Timely Hints and Tips for beekeeping

Some thoughts on feeding bees in January – specifically introducing pollen patties too early and an observation on sugar feeding.

Generally if the temperatures are below 50°F (10°C), liquid feeders are not that great. It is better to use sugar cakes or candy boards. My own hard sugar cakes are homemade with some additives added, a pinch of kosher salt and some organic apple cider for the mix.

Above 50 degrees weak hives can be fed with internal feeders just do not use brown sugar. BTW – Walmart has great on-line prices for 25 lb. sugar.

Here is a link on making a candy board.

I Want Candy! So Let’s Make A Candyboard For Winter Feeding

On Pollen:

Some beekeepers advise feeding bee pollen as well, as pollen is a needed protein source for bees and helps them kick off brood production. Most bee supply companies would be happy to sell it to you.

I caution against this and suggest to wait until late winter or early spring. WHY?

Some hives basically are without brood at this time of the year. The hive therefore does not have to keep the inside temperate as high. Stimulating more brood production in January may lead to problems should a late cold snap occur. Your bees will have to eat more stored honey to keep the hive temperature at a level to protect the early brood.

Secondarily, an inactive and dormant beehive is not eating that much, therefore they do not need to poop. If the weather is lousy they will poop inside the hive. Not good.

The main problem is that you encourage the queen to start laying too early. One month later your hive (if it survives this) will have too many bees in February. More bees mean a greater need for food which means you will need to start feeding them again or they will deplete the honey stock they had stored. Misjudge that or not notice this need and your hive may starve.

Basically once you start feeding pollen you will have to keep feeding them sugar. I do not like that idea at this time of the year.

Member of the North Olympic Beekeepers’ Association.

Be sure to  visit our NOPBA wonderful archive of monthly Newsletters or visit the library that we loan out to our members

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Timely Hints and Tips for beekeeping — 4 Comments

  1. Bee swarm etiquette. I suggested the following guideline for our local bee club. It is something to consider before calling your own for swarm removal.

    NOPBA https://www.nopba.org/will gladly send out an experienced swarm catcher if you have a bee swarm issue.

    With the cold weather we have had, many early swarms may involve residencies in walls, under the house or even in unused hot tubs. Some of these we can remove, but those within walls may involve structural work and most beekeepers will need to have a waiver of liability or need to work with a licensed carpenter or roofer.

    Before asking us to respond please double check with your neighbors, to find out if the swarm belongs to a local beekeeper and work with them first.

    If you cannot find such a person give us a call. Despite the noise and appearance that a swarm generates, swarms are usually good-natured, because the bees are filled with honey preparing to find a new home. As time passes, they become a bit more anxious so it is important to catch them as soon as one can. For that reason, a quick response is very helpful.

    Most swarms occur during warm weather and between the hours of 11:00 to 3:00.
    Try to give as much information as you can about the location of the swarm, height above the ground, length of time they have been there and whether there are any special circumstances you think might be relevant.

    Please do not call for hornet or wasp removal.

  2. just got in moving a Rube Goldberg overwinter basement to my beehives. I use open screen bottoms so essentially I inserted a ‘compost box’ of aromatic herbs/bay leaves, mints (dry) underneath with a tight fit. So overwinter no cold air will sneak up into the box from beneath.

    They are made for a slip in thin slip of hardboard or Mylar type insert, but that gives little insulation, though does stop the draft.

    This method of mine involves the use of aromatics to help keep the mite issue at bay. when you think of it, bees evolved in hollow stumps, tree boles that always had punk wood on the bottom, one reason that the hive entrance was ALWAYS above the exit … NOT on the ground floor.

    Modern thin walled hives basically have a solid floor so over the year, debris and junk land on the bottom including mites and the bees basically have to walk through and over that to exit. I think this is one of the big problems with hive success much less overwintering… (each time they exit the hive they get reinfected with whatever might be on that hive floor)

    Later I will put an insulating box with moisture absorbing material, mosses on top of the hive. This is done to absorb excess winter moisture.
    Soon to drop below 40 degrees, so I need to get this stuff packing.

  3. The new threat of the Japanese Black Hornet coming your way.

    A suggestion: … as well as for general yellow jacket control.Am hoping that the Japanese Hornet is like the yellow jacket family. Queens (like Bumblebees) overwinter, then build their spring nests. 

    SO, that means she needs to forage early to feed the first brood. After that she doesn’t leave the nest. Early spring might be a good time to put out bait stations using normal bait traps with some cheap pollen patty remnants thrown in.

    Just make sure to hang the bait traps at least fifty feet away from your hives and not next to it.    YOU DOOM the hive!!! That simply becomes a road map to your hive for such critters far and wide.

  4. This is HUGE issue. This is a pdf reference from Japan discussing this issue. The kill/loss ration of these monsters to a bee colony is amazing. well worth looking at.


    They describe how they operate through out the year and talk about trapping quite a bit… turns out these things are predators on steroids and they suggest protein in the traps rather than anything that would also attract bees and other pollinators.
    Have had references to hive colony kills in the Bellingham area, yet local coverage seems to play this issue very lightly.

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