Sep 24, 2010
I get asked a lot about when, how and with what to feed bees, so here are some of the answers. It is a big subject, of course, and one that I may well have to deal with in more detail one day, but this is a start!
In this episode, I also apologize for messing up on the voicemails. I failed to record them onto my hard drive before Skype wiped the messages, so PLEASE try again!
Leave your messages/questions/comments on: 020 32 39 16 43 (UK) or +4420 3239 1643 elsewhere.
Thank you for this talk about feeding. I am a brand-new beekeeper in Seattle WA USA -- first year with one backyard hive. It's a langstroth and a swarm capture from spring. We extracted a full super of honey after a particularly heavy nectar flow that ended early July. At that point we left the bees with about twice as much capped honey stores. So, we felt conservative in our robbery. Now, things are different. The remaining summer days were mostly cold and rainy, so not many opportunities for nectar foraging. Now that autumn is here, they have 2 supers of mostly capped honey. We looked longingly at that beautiful dark honey and, yes, we took one frame out just to get a taste. Yum! But, I feel that with a La Nina winter coming, which will probably be more cold and wet than normal, we need to leave all this later honey with the bees, and not take anything more. Besides, we are basically at the end of bloom, except for ivy which is just starting. So, today we counted all the completely full frames of honey on the hive and totalled it up. Right now, they have about 68-70 pounds (US pounds) of honey. Brood looks pretty good, too, and the only thing I'm concerned about is pollen stores. I see them constantly coming in with different pollen and I can only hope they are storing some of it somewhere.
Besides the capped honey that they already have, I feel I should feed them some syrup in preparation for winter. I saw empty spaces below the brood, which were being filled with pollen but still quite empty. I am concerned with the autumn dearth they may need to eat a portion of the honey stores now, and they may not have enough food during the deep part of winter. So, my thought was to feed them syrup now and have them fill some of the empty stores around and below the brood.
I've spoken with a few beekeepers. None of them understand why I wouldn't pull the full honey supers and THEN begin feeding the bees 2:1 syrup. But, I want to feed syrup AND leave the supers on. Do you agree with my thoughts about this? Since I am a complete beginner, I need a little reassurance or guidance.
twelve and a half years ago
Meg - your bees will be more than happy with the honey they have - in fact, I would take out up to 30 pounds. There is no need to feed them syrup at all. If they have plenty of honey in the brood box, you don't need to leave supers on over winter.
IMO it is best to work a system - if you are using Langstroth hives, I would manage them as such - although you don't have to use queen excluders or full sheets of foundation.