Tag Archive | food

Open Feeding Pollen to the Bees During Winter

January 27, 2018 (Saturday)

It’s late January and fortunately for the bees, Maryland temperatures are like a mild roller coaster.   It warms up every week or two, allowing them to relieve themselves, get some exercise, and forage for food.  I feel sad when the girls are outside the hives scanning the yard for pollen and there’s nothing but dead trees and brown grass.

A friend recently sent me a video of bees hovering around her bird feeder, foraging on seed and corn.  She then followed it up with an article that explained how bird seed and corn are often laced with pollen.   So if you see the bees giving your birds some competition at the feeders, now you know why.  Of course, the lightbulb went off and I kicked myself for not having fed dry pollen to the bees sooner.

Commercial beekeepers free-feed dry pollen or pollen substitute to their bees in colder months, so I decided to give it a try.  I’ve seen them layer the pollen inside of a piece of gutter pipe or something that would protect the pollen from blowing away, and would also provide some coverage incase of rain.  I’d only put it out on warmer days when the bees can get out.  The pollen would need to be replaced regularly to prevent it from getting icky.  You wouldn’t want the bees eating icky pollen.

I happened to have a sizable PVC pipe that I’m thrilled to have found a use for.  It’s nice and heavy and won’t blow away.  I spread a thin layer of pollen substitute across the inside, and also sprinkled some on the ground around the pipe.  The location should bee at least 50 feet from the hives, to prevent a robbing frenzy (less risk of this in the winter, but still, better to bee safe).  I placed it in a raised garden bed that the bees were already attracted to.

As you can see in the video above, it worked very well.  The bees found it quickly and really seem to enjoy it.  So note to self, when the temperatures rise, don’t just feed the birds….put some pollen out for the bees too!

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Do Bees Hibernate?

January 31, 2016 (Sunday)

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Temperatures got up to a whopping 54 degrees today!  After weeks of freezing temperatures and a 3ft snowfall, I finally had the chance to check on my girls and restock their candy supply. 54 degrees is still somewhat cold for the bees.  I certainly wouldn’t start pulling out frames and breaking apart boxes until the temps are at least in the 60’s.  Below 50 degrees, the bees begin to cluster.  Bees need to cluster in the cold because that’s how they generate heat and stay warm.

What Bees Do During the Wintertime

People often ask me if the bees are hibernating.  Well, bees don’t really hibernate.  Yes, they collect food to prepare for the winter, and yes, they stay in their hives during temperatures below 50 degrees.  Once the temps drop into the 40s or lower, the bees cluster around the queen and they use their wings to generate heat.  The larger the cluster, the more heat they can generate and the better chance they have of surviving the winter, as long as there’s enough food in the hive to keep them from starving.  Bees don’t sleep.  They work around the clock…each one has a role and a purpose.

Opening the hives in temperatures below 50 degrees risks breaking the cluster.  Best not to disturb the bees in the cold.  When the cluster is broken, or when bees get separated from the cluster in the cold, they can freeze.  So my rule of thumb is, if I see the bees out and about, then it’s ok for me to open the tops of the hives and add candy.

Checking on the Girls

I schlepped up to the hives to find them flying in full force, and judging by the blanket of bees atop the blanket of snow, they’ve been super busy cleaning house.  This is a good thing.  They clean all the dead bees and debris out of the hives whenever possible.  This helps prevent disease and keeps the colony healthy.  They’ve also been busy taking orientation flights (another term for much needed potty break), and bringing in pollen.  Yep, the little buggers found pollen in this desolate white land.  Gotta love their spunk!  It was a happy sight, indeed.

RIP Green Hive

I’d been anticipating the demise of Green Hive since the last time I’d checked on them.  Lots of bees were flying in and around the hive.  I also noticed some bees fighting at the bottom entrance (shown below).  A sign that Green Hive was being robbed by the other bees.

