As of early January both of our hives were still surviving. They have actually been coming out the door some and buzzing around in the yard. They don’t make it far before they fall into the snow from getting too cold but they are thriving!
Because they are out moving some more, we figured now was a good time to get them some more food, just to make sure they can survive the rest of the winter. When fall came, we left some honey for them but they didn’t produce as much through the fall as we thought they would have. This is the first year we have chosen to feed them, just to make sure they don’t starve. As long as you don’t take all of their honey, they will eat what’s left throughout the winter. They do not produce any honey or bees while they are dormant.
One of the many reasons honey bees don’t survive through the winter is starvation, as well as moisture, and Varroa mites. We did treat them for mites, for the first time this fall as well as we put an extra box on top of their hive to keep the moisture down. So they suggest feeding them throughout the winter, to make sure they don’t starve. I did some looking online and found this simple recipe to make them some sugar fondant.
The recipe consists of part sugar, water and vinegar. You take 4 parts sugar to 1 part water and 1/4 tsp of vinegar to each pound pound of sugar (i.e. 1 cup of sugar weighs 8oz. 8 cups of sugar need 16oz water and 1tsp of vinegar). Mix all the ingredients together and get it boiling, stirring constantly. Once boiling, place the lid on for 3 minutes, but do not boil over 234 degrees as it causes the candy to caramelize and it can be toxic to the bees. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to 200 degrees. Once it cools, whip with a whisk until it turns white (bubbled) and quickly poor onto wax paper. I personally put wax paper in a baking sheet and poor the mixture into the baking sheet, but you can do it right on your counter as long as you have a towel underneath the wax paper.
Once it fully cools, it should be hard enough to place the sheet of candy in between the top box and the shavings box. This works nice because the shirt / shavings has some give so it fits the candy without the boxes not closing tightly together.
I, also, did some research this fall on what other beekeepers were doing to control the moisture in their hives. A couple I came across were saying to try some sort of wood chips that are meant to control moisture. So I ran over to a local hardware store and picked up some pine wood shavings that farmers use in their duck / chicken coops to keep them warm and the moisture out of the coop. I than took some 100% cotton shirts and cut them to the size of the bottom of the hive box and stapled the shirt to it. Filled the box halfway with these shavings and put the box on the top of the hive.
In the past, we had lost our bees fairly early in the winter due to what we believe was a moisture problem. The past couple of winters it had rained before we had a big freeze and we think they had froze right away. Luckily we have had a mild winter and it seems to be working for the bees.
January 17th, we opened up both of our hives to get them the food. Sadly we discovered we lost our largest hive (sad face). They were doing okay just a week or two ago but they just couldn’t do it anymore. This was the one hive we weren’t sure was even going to make it, due to the amount of bees, boxes and the little amount of honey they produced throughout the fall.
When we pulled off the top, there was no movement. So we started taking apart the hive and from what we can tell, they weren’t huddled together like they should have been. When they huddle together, they go almost dormant and they keep each other warm. Once they spread apart, they lose that heat and we think that is one of the reasons they did not make it. There is also a possibility they starved, we really have no way of knowing for sure.
I’m upset with myself as I’m typing this. I should have made this bee food a couple of weeks ago and put it in there, there’s a chance they may have made it further. But there’s a chance they just got cold. One will really never know what exactly happened, all we can do is try harder next year.
On the PLUS side, this summer, we had a hive that swarmed, we saved it and put it in a new hive, and its STILL going strong as of today. Gave them some food and taped up around the boxes and have our fingers crossed they keep on striving. We have a couple cold days ahead of us, so hopefully they do okay. I will come back and update on them in a couple of weeks!!
#SaveTheBees #HoneyBees #BeeKeeping #HoneyHives