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Spring feeding of hives in a cooler climate...can feeding be overdone?

Twenty days ago was our first spring inspection and out of 20 hives, we lost 3…two from starvation and one had tried unsuccessfully to requeen late last fall.
And today was our second time this spring we have worked our bees and most hives are two brood chambers full of bees. This is what we found:

Above… in the photo of the bottom broodbox… you can see the remnants of the three pollen patties we fed 20 days ago…they are almost all consumed. The sugar syrup frame feeder was bone dry after those 20 days since filling. Today the bees needed our attention again after that short period of time.

Photo above…filling the inside frame feeder. Frame feeders are one or two gallon capacity…the lighter wintered hives get the larger 2 gallon frame feeders…those 2 gallon frame feeders were also bone dry. The frame feeder in the photo is the one gallon size. The frame feeders have mesh ladders that allow the bees to access the syrup without drowning. Syrup is always mixed so it is as saturated as possible. The story here is that hungry, strong hives can consume 2 gallons of heavy sugar syrup every 3 weeks.

More pollen patties are added for a second time and there are between 3 and 6 frames of capped brood. Once you start supplementary feeding, keep it up. We use the Beepro Mann Lake pollen patties and the bees love them…there are likely other suitable pollen substitute products out there. Our bees’ first natural pollen source…i.e. willows…is still 2 weeks away.

Re-assembling the hive…the top box which is loaded with bees is gently placed back on the bottom brood box (after smoking the bees away from the bottom frame edges)…resting on top of the pollen patties. The top brood box is where the queen is likely laying…although some hives had the queen laying in the bottom broodbox also. No queen checks are done at this time.

In 3 weeks time, we will work the bees again. This time the brood boxes will be reversed and hives light on stores will be given more syrup. More pollen patties may be given at this time depending how spring is progressing. Early pollen is notorious for being low on protein content. Queens will be checked at that time.

While working the bees this morning, the temperature was only 5 degrees C above freezing. It took us 2 hours to go through 17 hives…3 beekeepers working together. Hives are put back in the climate controlled beehouse to be left undisturbed until next inspection.


Another nugget of helpful info I didn’t know! Thanks for this great post Doug - cheers :sunglasses:


Thanks so much for this great breakdown @Doug1 :pray: so interesting to see the great deal of difference in beekeeping practices. Still 2 weeks away from the first pollen flow, wow.


You are welcome Eva…real good quality pollen doesn’t show itself here until dandelions bloom. Dandelion pollen stimulates queen laying…and the commercial Californian queen rearers used to buy all the dandelion pollen I could produce to feed it to there queen cell builders. They said it was “hot stuff”…so perhaps the link between honeybee queen rearing and dandelions evolved eons ago. For that matter, that evolutionary flora/fauna partnership was likely important for everything from other insects to humans. Grizzly bears in this area heavily feed on dandelion flowers as a spring food source.


Unlike Australia, our northern climate typically provides two months in the spring where the bees may intermittently fly but there is no forage…so the northern beekeeper really has to be on his/her toes to keep them thriving. This happens again in the fall…so natural honey/pollen flows are like a water tap that is either abruptly turned on or off…for extended periods of time.


HI Iam brand new at everything bee. I dont have room to put a jar on the super because the roof is too shallow on my flow hive. I live in California and there is not much for the too eat right now. What is the best way to feed them?

You can use an empty box so your jar will fit or use baggies. There are also some round feeders that some have discovered that will fit under the roof.

Thank you sooo much. THe link did not come through so I will search it up by name. Does it feed from the bottom or the top? In other words, do I put it over the hole?

Yes, over the hole. The bees crawl up from underneath and drink.

Hmm @Nubee1, I think the poster of that message later said (in another thread) that it didn’t fit properly after all. I would suggest an empty box, or use a baggie. Baggies do fit under the roof. Search the forum (magnifying glass tool at the upper right) for baggie and you will get lots of links, many of them from @Eva, who uses that method a lot. :wink:

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Just want to say thanks :slight_smile:

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