Homesteading and Livestock

Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.

Add to My MSN

Getting Your Bees Ready For Winter...Already.

8/8/2011 9:15:38 AM

Tags: Feeding, winter, honey, sugar syrup, inspections, Kim Flottum

Summer beekeeping meetings are over and it’s time to get back to work. The bees have had a tough time in much of the country this summer because of adverse weather conditions, and it’s now up to beekeepers to make sure the bees get what nature hasn’t provided.

Careful examination of your colonies will show how much food they’ve actually been able to make during the honey flows so far. If you haven’t harvested honey yet your colony should have a surplus this time of year…that is, more honey stored than the colony will need to eat well all winter. Unless you are in the semi-tropical or tropical regions of the country your bees should have somewhere between 50 and 100 pounds of honey safely stored away when the first signs of autumn show. The colder and longer your winter and spring, the more they will need. I live near Cleveland, OH, and our bees typically use about 60 – 70 pounds of honey and five to seven frames of pollen between the end of October and the beginning of April. If you figure about eight pounds of honey for a deep frame mostly filled on both sides you can estimate how much honey your bees really have. A medium frame like I use holds 4+ pounds if it’s filled completely on both sides. Either way, that’s a bunch of frames of honey that the bees need. And don’t forget the pollen.

So winter preparations begin right now. Your bees may, or may not make any honey the rest of the summer and fall, but you can’t bet they will. Never, ever bet on the weather. You have to make sure. Honey, the carbohydrate part of your bees’ diet is essential, but protein is even more critical. If your bees don’t have several frames of pollen already stashed it’s going to be difficult for them to raise brood next spring when the queen begins to produce eggs again. We’ll look at how to provide protein in the next entry here.Honey is always the best choice for honey bee food and this frame has about four pounds  

If your bees don’t have enough honey stored it would be wise to begin feeding. In the areas of the country that have been abnormally hot and dry you can already see stressed goldenrod blooming earlier than usual. Look closely and you’ll probably note there aren’t bees on them either. This is common for stressed plants, so you can bet that the rest of the fall plants bees normally depend on won’t be providing their usual abundant crops either. If you’ve been lucky and have had moderate temperatures and adequate rain you still can’t bet on the weather for the rest of the season. If your bees don’t have enough winter food by August 15th, they won’t be able to gather enough the rest of the season. YOU have to help.

You can provide frames of honey from those that have done well to help out weak colonies. Honey is the best way to feed your colony and is always at the top of the list. However, if you don’t have that surplus to share you’ll need to get some sugar syrup on them before the end of the month. They’ll need time to take it from the container, get it reduced and then stored before it gets really cold. The usual recommendation is to mix a solution that’s two parts sugar with one part water…either weight or volume. You’ll get a nice, thick slurry with that and the bees will have no difficulty taking it or turning it into winter food…it’s not honey. I recommend that you add a bit of feeding stimulant…Honey Bee Healthy or one of the many others like it on the market now. These supplements provide an attractive odor for the bees that helps them get started eating the syrup. Once started, you will be surprised how much they take.

Remember, honey is about 80% sugar, so if you need, say 50 pounds of honey to overwinter, that amounts to 40 pounds of sugar…and that’s how much sugar you will have to feed to get to that 50 pounds of food. It isn’t pounds of syrup you need, but pounds of sugar. Don’t skimp!

And don’t get me wrong here. This is winter food. Carbohydrates your bees need to survive the long winter months without incoming nectar. It isn’t honey you’ll harvest later. Winter food. Remember that.Now is the time to get into your colonies and do a thorough inspection to see how much food they really have 

Moreover, you have the responsibility to provide healthy food for them, just as you would your pets or other livestock. Good farmers don’t ever feel that if their animals can’t take care of themselves, then they should die. If you let you dog or cat do that…you’d be arrested. Feed your bees if they do not have enough food to get through the winter. Further, it is not the fault of the bees that you put them in a location that could not provide adequate nutrition. Be good to your bees.

Next time we’ll look at providing more protein so they can raise lots of brood next spring. Until then, keep your veil tight, your hive tool handy and your smoker lit…Winter is just around the corner.

 

 



Related Content

Join the Real Food Revival!

People across the country are finding new and reliable ways to put fresher, healthier food on the di...

Feeding Beef Cattle: Tips for a Healthy, Pasture-Based Diet

If you’re raising beef cattle you’ll need to know the best feed options, and feeding beef cattle on ...

Sugar Cane: You CAN Grow It Outside the Tropics (And Make Amazing Syrup!)

If you live in the South, you can grow your own sugar cane. Learn to plant, harvest and make delicio...

Prepare your Mower for Winter

Winterize your lawn mower. Be prepared for spring!

Content Tools




Post a comment below.

 










Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 66% Off the Cover Price

First Name: *
Last Name: *
Address: *
City: *
State/Province: *
Zip/Postal Code:*
Country:
Email:*
(* indicates a required item)
Canadian subs: 1 year, (includes postage & GST). Foreign subs: 1 year, . U.S. funds.
Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
Non US and Canadian Subscribers - Click Here

Lighten the Strain on the Earth and Your Budget

MOTHER EARTH NEWS is the guide to living — as one reader stated — “with little money and abundant happiness.” Every issue is an invaluable guide to leading a more sustainable life, covering ideas from fighting rising energy costs and protecting the environment to avoiding unnecessary spending on processed food. You’ll find tips for slashing heating bills; growing fresh, natural produce at home; and more. MOTHER EARTH NEWS helps you cut costs without sacrificing modern luxuries.

At MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet’s natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. That’s why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.00 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.00 for 6 issues.