Monday, 19 September 2016

Feeding for Winter

Regular readers will know that Miriam's bees made plenty of honey this year - and I have left her colony with enough of their own honey for them to have plenty of stores to make it through winter.

But Caroline's bees?  Not so much.  With all the shenanigans of the execution of Florence, and then failing to replace her, they just haven't had the time or the numbers to store much honey.  Unless they get some, they'll run out and starve before spring.  What to do?  Well, feed them, of course!

You'd think that, with all the excess honey Miriam generated, I could just feed that to Caroline's bees.  But you'd be wrong.  Feeding bees honey from another colony can be bad - there is a real risk of disease transfer (not diseases that humans can get - we're perfectly safe.  But there is a risk of transferring American Foul Brood spores, and other nasties).  Actually, the easiest thing is sugar syrup.  Basically, I mix up 1kg of sugar (ordinary white granulated sugar - never brown sugar) with ¾ of a litre of hot water, and then let it cool.

So, once I've got my syrup, how to give it to the bees?  The answer is to use a feeder bowl, which looks like this:

This is basically a covered bowl with a funnel in the middle, and the bees climb up the inside of the funnel and then over to the other side, where they can get to the syrup.  It's easier to see with the lid off:

There's a clear plastic cup over the funnel, which stops the bees floating off into the syrup and drowning.  And at the bottom, I can see some bees trying to get at the last drops of syrup.  In case you've ever wondered, this is what a bee's tongue looks like:

OK, they're hungry - time to fill up the bowl:

As you can see, when I fill the bowl they cluster at the surface of the liquid where they will fill their stomachs with syrup.  They then head back down the funnel into the hive, where they will regurgitate the syrup into cells in the comb so it can be stored for winter.

They have an astonishing appetite too - Caroline's bees are currently taking down 1½ litres of sugar syrup every day!

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