I opened the top and sure enough, the other bees were robbing the remaining candy and honey, and Green Hive’s cluster stared up from between the frames in a dead, frozen state (shown below).  Not one of my prouder moments as a beekeeper since I decided to take them into winter with two boxes rather than combining them with a stronger hive.  Another lesson learned…

Freezing temperatures are best for preserving dead hives since parasites won’t infest the hives as long as the temperatures are freezing.  Once things start to warm up in March, I’ll clean it up and get it ready to take in a new split colony in the spring, along with Blue Hive.

Recycled Swarm Trap

As I walked around the garden I noticed that the swarm trap that had been left up since last spring, has been claimed by some other form of wildlife.  I suspect squirrels.  They chewed large holes in both sides, and another hole that appears to be stuffed with garbage – plastic, paper, and who knows what else (shown below).  Well, if it couldn’t house a swarm, then I’m glad something else found a good use for it.  We’ll build another one in a few months and hope that it catches more swarms than this one did.

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After this weekend, we’re all back in cabin fever mode.  Hope it won’t be too long again before we get another reprieve.  Stay warm everyone and let’s hope Mr. Groundhog doesn’t see his shadow.  Early spring would bee nice :o)

 

 

Sugar Cakes for Winter Feeding

Saturday, February 7, 2015

I took advantage of a recent snow day to make sugar cakes for the bees.  This is my second winter, so I’ve only made candy, which requires boiling and stirring and timing and thermometers and some messy clean-up.  Sugar cakes, on the other hand, are super simple to make and they provide a nice hefty block of food that will last at least a month or two in the hives.  It’s good insurance during these harsh cold months.

Here’s my recipe…

BooBee Sugar Cakes

Ingredients

  • 1 – 5 lb bag white granulated sugar
  • 7 oz. bottled or distilled water
  • 1 tsp Honey B Healthy or similar natural supplement and other additives as desired (lemon juice, cinnamon, etc.)
  • Two 9×13 baking pans or one double large aluminum baking pan from the store works well too, and reduces clean-up.
  • Parchment paper for lining the pan (optional)

Note:  You can also increase the water slightly and add some pollen to this mixture as well.  I just add pollen patties to the hive. 

Instructions

1.  Measure out your ingredients.

If you use the large bags of sugar like me, then a kitchen scale that weighs up to 10 lbs or more is handy.  Also handy is a kitchen helper who can offer an extra set of eyes to make sure your measurements are extra precise.

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2.  Add the water and Honey B Healthy to the sugar.

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3.  Begin stirring with a spatula or spoon, then just use your hands to work it into an even dough.

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4. If preferred, you can line your baking pan(s) in parchment paper so it can be easily transferred into the hives without falling apart.  The mixture will dry and becomes quite solid, so I don’t bother using a liner.

5.  Pour the sugar dough into the pan, spread it out evenly, and press it down tightly.

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6.  Use a knife to score and section off the cake before it dries.  I cut mine into 4 large pieces.  I’ll insert one block per hive.

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7.  Take your finished pan of sugar cakes and place it in a warm, dry room for at least 2 days until it dries out and hardens.

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8. Dig out the blocks and allow to dry a bit more.  Since the bottom doesn’t get air, it may still bee a bit moist.  Again, if you use parchment to line the bottom of the pan before pouring the sugar, then you can pull them right up and place the blocks into the hive.  But if you don’t line the bottom, then its a good idea to flip the block and allow the bottoms to dry, as well.

My pieces broke in some places, but for the most part, they are large, easy to handle chunks that will be savored and appreciated by the bees as they continue to survive a few more weeks of winter.  Now we wait for a nice 40-50-something degree day so I can quickly pop these into the hives.  Always good to bee prepared!

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Bee Candy Making Party

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Our Frederick Beekeeping Association had their annual candy making party this past weekend.  What a fun gorgeous day!  Another first for me, so I was happy to learn from the experts.  The girls should be thrilled.  I couldn’t believe how much candy I brought home from a single batch.   I gave each hive a sample and packed the rest up in the freezer.  Recipe is below…

Bee Candy Recipe

This candy board recipe is provided by VP Queen Bees.

