Honeybees, Fondant and Shim

Winter Beekeeping Activities

With the new year literally around the corner, it is most definitely time to plan for the upcoming beekeeping season.

In the northeast region, however, with the unseasonably warm weather, it is first essential to be taking stock of our existing hives.

When temperatures are more seasonable, that is “colder”, honeybees cluster and consume only about a third of the volume of food that they would otherwise consume.

Honeybees, Fondant and ShimGiven that temperatures have been well above normal, honeybees have been out flying much more frequently than in a typical winter.  In fact, they may be out looking for nectar and pollen sources that aren’t available.  While some people have reported that their crocuses started to come up in December, there’s nowhere near enough supply for the honeybees.  As a result, the bees may be consuming much more of their honey stores than they would ordinarily do.  This means that we beekeepers will most likely need to supplement their food supplies to help them get through the remainder of the winter — until new pollen and nectar become available in early spring.

Consider making fondant (hard sugar candy) and placing it above the supers and below the inner cover (and below any additional insulating supers or boards you may have in your hive).  You will need to use a shim, or spacer, so that there is enough room to place the fondant on the top of the frames.  You can make this out of wood by yourself or grab one for each hive from a bee supplies company.

Best of all, there is no downside to provide the fondant for them.  If they need it, it’s there.  If they don’t need it, you can discard it in the spring.

Need a recipe? Try this one:  Fondant_for_Winter_Feeding.

If you have other suggestions, please feel free to share them with us.

In the mean time, best wishes for a Hap-bee New Year!

Locust blossoms, ready to open

Adding supers

The snow is [long] gone and the spring blossoms have been a welcomed arrival for the honeybees.  The hives seem to be finding abundant sources of pollen and nectar in the area and it’s a joy to see the different colors of the pollen being stored in the honeycomb.

Locust blossoms, ready to open

Locust blossoms, ready to open

It’s also wonderful to see that the bees are bringing in nectar and curing honey in their brood chambers to be consumed later.  It is a great sight when the frame has its arc of honey, followed by an arc of pollen followed by capped brood, larvae and eggs!  The queen is laying well and the workers are actively working the hive to its fullest.

So it’s no wonder that it’s time to add a super for the next brood chamber, and, if really lucky or off to an earlier start, a honey super!  This was my joy this week as I was able to add a second brood box to a hive that needed a little more time than the others and then a honey super on three hives that had already been working seven or eight frames in their second box.

I see that the locust trees are ready to burst open and I am hopeful that the bees will avail themselves of them as they are robust and really close to home.  I can’t wait to watch the hive continue to build its brood and its honey stores . . . with maybe a little extra for us!

-Karen

RR_Bees_Hiving_0062

Passive Release or Shake ’em in?

With this being the time of year for many of us to get new packages of bees, essentially a box with a mated queen and her workers, I often wonder about the best way to install them in their hive.

I’ve prepared the boxes for them, with built-out comb and thyme-infused sugar syrup to ease their transition.RR_Bees_Hiving_0062

And once I place the queen cage in position in the center of frames 5 and 6, I always take an extra several minutes to decide my next move in the installation.

I think about whether to shake the box of bees into the hive or whether to more gently place the box, with its large opening out toward the queen cage, so that bees can simply find their way out with less agitation.

This year, I did a little of each, and no hive seems any better or worse for the wear.  Maybe it’s too early to tell?  I’ll keep you posted.

What do you do?

-Karen