BEEKEEPING IN THE NORTHEAST - An account of my beekeeping, not a treatise of expertise, but for friends & family who wish to keep bees vicariously through me, and for the occasional apiarist passer-by.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

November 3 - Winter Prep Continued

Day started in the 30's but by 3 pm it was 54 F

I'd collected pine needles from the surrounding forests and set them to dry over our heater blower to use as insulation and moisture wicking in supers above the colonies. Last year the pine needles I used made for an inefficient feeding portal sticking to the pollen patties. I tried making a screen to keep the needles up but worried a bee would find her way in and not get out.

So I bought some natural untreated burlap and made pockets for the needles by stapling it to the homasote board I also use to absorb moisture off the hive during winter and that was so successful last winter.

As you can see, I'm taking the inner cover down to the tops of the frames and putting the feeding super on top of that. I'm filling that with winter food stores and topping it off with the homasote board insulated with a pine needle pillow for wicking moisture out of the hive:

I made sugar candy for low moisture winter feeding following a wonderful recipe shared by a fellow blogger in San Francisco, but I used essential oils in Pro Health instead of vinegar.
So out to the hives!
Here is what I found -Backyard Lavendar 8 frame that swarmed:
They do not seem to like the bee tea at all. This is not the first time I've found a lack of interest. Perhaps they have a lot of honey hiding down in there.
Here is the Fusha hive on Ferncroft. They have not finished the quart size zip lock of bee tea but are still interested. Some mold has grown on the pollen patty strips I put on the frame tops:
Here is the Gold Hive Italians that over-wintered last year with such success. This time the pine needles will not fall into the hive or stick to the pollen patty strips. They sucked their gallon of bee tea dry!
Busy bees!

I've got my fingers crossed as I don't think my bees had much in the way of stores. I slaved over the stove making the candy and just filled up the inner cover with whatever they may need, but I really wish I had surplus honey to offer. Maybe in time I'll learn how to anticipate their needs. I'd like to find a good way to offer them water as whenever there is a mild day I always find some bees drowned or stranded near a puddle.


Chuck said...

Nice work. I appreciated the link to your fellow bloggers recipe. I like what she has done there with the fondant in the frames. I think I'll try that but I also like the simplicity of your application.

By way of explanation about the vinegar she used, the vinegar is not meant as any kind of supplement or pollutant even. The acid, which is vinegar, is intended to break down some of the sucrose of common white sugar, into some simpler sugars - fructose and glucose. Fructose and glucose are the sugars honey is made of, so it gets the white sucrose sugar closer to a more preferable form for the bees.

Vinegar doesn't have to be used, of course, any acid will do - A few lemons with their citric acid would suffice as well. In place of adding acid, you can also pour in some corn syrup, and even though High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) gets a bad wrap, the very definition of HFCS is fructose and glucose sugars and it is MUCH closer to honey than white beet or cane sugar, which are sucrose.

So no harm done really, you can still add essential oils to your bee candy, but that's an explanation of why you'll usually see an acid, such as vinegar, in those kinds of recipes. It's typically referred to as invert sugar, or inverting sugar.

athenasbees said...

Hi Chuck and thanks for those insights. I don't really understand the science but in one of my favorite northern beekeeping books by Richard Bonney, Hive Maintenance, A Seasonal Guide For Beekeepers, he says that inverting sugar with tartaric acid has proven to shorten the life of bees. Also that HFCS is proven to shorten the life of bees. Bee's life is pretty short anyway, but he modified the recipe as did Ross Conrad to avoid the sugar inversion in this manner for this reason, (I think). I'm not sure what the Pro Health essential oils do, but they help at least with keeping the syrup from spoiling.

Chuck said...

Interesting. I've heard the claim that HFCS has adverse effects on bees, but I've yet to read a peer reviewed paper on it. I'm dieing to read it, if you ever run across one. My personal, pet hypothesis, if it does indeed harm bees, is that it likely comes from systemic or other pesticide residues used on/in the corn. Don't know... Think the jury is still out on HFCS. But your bees will certainly take straight sucrose and do well with it. Keep it up! Hope all your bees make it happily through the winter!