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Need thoughts on desert wintering


#1

So it’s generally agreed upon by everyone in the local club I am part of that you feed pollen supplements, and sugar syrup and or fondant during the winter. The short answer to why is that most of them are commercial beekeepers who work the almonds in California during early spring and need very strong hives very early in the season. And we have very few days in the winter where the bees are unable to fly due to the temperature, but there is very little blooming.

So my question is what is my best tactic to not having to feed sugar syrup? Should I put a medium or shallow super under the flow frame for them to feed off during the winter?

Should I consider a pollen trap to keep some pollen back for them to use in the winter months? It’s been recommended not to buy bulk pollen for the bees because it can easily transmit diseases to the hive.

What would you recommend for an area where it sounds like I will not be dealing with a traditional cold weather winter cluster?


#2

Think you have got right in your own suggestion Adam, a full medium super for the lean winter months is a great idea. Any beekeepers in your area who might be able to suggest what size will get you through? I am in an area where the bees forage through the winter but we still make sure there is a frame of honey to a frame of brood for winter stores, I then extract at the beginning of spring. As for pollen, the bees don’t need much during winter as there ain’t much brood to feed. Certainly can’t do any harm in feeding back there own pollen, best practise says don’t feed your bees another hives honey or pollen regardless.


#3

That is the trick. The local mentally is strip the hive of honey before winter and feed heavily with sugar to keep a large colony that would not normally be supported by forage. I don’t really feel comfortable with that approach but everyone I’ve asked about it parrots the same answer. So I’m kind of flying solo if I want to go a different way.


#4

Adam I bought a pollen Trap for just that purpose - It goes on for a week in Spring and the pollen is frozen until required.

Mixed with a bit of their own Honey it can be rubbed into comb cells or made into a patty with damp sugar


#5

So it’s generally agreed upon by everyone in the local club I am part of that you feed pollen supplements, and sugar syrup and or fondant during the winter.

Pollen substitute makes short lived bees. I have no need for short lived bees… I need long lived bees… Bees hoard pollen and honey for a reason. If you let them then why would you need to feed them inferior food?

So my question is what is my best tactic to not having to feed sugar syrup? Should I put a medium or shallow super under the flow frame for them to feed off during the winter?

Leave them enough honey.

Should I consider a pollen trap to keep some pollen back for them to use in the winter months?

I recommend a pollen trap, but not for winter. Feeding real pollen is useful some year’s when the fall flow fails and they still need another round of young bees to get through the winter. My usual indicator is bees gathering sawdust and grain dust in the fall. This means there isn’t enough real pollen available. Then I open feed the pollen. I put down a solid bottom, and then a screened bottom with some window screen on that and the pollen on top of that and then a box and a cover. This keeps the pollen from molding (air on the bottom) and the bees can gather it. If there is enough pollen in the fall, they will stock up what they need for winter.

It’s been recommended not to buy bulk pollen for the bees because it can easily transmit diseases to the hive.

I could also transmit good bacteria to the hive…

What would you recommend for an area where it sounds like I will not be dealing with a traditional cold weather winter cluster?

http://www.bushfarms.com/beesfeeding.htm
http://www.bushfarms.com/beeswinter.htm


#6

I couldn’t agree more.
Feeding pollen is a complete waste of time in the Spring for the average hobbyist. In the UK pollen can be used to get colonies up to strength for early nectar gathering and here it’s OSR. The trouble with giving pollen too early is that it gets the colony going and if there is a bad spring the bees are suddenly stuck with mouths to feed and no food so brood is sacrificed. In the Autumn, the bees need that extra pollen that you’ve robbed them of to make winter bees.

PS I actually think that a hobby beekeeper should not bother feeding extra pollen at all and let the bees find their own level suiting the weather conditions…but that’s just my opinion.


#7

Why do the bees collect dust and sawdust as a pollen substitute ?


#8

Why do the bees collect dust and sawdust as a pollen substitute ?

Making the best of a bad situation.


#9

Ok smarty pants ; -)

Do they eat the sawdust as they would the pollen? Do they just store it as if in hopes of it being pollen when the time comes?

I am just trying to guess here what the deal is with the bees. “I can’t find pollen so I am collecting and storing stuff that looks like pollen, out of desperation?”


#10

Hi @sara, I’ve seen bees collecting other stuff instead of pollen, I just assumed it was material to be used as/with propolis. Considering how clever bees are, I’m thinking they use sawdust/debris with propolis to fill larger gaps. I saw one bee so heavily laden with stuff that obviously wasn’t pollen, I wondered how she could fly.


#11

Thy gather it as pollen. I’m sure it does not work out well. It’s just evidence that there is a pollen shortage. Grain dust, coffee grounds etc. are also gathered in a pollen dearth.


#12

Humm. Interesting behavior. Did a bit of poking around and have seen some references to sawdust having propolis and that may be the draw. I guess since the girls aren’t telling we will have to wait for someone to turn it into a doctoral thesis!


#13

If I was a gambling man, I’d put my money on propolis based on my observations. I give the bees a bit more credit than to think they’d mistake debris for pollen.


#14

Me too.
In a pollen dearth they stop brooding and chuck out the drone larvae and stop feeding drones.


#15

I have no doubt they do not “mistake debris for pollen”. They have a good sense of nutritional content when gathering available pollen. I have only seen this behavior when there is no pollen available and it is the same behavior when gathering coffee grounds, grain dust and bird seed. None of those have any propolis.


#16

So since I am not worried about having strong colonies for commercial reasons, as long as I pay attention to what they are bringing in, I should be able to leave them to their own devices? Will they store surplus pollen like they do honey to make it through the winter months.

I guess my main concern revolves around the fact that winter bees last as long as they do because they are not working themselves to death like spring and summer bees. But if the winter bees continue to fly and forage, while they may not be working as hard and spring or summer bees because there is less out there, they are still working much harder then a typical winter bee. So it reasons that the queen will have to keep up brood production well into the winter to keep the population correct.


#17

Yes, most years you can leave them to their devices in my climate. Sometimes, though, we have a failed fall flow. I don’t know your location, but some places never seem to have a fall flow, in which case they would do better if you gave them some pollen before winter.


#18

I’m in the desert in Phoenix Arizona. It sounds like we have a fair amount of weeds and local fauna flowering into the winter but the amounts are much lower then other times of the year. I may be overly concerned about this but I want to go into next winter as prepared as possible since it seems that is when most people lose their hives.


#19

I’ve never seen bees bringing in coffee grounds, grain dust or bird seed, however, whenever I see bees doing anything at all, I ask myself “why”. In bee culture, there is a reason for every single thing the bees do, sometimes we think we know the answers, in doing so, sometimes we could be right, sometimes we could be way out. However the very first time I saw a bee carrying debris, the first thing I thought was “propolis”. I’m not suggesting/guessing that coffee grounds, grain dust or bird seed would be propolis itself, but stuff to add in with propolis to fill larger gaps, to make the propolis go further. Similar to us, for example using sawdust in conjunction with wood glue to use as a gap filler.


#20
  1. In my experience, yes they will. I often see a whole frame of pollen going into winter. Sometimes they cover the pollen with honey before capping to preserve it.
    The same thing has been described in many text books and papers.
    2.Similarly, foraging behaviour, of course plays a part. Forager bees are already ex-nurse bees. Much research has shown that winter bees last longer mostly because they are not bringing up brood and exhausting their hypo pharyngeal glands and fat bodies.
    Fat bodies have a great effect on bee longevity.