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Title: Feeding!


Janco2 - September 8, 2010 01:12 PM (GMT)
No-one seems to be posting much on here now.
We are particularly concerned about feeding our bees.
Since we had our nuc at the end of June we have been feeding them a small quantity of 1:1 sugar syrup about twice weekly amounting to less than 1 litre.

However as our tbh only has about 10/11 bars in use we feel that this will not be enough for them for the winter. Also Nic's tbh only has less than 8 top bars in use as it was a late swarm (23 July).

We think it would be best to change to 2:1 syrup and feed more.
What are others doing?
Has it been a difficult late summer for the bees? Weather has been very varied and we are never sure where they are foraging. Ours have now started on Himalayan Balsam (white on their backs). Ivy is not yet out.

How many top bars do people think there need to be in use in a top bar hive?

We would love to know what others are doing so hopefully someone will respond.


Tavascarow - September 11, 2010 07:34 AM (GMT)
Mine are still pulling nectar from somewhere, haven't a clue what the source(s) is/are.
I've noticed there is little pollen going in though, which means brood rearing has probably slowed down.
It's probably wise to switch to 2/1 now, the bees use more energy evaporating the extra moisture from 1/1.
In the spring & summer it's better to feed 1/1 (or even 0.5/1) as then they aren't storing, but using it to feed & build comb.

I think the lack of traffic on the site is due to not getting e-mail notifications of posts so peops don't check in so often.
It would be good though to hear how everyone's season has been.

:)

Janco2 - September 11, 2010 07:46 PM (GMT)
Thanks for responding Steve.

We are feeding about 800ml of 2:1 every day now and will continue to do so until they stop taking it or have built up a lot more top bars (hopefully).

Jan

Paul - September 12, 2010 01:40 PM (GMT)
Mine are still busy enough and appear to be bringing in pollen of various shades. However, I'm concerned about the level of stores they have. This colony commenced in mid June and built comb very rapidly but failed to fill many bars with capped honey. I have a lot of empty comb and since the last photo I posted with the bees' tails in the air, if anything, the level of capped honey in the hive has reduced. I decided to feed last week and in three days 2kg of sugar diluted with a pint of water had gone! Yesterday I repeated the process. I'm not sure how much more I should feed though. As a comparison to your own hive, if anyone would like to come around and have a look you're more than welcome. My only experience of a TBH is the one I have in my garden, so to compare notes could be helpful at this current time of year as we prepare for winter.

Janco2 - September 21, 2010 09:26 AM (GMT)
Just a brief update.
Still feeding about 800ml 2:1 syrup most days and it's always gone by the following day. There still seem to be a lot of bees foraging whenever the weather is favourable.
We are no longer seeing white on their backs so presumably the Himalayan Balsam has about finished. Some yellow pollen coming in recently especially in the mornings otherwise we have no idea where they are going.
Not sure how long to keep feeding as we don't want to stop until the bees stop taking it!

Jan

freebeeatst.tudy - September 22, 2010 06:24 PM (GMT)
Hello!

I am not sure when to start feeding either or how to judge what supplies they should have and am purely going on guesswork and instinct at the moment, so if we could have perhaps info on how many capped bars they should have for winter supply, it would help to judge things, as I don't want to feed unless I have to or until I have to. Surely they will moderate this themselves?, i.e., dwindle down to the number that can survive on.

Mine seem to be still forraging in the borage in the garden which is everywhere, so am very glad I planted it as they have been feeding from it for ages now.

Advice would be appreciated!




Janco2 - September 23, 2010 10:59 AM (GMT)
Just been down to our bees and put in another 800ml 2:1 syrup.
They weren't too happy with us as we looked in both ends to see what they were up to. Looks like just 1 top bar left with nothing on it and building comb on 2 other ones that were empty a week or so ago. As there are only 13 top bars in there all told then that doesn't give them much honey for the winter! It seems rather late to be adding top bars now.

We had hoped they would have stored more honey by now.
Keep on feeding I guess.

How many top bars are in use in your hives Pam and Paul?

