Just watching the entrance…

… is not enough to get the full picture of what’s going on in your hive.

My first bees, a swarm from the middle of June have been doing their own thing ever since I homed them. They’ve only ever built into one box, but that should be ok, plenty of other people are in the same situation. They’re busy, fly in poor weather, fight off wasps and continue to bring in pollen.

But I weighed the top box last week (12th week of occupancy) and it only weighed 7.8kg, which with a 2.6kg box means that the contents amount to 5.2kg. Whilst initially worried, there’s still time for the bees to add more stores. However, I weighed them again today and it’s down to 4.9kg (2.7kg contents). Let feeding commence, although I’m conscious that this loss in weight is probably down to robbing, so small amounts of feed late in the day.

Now the question is 1:1 or 2:1 and why. I believe it should be 2:1 so that the bees can easily store it.

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3 Responses to Just watching the entrance…

  1. simplebees says:

    Hi Cie

    In the absence of honey, the short answer is 2:1. Less work for the bees to get the water content down to the right level for storage. My recipe for autumn feed is 2:1 syrup (by weight or volume) made with nettle tea ( a good handful of nettles infused in boiling water until the water is well coloured). This adds micro nutrients, tannins and polyphenols (all good for the bees and their tums). I also put in a little organic vitamin C powder (the quick dissolving sort). Vitamin C is the only vitamin present in quantity in nectar. It makes the syrup slightly acid (nectar is acid, neat syrup is not) and acts as a natural preservative. You want it to taste like a slightly sharp orange. Too sharp and it will be ignored.

    For more information on nettle tea see: The Effect of Plant Supplements on the Development of Artificially Weaken Bee Families by Liviu, Marghitas, Bobis and Tofalvi; Animal Science and Biotechnologies, 2010, 43 (1)

    Gareth, Cotswolds

  2. Scandinavian beeks feed 5:3
    Mind you that David Heaf overwintered small colonies on only 4kg of stores.

    My bee inspector overwinters small splits on 2 combs only.

    The more we feed the more bees the colony will raise. More bees = more mouths to feed.

    But since we all create big colonies by supering/nadiring/spacing i guess feeding is what we must do.

    As Seeley discovered melifera bees prefer 40 litres cavity … there must be a good reason for it. …

    • simplebees says:

      To put your comment into context, the original poster has not stimulated his colony by feeding or forcing any expansion of the hive. On the contrary, he has allowed the colony to grow (or not) under its own steam. I too do not force my colonies and never would. This year only two of my hives need feeding; both late and small swarms, but worth the effort as they are from wild stock.

      It is true that sometimes very small colonies come through the winter and go on to thrive. Much depends on local weather: cold and dry is good for bees in winter, warm and wet less so. Where I live, winters can be very changeable and have long cold spells interspersed with warm wet periods. That makes it difficult to predict how much the bees will need by way of stores, so I always err on the generous side. The bees seem happy with this.

      You mention splits. Increasingly I see splits as like cutting a worm in half to get two worms. What one sees is not reproduction but recovery from trauma. To truly thrive, the bee needs to reproduce by its natural method, which is to swarm.

      Gareth, Cotswolds

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