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It's Time to Feed the Bees

Our honeybees need to be fed every 4-5 days.  Since we have brand-new hives and our bees began their journey here without any honey already stored, they require sugar syrup made at a ratio of 1:1 (1 part sugar to 1 part water) this time of year.  We've noticed that every 4-5 days, the gallon-sized feeder that's inside each hive has been nearly depleted.  Eventually, as they build up their own stores of honey, they won't require as much or any extra sugar syrup during certain parts of the year after there has been plenty of nectar and pollen for them to forage.

Today I made more sugar syrup for them. The sugar syrup I'm making has 16 cups of water and 16 cups of sugar. Knowing how quickly we are going to be going through sugar, we have been purchasing 25-pound bags of sugar from Costco.

feeding the bees
To remove any impurities in the water, we first bring the water to a boil in our big stock pot on the stove.  After it boils a few minutes, I turn the burner off, add the sugar, and stir with a wooden cooking spoon.
feeding the bees

Then I let the sugar syrup cool until it's room temperature.  There is enough sugar syrup here to fill two gallon-sized pitchers about 3/4 of the way full. At this point, the cooled sugar syrup is ready to feed to the bees.  

Bees don't like the cold. Before getting started, we make sure it's going to be warm out and we plan ahead to go out during the warmest part of the day. That's because we're going to be lifting the lid off the hive in order to access the interior feeder.

feeding the bees
Moving slowly so as not to alarm the bees, the telescoping lid and inner cover are lifted off the hive and set aside.  Now, syrup can be poured into the feeder.  There are two holes in the feeder and a "stairway" of mesh plastic in there for bees to climb down.  As soon as I begin pouring the syrup into the hole, the bees start climbing out as fast as they can.  I pour really slowly so as not to drown any bees.

feeding the bees sugar syrup interior feeder

feeding the bees sugar syrup interior feeder

While the hive is open, I inspect what I can see in the frames and on the cover.  In one of our hives, they are building extra comb on the inner cover and over the top of a couple of the frames.
bees building comb on inner cover

bees building comb on top of frames
Replacing the lids carefully, I put the rock back on top of the hive to hold the lid down (in case of strong wind gusts). Now it's time to inspect the second hive and give those bees their feed, too.
using a smoker with bees
I forgot to mention the smoker. The smoke is supposed to calm the bees.  I don't think our bees care about smoke.  They seem to get more agitated when I use it.  Moving slowly seems to be what works best with keeping them calm.

removing the inner cover from the hive

pouring sugar syrup into interior feeder

feeding the bees sugar syrup interior feeder

The brown lump on top of the left side of the hive is a pollen patty. We purchased the pollen patties from Mann Lake, but there are also recipes out there for making them.  The bees use the pollen patty feed to their larvae. Nurse bees consume the pollen patty so that they can make royal jelly, which is what they then feed to the larvae after hatching.  You can also see a black thing above the pollen patty -- this is a strip of HopGuard 3, which is a natural treatment for varroa mites.  We have not observed mites in our hives but we have learned that they are present in nearly all hives and they can kill entire hives of bees over time.  Since we are new to beekeeping, for our first year we decided to go ahead and treat our hives as a precaution and to use a natural treatment that is less complicated than other options.

We have been learning so much about bees.  And there's so much more for us to learn!  Nothing stays the same year-round and so there is the constant need to review what the next steps are.  Part of the reason for this is because their requirements change depending on the weather and what is available to forage.  For example, in the winter the sugar syrup will need to be  made at a 2:1 ratio (2 parts sugar to 1 part water) or replaced with a solid sugar or fondant if temperatures dip below 50 degrees F.  If they have stored honey, they can also eat that, and it is the healthiest option for them. 

We've noticed that our Italian honey bees are very gentle and busy little creatures.

Italian honey bee