This type of supplemental feeding is extremely effective when colonies can break cluster and get up to the candy board to feed. Commonly used for build-up, this feeding method could also be used to supplement heavy fall feeding with 2:1 syrup.

The stirring and cooling are essential for the candy to form. If the mix does not “candy” and is clear, one may re-heat it and try again.

WARNING: DO NOT LET THE MIX CARAMELIZE BY OVERHEATING. Caramelized mix can be deadly to feeding bees.

  • 20 pounds granulated sugar
  • 1 pound powdered sugar
  • 46 oz Water
  • *** 2  oz MegaBee pollen substitute (dissolved in ~4 oz water) (we have also used 4 oz with no problem)
  • 2 oz honey (preferably yours)  :-)
  • 3/4 oz lemon juice
  • Pinch of aromatic spice mixture (cinnamon, allspice, etc)
  1. Heat water to about 200F.
  2. Add granulated sugar; stir to mix
  3. Heat to 210F
  4. Cool in cold water bath
  5. Add powdered sugar
  6. Add honey, lemon juice and incorporate
  7. *** Add pollen substitute slurry and incorporate
  8. When mix has cooled to 200, begin stirring
  9. Put into cold water bath and continue stirring
  10. As soon as mix “clouds up” and thickens, pour.

(Can be poured into inverted inner-covers but may be poured into shallow baking sheets lined with wax or newspaper. When hardened but still warm, lightly score to make suitable sized rectangles–these may be placed directly over the cluster).

  1. *** Optional Adding in pollen substitute is more appropriate for when one wants their colonies to build-up i.e. in the early Spring.
  2. Honey source should be known and disease free.

Wooly Worm Predicts a Mild Winter

September 28, 2013 – ApiLife Var and Inspections

The Girls have been very low key lately.  They’re braving the cold nights and still going out and about during the day, gathering a surprising amount of pollen and storing lots and lots of sugar syrup.  The top boxes on Green Hive 1 (GH1) and Yellow Hive 2 (YH2) are heavy!  Yay for them.   That’s been our goal all along – to get everyone through the winter.  I’m happy to report that we’re all on the same page.

Mite Treatments Almost Complete

The 3rd and final ApiLife Var treatment has been added to GH1 and YH2.  The girls have settled down and haven’t reacted much to my recent invasions.  Maybe they’re getting used to Beezilla, or maybe Beezilla is getting better at handling the hives.  Or maybe they’ve finally realized who feeds them.  Or maybe all or none of the above…

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Bees Finally Initiate the Hubster

The hubster got stung for the very first time while clearing out the garden.  He’s officially one of us now.  Part of the Bee Club.  I’m sure he was standing in their flight path.  He always stands in their flight path.  I’d sting him too.  He’s more sensitive than I am, so his feelings were hurt a little.  After all, he does a lot for all of us girls.  Surprisingly the sting under his arm didn’t bother him much.  I was waiting for it to balloon up into an egg sized itchy bump so I could say ” I told you so!”, but it practically disappeared overnight.  So unfair!  Mine itch like crazy for days!

Fall Feeding and Fumagillin

All three hives are still taking in the sugar syrup as fast as I can make it.   I mixed up a batch of syrup with Fumagillin – a medication to help prevent noscema.  Noscema is a common disease for bees – similar to dysentery for humans – and occurs when they can’t get out for cleansing flights, mainly during winter.  I was told that I’m late in giving them the Fumagillin, but the weather still has its warm spurts (in the 80s today) and the girls are out and about plenty, so I think we’re ok.  Besides, better late than never.  I’ll switch back to 2:1 syrup when the Fumagillin batch is consumed.  1:1 syrup is good for building comb and brood, but 2:1 will help them build winter stores.

