It's time to feed the bees!
Beekeepers usually feed their bees in the winter. Typically, it's not because the beekeeper harvested too much honey and didn't leave enough stores for the bees to get through the winter. Rather, it's usually because the bees have moved through their hive in such a way that they are too far from their food stores and they can't move to their saved honey because of the cold temperatures. When it gets cold, bees form a cluster around their brood and keep each other warm by trading places from center to outer edge just the same way the penguins do.
When there is a January "thaw", the bees leave the hive for brief cleansing flights. They will never soil their own house so the mid-winter thaw is crucial to their health and lets them relieve themselves outside. Here you can see evidence of these cleansing flights - small puddles on top of the snow. hmm they are honey colored!
Here are more bee droppings and also a few dead bees that didn't make it back inside. That's no cause for alarm - with a population of 20,000 to 60,000 depending on the time of year, bees are always dying off.
Most beekeepers feed their bees a sugar/water combo. We think sugar is bad for us and for the bees so we feed them their own honey. Sure, it is hard to give up 2-3 jars of the stuff, but they were the ones who gave it to us in the first place! We would rather have a healthy hive and a little less honey than give the bees sugar.
Here's the jar of honey with two tiny holes drilled through the cap. The bees will extract the honey from the holes as they need it.
We set the jar on the opening of the inner cover and the bees immediately crowded around it.
Time to close the hive before they start charging us! We will check the honey supply every few days by lifting up the outer cover. They should be set for 2 1/2 - 3 weeks with that jar.
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Posted by Mary Ellen at January 28, 2009 6:30 AM