top of page

At this time of the year, Bee Mindful of starvation

The two Golden Rules of beekeeping are:

1 - all beekeeping is local

2 - it depends of what you see in your colonies

With that in mind....

After coming out of Winter, most colonies in South-Central Texas have eaten through all or most of their Winter stores and are low on resources, especially after our dismal Fall season (all the rain we had then meant many days of nectar gathering lost at a crucial time, and not enough of it coming in to get through Winter AND early Spring both).

Still, in our area and with the early warm weather recently making pollen and some nectar available on sunny days; most colonies have started early to rear brood in anticipation of the nectar flow. Most queens have been laying a lot of eggs, that have turned into hungry, resource intensive larvae; and the populations are starting to explode. These colonies are now consuming a tremendous amount of honey/nectar to keep their new batch of baby bees warm and in good health during cold weather days (colonies will consume a good half a pound of honey per comb of brood under those conditions).

The problem is, these last few weeks, the intermittent rain and cold have limited the number of flying weather days, so colonies are burning through their resources faster than they are coming in, out-pacing the resources available inside or outside the hive; especially when it is freezing for several days in a row (like it will be the case this week) and they must expand energy to keep the brood's nest warm enough.

So while at Bee Mindful we try to avoid feeding in general unless you have a very specific goal in mind, we do make exceptions for emergencies. Therefore, since this week and the next are very sensitive and could prove crucial in making or breaking your colonies, we recommend you use the next warm day available (so far it looks like Thursday, March 7th) to mindfully assess your colony reserves; and consider bridge feeding 1:1 sugar syrup (for a simple recipe, look below) if they are looking/feeling too low, as an emergency measure and to avoid starvation - so they can make it through the next cold/dry spell. A good rule of thumb to tell if a colony is too low when you check them then: the drawn frames on the outside of the brood's nest are empty, and/or your box is light.

If that's the case, consider emergency feeding, then come back a week later: check if they need more (and do another emergency feeding), or if they have not used it all up (in which case, don't feed any more until there is a new emergency).

How to do emergency feeding at this time of the year:

if you can, wait until the next opportunity the temperatures are above 55 or 60 to feed, and even then just go in and out for feeding and close them back. For this purpose, and to minimize colony stress and brood exposure, we only recommend in-hive feeders (preferably top feeders for Langstroth so you can go in-and out without exposing the brood's nest to as much draft and keep the feed above the nest warm and of easier access), and strongly discourage entrance feeders (they get too cold anyway and the bees can't access them in cold weather, plus they encourage robbing as soon as the bees start flying again).

To feed, use a 1:1 sugar syrup recipe:

for each volume of sugar (white granulated only), heat up a volume of water til just under boiling. Take it off the stove and mix quickly with your sugar until dissolved. Let the syrup cool to about 90F (or body temperature) and go pour it in the top-feeder.

123 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page