This has been a pretty good year in my bee yard as far as nectar flows go, but when I started inspecting a few days ago to decide which hives need feeding I was surprised that there is less honey in my hives than I thought there would be. You might also find that you need to feed some of your hives to prepare for winter now that our nectar flows are pretty much all over for the year.
Experienced beekeepers can get a fair idea of which hives need feeding by picking up on the back of the hive to see if it is “light” or not – but if you do not yet have this skill the best thing to do is to inspect. How much honey you want to find is going to depend on the size of the hive configuration and the population, but a strong single box colony of any size from nuc on up to 10 frame deep needs to have about 2/3 of the comb filled with stores – BTW in our climate colonies as small as 5 frame mediums can overwinter just fine if they are in good shape. More honey stores certainly won’t hurt anything, but when cold weather rolls around your bees actually need some empty comb in the center to cluster on – so don’t feed to the point of all available space being filled.
You will want to be feeding heavy syrup at this time of year – it will be less work for you and your bees to get it in the hives and cured before the weather turns cold. So 2-1 or perhaps 5-3 sugar syrup. Those numbers refer to weight of sugar/water so…
- 2-1 syrup = 2 pounds of sugar per each pound of water.
- Conveniently a pint of water weighs about a pound.
- You will usually need to use hot water to mix heavy syrup.
- It takes about 3 pounds of sugar mixed into syrup to fill one medium frame with cured winter feed.
This is not the time to feed a little at a time – put as much of the required feed on your hives at one time – and keep it on – as is practical so that they can go ahead and get it in the hives and configured how they want pretty quickly. You might want to give them a little bit of top ventilation to facilitate curing the feed and to prevent excessive hive moisture – but don’t accidentally create an unguarded top entrance which might aggravate robbing.
Robbing is very possible and even likely at this time – populations are large, and forage is quickly disappearing from the environment so…
Don’t spill syrup
- Reduce hive entrances.
- Don’t expose the interiors of hives any more than you have to.
- Don’t leave burr comb, frames or any other sources of honey exposed in the apiary to be robbed out.
- Consider installing robber screens – here is a simple how to build robber screens resource.