Its snowing and the bees are dying :'(

So of course, in true Alberta style it was +17 yesterday and it is snowing today. We put the bees in last night, with an in-hive feeder with sugar water in it, with straw so they don’t drown as much hopefully, and now it is SNOWING, and sticking.

I left the can of their feed near the hive since there were a lot of them in it still, the transfer seemed to go well, they all crawled down onto the drawn comb, the queen waltzed out of her queen cage and stayed down at the bottom of the comb. This morning, about 30 dead bees around the can, about 30 clustered around the opening of it, so I put it near the hive so hopefully they can crawl back in. Not much danger of other bees flying out in this weather.

I’m a little terrified I’m going to open the hive and they will all be dead.
How fast can they eat? I put 8 cups in total of the sugar mixture in the feeder. Do I need to check sooner than 3 days if it is this cold???

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So I guess my question is, I went with the spring feed mixing instructions. Do I switch to the winter feeding instructions??? I was using a premixed version because it was available at the store, and it was diluted 3 cups of sugar solution to one cup of water. The fall instructions said to feed it straight. Do I change out their food, I could be really overthinking this and panicking a little!!!

I’m a beginner myself, but let me throw my two cents in :wink:

FIrst thing, I’d guess, would be not to lure them out by leaving food outside the hive. Take any container with food (residues) home. Any food they can probably find must be inside the hive. And if the package says “fall/winter recipe” I would follow that.
I got my bees in form of functioning colonies, not nucs. They brought some combs filled with food with them. One hive was very strong, though, so the stores were used up during the last few bad weather days. We expect another week of cold weather with frosty nights, so I fed them today with 1:1 sugar syrup (selfmade) and will check on them tomorrow again.

Then again, in Alberta you are heading towards spring, right? Then it would be quite normal to see dead bees every day. The winter bees are starting to pass away and give way to the summer bees. At least that’s what I learned in beginner’s class and from all I’ve read…



1 - Never feed outside the hive - it promotes robbing - best way to kill off a hive
2 - You will not be into “spring” yet as you are further north - I’m in midlands UK - we had snow last week - you need to keep an eye on the forecasts
3 - Some winter bees may be dying off - you only need to panic if there a 1,000’s of bees dying - winter bees live longer but will start to die off about now in your area
4 - One warm day is of no consequence - a week of good weather is more important
5 - What were you told to feed in winter/spring in your area?
6 - Are you in contact with local bee groups? - they will have a better idea of what to expect locally
7 - Do you have a mentor??

OK, I believe you got a package. Which means you don’t have any bees hatching yet. Rusty Burlew did a very interesting calculation on her blog:

The bottom line is that you would expect at least 300 bees per day to be dying, even without the snow, just from old age.

I agree with the other comments about all food being inside the hive, but I don’t think you need to have a memorial service just yet - the numbers you have seen are not too worrying. :blush:

If it stays so cold, I would also delay opening the hive, they won’t have done much and you really don’t need to go in urgently.


I have never used premixed feed, because it is so easy to make, so I can’t comment on your particular mix. However, I would stick with the spring instructions, even though you are having a cold snap. My spring feed is 1 part granulated white sugar to 1 part water. You are Canadian, so that would be approximately 1 kg of sugar to 1 liter of water - the bees really don’t care, it approximates nectar and they can use it.


Thanks everyone! Panic over. snow has stopped and melted. Our forecasts here are rarely ever accurate, the forecast for today was cloudy with a chance of rain, which turned to a small blizzard this afternoon! I have been watching the forecast, but it is really just trying to adapt to the rapidly changing weather.

Feeder outside removed
I was told to use 2 cups sugar to 1 cup water when I make my own (by the apiary)

They are willing to answer any questions I have, and I also have a friend who used to have bees in this area, and I’m part of the local beekeeping facebook group and have left a few notes on hives asking if I can observe checks but no success so far. I’m going to keep trying though!

Hi ER,

Are you getting one of those Chinooks off the Rockys. I have a sister in law in Calgary. She mentions those melting Spring time warm down slope winds … Weather up there seems to change direction on a dime ! Good luck n enjoy the ride ! Gerald

Haha unfortunately the opposite of a Chinook!! But we do get lots of those! Lovely warm winds that blow on suddenly and raise the temp 20 degrees in a few hours!!! Makes gardening more complicated, but the relief from the cold is always welcome !

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The bees cannot take syrup that is below 50 F (10 C) and a package has no stores. They will starve very quickly if you don’t give them something they can eat. You can warm the syrup once a day so they can take it.

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I wondered that, Thanks

Why is this not mentioned at all in any of the books I’ve read that are related to beekeeping in Canada!?!? I would say there are very few days of the year that we don’t fall below 10 degrees at night in my area, this is the first I’ve ever heard of warming syrup!
I went and changed out the feed in the hive, 2 parts sugar to 1 part water as the apiary and textbook suggested, I used warm water as Michael suggested.
The bees were calm, a few guard bees out and around me but for the most part they were clustered on the comb and some appeared to be working. The hive was very quiet but the bees were moving.
I didn’t do a full hive check because it is supposed to warm up again tomorrow, and I wanted to conserve the heat but make sure they had the warmed syrup so they don’t starve.

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Hmmmmm, my local beekeeping group member said they don’t feed syrup below +3, and they switch to fondant.
I know I’ve read about using it somewhere, starting to think this course book was useless though, not mentioned in there!

I wonder how a low wattage reptile warming pad would go inside the hive, next to the feeder. Jape suggested something like that just recently.

Why is this not mentioned at all in any of the books I’ve read that are related to beekeeping in Canada!?!?

I have always wondered that myself… maybe most of the books are not written by beekeepers but by the scientists… and they may not have dealt with all the vagaries of the weather…

I would say there are very few days of the year that we don’t fall below 10 degrees at night in my area, this is the first I’ve ever heard of warming syrup! I went and changed out the feed in the hive, 2 parts sugar to 1 part water as the apiary and textbook suggested, I used warm water as Michael suggested.

I guess I would describe my heating as “hot syrup”. I make it as hot as I can stand to put my finger into, leave it and not get burned. That way it’s still above 50 F (10 C) for as long as possible.

Well they seem to be happy today, the weather warmed up to +12 and they are out flying and buzzing around the hive :slight_smile:

I live in Alaska and it’s freezing at night here still. I would remove the feeder cans that came in the package and brush those bees off. If you have internal feeding then I’m sure they are doing fine. You should be able to hear them through the outside of the hive. My bees have now gone through 3 quarts of 1:1 sugar syrup ( i would stick to 1:1 sugar to water not 3:1 that’s really heavy) Just keep feeding them and you can peek into the hive for a second and I’m sure you’ll see a lot of activity. No worries. I made my own pollen patties and placed them on top of the cluster. 1 part pollen 3 parts honey and then add white sugar till its like thick cookie dough and then i put on a piece of parchment paper and laid it right next to the cluster so they can reach it. They ate a lot of it. I hope this helps :slight_smile:

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That’s good to know. I wonder if i can put a small hand warmer on my quart jar of syrup and that will warm it up? I wondered why they weren’t taking it. (They’ve already had about a gallon of syrup in a week so no threat of starvation and they are storing it on drawn comb)

Especially if you have an ER stethoscope! :smile: Not kidding, I believe that @Anon uses them pretty often. I don’t need mine down here in SoCal, but I am keeping one in service, just in case! :wink:

Lol. mine are so loud sometimes i can hear them from 50 feet away.