We still seem to have a lot of bees coming and going in favourable weather and although we still have 3 holes open for them they still seem to be queueing up to get in.

Tavascarow - September 25, 2010 09:01 AM (GMT)
The amount of stores they require for winter is a bit of a 'how long is a piece of string' question.
It depends very much on the weather & the bees.
Some bees overwinter in larger numbers than others & will consequently need more & if we have a mild winter they may use more not less stores.
A long cold spell just causes them to cluster tighter & use less honey than in a mild winter where they are more active so use more feed.
As an average about 15 kgs of honey is required but it a very vague ball park figure, some may require considerably more others a lot less.
The easy answer is weigh your hive & approximate the amount of stores from that.
If you put each end of the hive on a set of bathroom scales & add the two together you will get a rough idea as to the amount of honey on board.

I stopped worrying a long time ago & have a lot of faith in the ivy blossom which has now started.
Ivy, unlike most flowers has the ability to refill its nectaries if it doesn't get pollinated, so a spell of wet windy weather doesn't affect it as much.
It's why you nearly always see the ivy covered in berries in the late winter regardless of conditions, whereas other plants are very weather dependant.
My bees will fill a shallow super full most autumns which is more than enough to get them through the worst winters.
I do heft the hives in the late winter (Jan/Feb) & if they feel light then will give them fondant to keep them going.
My personal beliefs are artificial feeding can cause more problems later by conditioning the bees into expecting a constant food supply & also (especially with top bar hives) the risk of contaminating honey with sugar syrup.

Janco2 - September 25, 2010 11:11 AM (GMT)
Thanks Steve.

We do have ivy around that has just started flowering so better hope they make more stores from that. Perhaps we should put in a couple more top bars for them?
Difficult to weigh our hive as it's "strapped down" in case of severe winds. Also no idea how much it weighed to start with!

We haven't been happy feeding either but reading on the Biobees site it seemed that was the way to go this year.

Hopefully, if they survive the winter, we won't have to feed them again as we don't expect to take much honey except in a really good summer. We really want them for pollination and just to see them around.

Paul - September 25, 2010 05:44 PM (GMT)
Janco, my hive has fourteen bars.
Working from the outside in, x2 bars left and x1 bar right have small amounts of empty comb that if contained honey, in my estimation would weigh about four pounds.
x4 bars left and x3 bars right have some capped honey ranging from less than half a pound up to about two pounds. Some cross combing though. In total I estimate about ten pounds of honey here.
The four remaining bars are in the middle of the hive. I can't check these due to severe cross combing. This is unfortunate because this is where all the action takes place. I can only quess the Queen is in there somewhere, but I've never seen her. I'm of the assumption that these bars are heavy, probably weighing between two to three pounds each. But unfortunately I don't know how much honey they contain. I could estimate my hive contains a maximum of fifteen pounds of honey.
In total I have fed them x2 lots of two pounds sugar mixed with one pint of water. Both feedings disappeared within three days. The above information is correct as from this afternoon. The bees were not too happy about me checking them out. I got stung twice which is unusual, they are normally very docile. Since I started feeding, I've blocked up one of the three entrance holes. The bees appear to be very active still dispite the cooler weather, however there is a noticeable increase of dead bees near the hive. In fact, a month ago there were hardly any.

Janco2 - September 26, 2010 08:54 AM (GMT)
Thanks Paul for all that information.

Up until yesterday our hive had just 13 top bars but we added 2 more as they do seem to have built more comb in the last few days and that end top bar was full of bees presumably putting honey stores in the comb.

At the other end (the feeder end) there was just 1 empty top bar a few days ago when we looked in (and really annoyed the bees).
As for what is happening in the rest of the hive we really don't know except to say there are a lot of bees everywhere. We really don't want to disturb them much at this late stage of the year. We thought they should be winding down their numbers ready for winter!
That's the dilemma with feeding. Are we encouraging them to continue flat out?

Sorry to hear you have cross combing. We may well have too but we just haven't looked.

