Spring has finally signaled its presence with increasingly warm temperatures over the last 10 days. It may not stay this way, of course, but the bees have taken their cue and started to rear brood at a greatly increased rate. To keep this brood warm requires energy. The fuel used to produce that energy is honey: indeed, maintaining winter hive temperatures is the reason why bees store honey in the first place.
The increased heat can easily be felt by placing a hand on the top bars. In a Warré one can push one’s hand down into the quilt filling and feel the warmth coming through the top cloth. In an hTBH one can place one’s hand directly on the top bars. In both types of hive, the brood nest betrays its presence by a patch of warmth. If there is no warm patch then either there is insufficient insulation or the hive has a problem.
One such problem may be lack of food: no food means no energy and no energy means no heat and, if uncorrected, a starved hive. This is the time of year when the risk of starvation is at its greatest. To avoid it one should heft one’s hives frequently. As brood rearing takes off, the weight of the hive decreases noticeably, even dramatically. If the hive seems at risk of starving, then feed is required.
Three of my hives are on the light side. I know they have some stores but do not wish to risk starvation, particularly if we have a cold spell (which will cause increased fuel consumption to maintain the essential warmth). So yesterday I made some fondant and placed a kilo and a half on each hive. I have never had much success in making fondant by boiling syrup, so I added heavy (2:1) syrup to finely powdered sugar and mixed until a marzipan consistency was achieved. (Note that a little syrup goes a long way.) For those interested, this method is discussed here.
So, go out and heft your hives!