Emergency Winter Feeding For Bees
Sometimes beekeepers need to step in and implement emergency winter feeding for bees. To understand why this is necessary, we need to understand the survival mechanism used by honey bees in temperate regions. Honey bees are cold blooded insects. They require food (honey) to generate heat for survival.
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Honey bees have a great system to prepare for winter cold. They collect flower nectar and transform it into long lasting honey.
Honey is stored and used as needed during the time of year when no nectar is available. It is a great plan and works well most of the time.
However, sometimes things don’t work out so well. Maybe the Summer is exceptionally hot and dry with little nectar. Or, the winter may be bitter cold and longer than usual.
On occasion, beekeepers get greedy and take too much honey or fail to feed in the Fall. Any of these conditions can cause starvation of a honey bee colony.
Record Cold During Winter Means Trouble For Small Colonies
As a beekeeper, I get worried when I hear weather forecasts calling for record cold. Emergency winter feeding for bees can be accomplished but the results are not always what we want. Weak colonies are bucket fed in Fall (if needed) but it’s no guarantee.
My worse fear is for my marginal colonies, ones that might make it through a mild winter and thrive but will perish in extreme cold.
These smaller clusters happen for various reasons – some maybe my fault – some maybe bee genetics or pests/disease issues. Cold temperatures require a large bee population to maintain proper temperatures inside the bee cluster.
Accessories for feeding bees
Entrance Feeder- use them inside hive (enclosed in a super) before cold weatherHoney B Healthy Original Feeding Stimulant with Essential Oils, 16oz BottleMann Lake FD357 Bee Pro Patties with Pro Health, 10-Pound – a protein option
Did I Feed My Bees Well In The Fall? Yes I did.
With good foraging conditions, a healthy honey bee colony may have plenty of food stores for winter. Still, sometimes this does not happen.
A hot dry summer in my area can prevent proper food storage. Any bee colonies that do not have a full box of honey by the first of September needs to be fed.
Despite good fall prep, I am always concerned that clusters wont be able to reach food when it is needed.
I hate making candy boards and the required rims/shims. My answer was to try to give the bees a scoop of sugar right on top of the cluster. I have used this emergency winter feeding for bees in my bee yard for years.
Emergency Winter Feeding For Bees Recipe
First I mixed pure cane sugar in a bowl with just enough warm water stirred in to make it start to stick together.
I also added in a bit of Honey B Healthy and a small amount of my honey. Do not use honey from unknown sources.
Sorry, I really don’t measure. Just a small spoon of Honey B Health (or your own essential oil recipe for bees) – don’t over do it!
Also, I really like to be sure to use Pure Cane Sugar for emergency winter feeding of bees, it is more digestible than white sugar made from beets. If the bag doesn’t say pure cane sugar – it probably is not.
Very Quick Opening of the Hives
On a “somewhat” mild day before the “polar vortex”, I quickly open each colony (not removing any frames and trying to minimize the time with the colony open.)
I find the cluster and place a piece of newspaper on top of the cluster – give it a light spray of sugar water . Then I spoon a large clump of the bee candy mix on the newspaper and close up the hive quickly.
The candy mixture is pliable and molds between the boxes as I reassemble the hive. It does not requiring a shim. (A shim is a simple rectangular frame that is the same width and length as a honey super. However, it is only 1 – 2 inches tall. )
I am convinced that this practice helps some of my colonies survive. The first time I tried this process it was an emergency feeding situation and I hoped it would help some of the smaller clusters survive the record cold.
On a mild day after the bitter cold, I was pleased to find the colonies still alive.
The honey bees had certainly made good use of my sugar cake emergency winter feeding for bees plan.
In fact, I have been so pleased with this method that I now do it every Fall.
Just before Winter cold really sets in (mid-late November for me), I put a candy/sugar mixture on each hive.
It does no harm and may save a colony of bees that is in transition moving from one box to another during bitter cold.
It is important to remember that this is an “emergency winter feeding” option, it does not remove the need to ensure that your colonies are well fed in late Fall.