Drones Get Da’Boot

All three hives also have brood, but the brood production has definitely slowed down.  Dead bees are collecting around the base of the hives. The girls are kicking out the drones.  There’s no need to keep the men in the hives.  They just hang out and eat all of the food.  More will be bred in the spring when the girls need of them for mating.  For now, there’s work to be done and much food to store.  Even my little baby Blue Hive 3 (BH3) has stored quite a bit of syrup, and recently I’ve seen them bringing in large chunks of orange pollen.

BH3 – 8-Frame Boxes or Nuc?

I’m quite proud of BH3.  They’re hanging in there.  The top feeders have eliminated their robbing, however I did find a wax moth larvae.  Can’t do much about wax moths except hope the cold weather freezes them out and the girls can fend them off. I’m still debating whether BH3 should overwinter in a nuc box.  Two 8-frame mediums are not much larger than a nuc.  I don’t have high hopes for BH3 making it through the winter, but I’ll wrap them up, feed them like crazy, and hope for the best.

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Hive Beetles Hiding Out

Hardly any hive beetles have emerged in YH2 over the past two weeks.  Diatomaceous earth is spread beneath all three hives to catch any dropping larvae.  The Beetle Blasters caught a few, but haven’t made a huge difference.  Maybe the colder weather has helped.  Or maybe the ApiLife Var affects the beetles AND the mites.

Planning for Our First Winter

Ask 10 beekeepers a question and get 10 different answers.  That definitely applies to winter preparations.  Lots of decisions to be made. The hubster has built some prototype candy frames that can slide into the hives and feed the girls just like their sugar syrup frames.  I’ll probably make candy boards as well.  We’ll purchase roofing paper to wrap the hives.  Some beekeepers crack the top covers to ventilate their hives during the winter because moisture from condensation is very bad for bees.  I’ve also heard that 1-1/2 inch thick insulation board or foam board absorbs moisture and insulates the hives, so that’s another thought.  Some beekeepers don’t wrap their hives at all.  They leave it to the bees to survive on their own, just like in nature.  One thing is certain, I will install mouse guards as soon as I get some ½ inch mesh.

Wooly Worm Gives Us a Hint of What’s to Come

There’s just no telling what the winter will be like.  Well, actually there is.  We saw a woolly worm the other day.  The width of the wooly worm’s brown center stripe is supposed to be a good indicator of how harsh the upcoming winter will be.  The wider the stripe, the milder the winter.

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This worm’s brown stripe covered 1/3 of its body.  So if the wooly worm is accurate, then the winter will be mild.  Regardless, we’ve worked too hard this summer to slack or take chances.  As with everything else, we shall prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

How to Make Pollen Patties

Since the pollen has died down, the girls need protein. So I ordered a bucket of BeePro – pollen substitute – and after watching a few videos, came up with my own recipe for pollen patties. Easy to do, I added HoneyBHealthy for some added nutrients. The girls took to them immediately! I kept the patties to no larger than 4×4 inches.  This recipe makes about 4-6 patties, but you can multiply the recipe to make more.  They freeze well until needed.

Note:  Pollen patties attract hive beetles, so ideally you want the bees to consume the patty within 3 days.  Best not to put more than one patty in the hive at one time, unless you have a very strong hive and minimal problems with hive beetles. 

Ingredients

  • 1 cup pollen substitute (I use Bee Pro by Mann Lake, available on Amazon for $19 at tub)
  • 1/2 cup sugar syrup (1:1 or 2:1)
  • 1/4 tsp HoneyBHealthy

Instructions

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Gather your ingredients.

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Mix them together. Hands work well. You want the consistency of play-doh.

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Pull off a piece no larger than a golf ball. The piece in this photo is too big.

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Place between two sheets of wax paper or parchment and roll them into patties.

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About a 1/4 inch thickness is good.

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Leave the patty between the wax paper and cut the excess paper around the edges.

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Here are your pollen patties. Use the edge of a knife to cut rows of small slits across the top and bottom so the bees can have easy access without having to remove the paper. The paper keeps the patty from breaking up and falling between the frames. The girls will eat right through it.

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Lay directly on top of the frames above the brood and remove the top layer of wax paper.

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Its love at first bite!