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.
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.
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