seems to have hit a little early. We also had a massive storm in the last week with hail the size of cherry tomatoes.

Hi Peter,
I could put an ideal under the brood box, but I’ve only got wired wax foundation frames to go into it. I thought about insulating the hive and can put something under above the inner cover. After watching Bruce White’s video, I thought I could wrap the hive (frames) but realised that it doesn’t really allow for the jar feeder over the top unless I cut a hole in it.
There is precious little flowering at the moment (weeds, some wattles and a dozen small autumn flowering eucalypts (yellow gum) and I was surprised to see the bees out when it was 12 degs.

I would say it is not wrong or right, it is simply unnecessary. The amount of honey you described will last longer than three weeks. But they will happily take everything they can cram into the hive. If you continue to feed I see some possible scenarios:

  1. Amount of stores will limit the size of the nest and you will achieve some balance when bees will not be able to convert honey into brood at high speed.
  2. If weather will be good enough and polen available, they will continue to chew through the stores converting them into new bees. You will get large colony in the middle of the winter.

Both variants in my opinion - just a waste of money. All what they need is just not to starve. And again, we don’t have such severe winters here. You don’t need to worry about situation when they could be few kgs short and it is still -10 outside. If your hive will become light at some time in future prepare another couple kg of sugar in thick syrup and feed it warm. Yes, it creates additional work but you don’t have to worry about them moving large amount of syrup left after winter into super when you put it back.

My brother on the NSW southern Highlands bought a couple of sheets of 8mm polystyrene and a roll of duct tape from Bunning’s, cut with a hand say to fit the outside of the hive and taped into place on the outside of the hive when he had a couple of weak hives that I’m sure would have died from starvation and the cold had he left them.
Most of the Wattles are great for pollen but weak on for nectar. Yellow box is great for nectar and pollen if you have had reasonable rain, some commercial bee keepers chase yellow box as a very worthwhile flow.
I would go with the ideal under the brood box and insulate the hive and also continue feeding with the aim towards the colony building out the frames to give an increase in brood space available and storage space for stores, to increase the size of the colony.
I’m not saying ABB’s advice is right or wrong but maybe his advice is for his climate more than yours.

Thanks for that. Last time I fed the bees I was almost too late. This time probably I jumped the gun. I also assumed they would take it if they needed it and leave it if not.

Thanks Peter! I’ve stopped feeding them for now. I’ve been slowly moving the hive over the last week to get it more in the sun (now that the sun’s dropped). It’s feeling ok in the weight department but I’m guessing. I’ll just monitor it and start again if needed.

I have a whole lot of leftover insulation type material. I’m not actually sure what it is. It’s used for food insulation and looks a little like silver bubble wrap. I was planning to put it above the crown board but can wrap the whole hive in it quite easily. What do you think?

Also, it’s yellow gum that’s flowering here at the moment, not yellow box. I think it’s supposed to be quite good for nectar though (not as good as yellow box).

I’ve seen the silver bubble wrap insulation at Bunning’s and see no reason not to use it during your Winters there. I would use it around the outside of the hive. Close the entrance to about 10 cm’s and cut a piece of old lino or thin ply wood to fit under the crown board on the super frames with a gap all around allowing the bees to move up to the roof but the bees tend to not want to make comb above that, it is a sort of mental barrier for comb above it, the same as an open crown board. If I find comb building above there it is one of the warning signs that they are needing more room or doing a split. You could try a piece of bubble wrap in that position as an alternative to lino or ply wood but I prefer ply wood as a first choice as bur comb can be easily scraped off it.
Moving the hive for more sun is a good move in Winter and full sun in Summer might not be a problem either. Your not looking at a lot of days over 100C there.
Do you have much of a problem with SHB there??

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Thanks again Peter! I’ll do that - I’ve got both vinyl and ply wood. So do I leave the hole in the crown board open or closed? I’ve never had it open other than to jar feed them. It’s also got a sprinkling of DE in it as an ant deterrent - not sure I want the bees in the roof cavity with it. How does winter feeding work with all that (assuming it’s required).

Top temp was 46 last summer :hot_face: I think that broke the record, but usually there would be about 10-15 days over 38. Where it’s been has been good for afternoon shade but now it’s too cold.

I’m yet to see any SHB. Plenty of ants and the odd tiny cockroach but that’s about it.

I would advise closing the hole in the crown board and no need for vinyl or ply wood with the crown board closed. Not at all sure about having DE under the roof, I would prefer cinnamon, but that is just my choice, providing when you do an inspection there is no chance of any DE getting in contact with the bees you will be fine.
If your hive is a FH2 with the metal screw legs a good way to control ants is to smother the legs in automotive grease and the ants won’t walk on it.
With your hot Summers have you thought about fitting roof vents on each end of the gable, my Summer is not as hot up here, about 100C is about the limit as I’m only 3k’s from the beach, but with roof vents in some of my hives as an experiment it made a big difference to afternoon bearding. I use kitchen cupboard vents (circa 1960’s and '70s when they went out of fashion) that are still available form any hardware store including Bunning’s. A couple of dollars dearer are these from any bee gear shop made of stainless steel and glued in place with Aquadhere. They will give good air flow but bees can’t get thru.

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