With the nectar all dried up, bees would normally turn to their honey stores for food. Most beekeepers harvest the honey that their bees have produced and as a result start feeding their bees at the end of summer when their food sources dry up.
The theory: Feeding the bees sugar water after harvesting their honey is the beekeepers way of replacing the food stores that the bees diligently put away. The hope of beekeepers is that their bees produce enough honey to refill their hive so that the bees have this honey to live on all winter.
Sugar water to syrup: We took our mentor’s advice and mixed up 10 pounds of sugar to 5 pints of water. We reduced this amount while protecting the ratios as we don’t have many bees. We heated up the water and sugar mixture on the stove until the sugar fully dissolved. We had made a thick syrup. We had previously acquired a top feeder for the hive. We purchased the one our mentor recommended from Mannlakeltd.com. We had an empty honey super box that it was made to go into on the top of the hive. There are slots at the top and a screen that the bees can get to the syrup without getting ‘in’ the syrup.
There be danger here: Everything looked pretty straightforward when putting this feeder in the honey supper on the top of the hive. Problem is that somehow bees were able to get into the actual syrup outside the screen. Similar to what we saw earlier when we gave the bees a bucket with honey residue that had slowly puddled at the bottom, the bees get into the thick liquid, but they can’t get out and they will drown. When we came out to check on the set up to see if the bees were feeding, we found that many bees had made it to the syrup directly. We poured out the syrup to rescue the bees and set about this process again.
Problem found: There is a small opening at the top of the lid of the hive that bees can get into and out of. This opening is there to provide air flow in the hive and to give an alternative entry. This is a hidden entry, so we weren’t fully aware of its existence. The lid of the hive is a bit oversized and if you scoot the end with the opening flush against the edge of the hive, then the bees can’t use it to get into the syrup. However, if you miss this detail, they will get in and drown.
We regret this mistake as some of our bees did drown. The feeder is now successfully on the hive and the bees can now feed at their leisure. We will keep syrup on the hive for a few weeks. Our bee population is very small at this point due to all the issues they’ve encountered this summer. We don’t believe they will be able to replace enough honey to make it through the winter. We plan to feed them all winter long.
From what we have heard, we are only supposed to keep the liquid feed on the hive until the rains start up here in the Northwest. Rain is our version of winter weather. At that point, we need to switch to a dryer version of feed for the bees.
Keep on beekeeping, Sheri