Phil Chandler seems to think the average hive needs about 35lbs of honey to survive a winter but that is only a very rough estimate. Ours are certainly busy foraging whenever possible and we are seeing some yellow pollen coming in to the hive but not a lot. Since the 9th Sep we have fed ours 9kg sugar at 2:1 concentration.

freebeeatst.tudy - September 30, 2010 05:50 PM (GMT)
QUOTE (Tavascarow @ Sep 25 2010, 09:01 AM)
The amount of stores they require for winter is a bit of a 'how long is a piece of string' question.
It depends very much on the weather & the bees.
Some bees overwinter in larger numbers than others & will consequently need more & if we have a mild winter they may use more not less stores.
A long cold spell just causes them to cluster tighter & use less honey than in a mild winter where they are more active so use more feed.
As an average about 15 kgs of honey is required but it a very vague ball park figure, some may require considerably more others a lot less.
The easy answer is weigh your hive & approximate the amount of stores from that.
If you put each end of the hive on a set of bathroom scales & add the two together you will get a rough idea as to the amount of honey on board.

I stopped worrying a long time ago & have a lot of faith in the ivy blossom which has now started.
Ivy, unlike most flowers has the ability to refill its nectaries if it doesn't get pollinated, so a spell of wet windy weather doesn't affect it as much.
It's why you nearly always see the ivy covered in berries in the late winter regardless of conditions, whereas other plants are very weather dependant.
My bees will fill a shallow super full most autumns which is more than enough to get them through the worst winters.
I do heft the hives in the late winter (Jan/Feb) & if they feel light then will give them fondant to keep them going.
My personal beliefs are artificial feeding can cause more problems later by conditioning the bees into expecting a constant food supply & also (especially with top bar hives) the risk of contaminating honey with sugar syrup.

I have 13 bars, and had a look the other day and they seem to have good stores, so the question is that if you feed them then they use more energy on making comb to store, whereas should we leave them to behave naturally and risk loosing them?

It really is a dilemma, especially like you Jan, as I am keeping them for them being there to pollinate etc., but am trying to do the best for their health and wellbeing at the same time and also for them to be able to be natural in their habit as possible.

I suppose it is just a matter of watching them and intervening when you think it is necessary.

Also, would be good to have a notification when someone posts a topic etc., as this prompts you to have a look more, especially when life is busy and you just go on and do what you have to do with the computer, then off again.

Don't know if that is possible at all?




vini - October 1, 2010 10:40 AM (GMT)
Apologies for 'no postings' lately - I've been having huge broadband problems!
Anyway, I understand that 2:1 syrup feeding is not just about stores - it's primarily to keep the queen laying strongly so that there are enough bees to keep the temperature up through the winter.
I've taken a leaf out of a conventional beekeeper and put fondant on throughout the winter. Because I have gapped bars this can go on top in it's own little house (covered with carpet underlay to insulate it - hence mitigate condensation inside the hive).
I was reassured about this practice as an experienced member of the Natural Beekeeping Forum said that he doesn't bother with syrup (which is 'forcing') but just uses fondant (when needed) throughout.
In the meantime my bees are going mad with the ivy flow.
Once the ivy is over, as part of the 'tucking up for winter process' it is important to move the follower boards close to the filled combs so that the bees don't have too much empty space to keep warm (hence needing more fuel to do so). It is also important to find a way to protect the hive from condensation forming and then dripping on the bees.
All the best, V

Janco2 - October 1, 2010 05:46 PM (GMT)
Thanks for your input Vini.
I understood that 1:1 syrup could be fed if necessary during the summer but that this should be upped to 2:1 syrup in autumn if more stores were needed. Fondant could be fed in early spring if stores seemed particularly low at that time.

I gleaned that from the Biobees forum but it does seem as if there are lots of differing opinions!

Ideally we wouldn't be feeding them at all but as the weather has generally been poor since we had our nucleus, they haven't built up honey stores as we had hoped.

Thanks for the advice about moving the follower boards closer to filled combs.

Much of the ivy around us has still to flower. Things are a bit later at our altitude!




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