THE FOLLOWING WAS LAST UPDATED ON NOVEMBER 12, 2013.
We feed our bees pollen in the form of pollen patties for two reasons: 1) To get the queen laying in late winter, around mid-February, so that the colony’s population is at a healthy level when spring arrives. 2) To give a nuc colony the boost it needs throughout the summer so that it can go into winter, again, with a healthy population of bees. (We also feed our nucs sugar syrup throughout our cool, short summers.) We wouldn’t feed our bees pollen or sugar if Mother Nature could provide for them all year round. But Mother Nature is a cruel mistress in St. John’s, Newfoundland. Spring often doesn’t make an appearance until the end of June. So it’s a no-brainer: We feed them. (July 11/13 addendum: But don’t overfed them.)
Do an online search for “How to make pollen patties,” and you’ll find more than a few methods and recipes for pollen patties. The following is our method, not necessarily the best method, but probably one of the easiest, which is why I like it. We fed our bees with these pollen patties last year and everything was okay. (But feel free to let me know if I’m doing something I shouldn’t.) Here’s a video that shows exactly how it’s done:
Mix thick sugar syrup with pollen supplement powder (we use Bee Pro Pollen Supplement that we get from Bee Maid) until it’s like Play-Doh, dry but doughy. Spread it out flat on wax paper, cut it into patties and lay it over the top bars in your hive with the wax paper. Sometimes I add real pollen in the form of pellets to the mix, but I forgot to do it during the video.
P.S.: Another title for this post could be How to Make Sugar Syrup. The first part of the video demonstrates the process. But for those who came in late, here’s a summary: In the spring, the sugar syrup mixture is a light 1:1 mixture (1 part sugar, 1 part sugar). For feeding nucs and topping off the hives before winter, it’s 2:1 (2 parts sugar, 1 part water, or even thicker). Add a small amount of anise extract to give the syrup that extra jolt that compels the bees dig into it. See Don’t Feed Your Bees Grocery Store Honey for a little more info.
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THE FOLLOWING WAS LAST UPDATED ON FEB. 27, 2012.
Some of our honey from 2011 has begun to crystallize in the bottles, specifically the extracted honey that was always cloudy. The crushed-and-strained honey is no longer perfectly clear like apple juice, but it’s still liquid.
|LEFT: Crushed-and-strained honey from Sept. 27/11.
RIGHT: Crystallized extracted honey from Oct. 03/11.
If we had a bigger freezer, we would have frozen all the honey and taken out each bottle only as we needed it. Freezing honey puts it in suspended animation, right? Thus delaying the natural crystallization process? We may need to get a bigger freezer for next season. At any rate, I’ll update this post later in the year if the crushed-and-strained honey crystallizes. We could heat the honey to return it to liquid form, but we don’t mind it a little crystallized. It’s more creamy than solid, easier to spread on toast, and less messy. And it’s still fabulously more delicious than any grocery store honey.
UPDATE: I bit the bullet and clarified most of our crystallized honey today by letting the bottles sit in hot water for a while like I did back on December 18th, 2011. Then I somehow found space for all the honey in our deep freeze. I still have a bottle of the crushed-and-strained honey in the cupboard so I can record the date when it fully crystallizes. My guess is it won’t take long because our kitchen this time of year is like a walk-in refrigerator when we’re not home. Refrigerated honey apparently crystallizes fast.
UPDATE (Feb. 27/12): A bottle of the crushed and strained honey that wasn’t stored in the freezer has finally crystallized. It’s creamy and easy to spread. It began to get cloudy around the first week of February. It will likely be fully and solidly crystallized sometime in March. Refrigeration supposedly accelerates the crystallization process, and the temperature in our kitchen during the winter months (when we’re not in the kitchen) is definitely a bit chilly. The honey may have stayed liquid longer if we’d kept it stored at room temperature.
Necessary items not listed below are nails, screws and tools needed for assembling the hives; Mason jars or large pickling jars for inverted jar feeding; 40-80kg of granulated sugar for mixing sugar syrup and candy; paint for the hives; and the R5 hard insulation and Type 15 or 30 asphalt felt used for wintering the hive. (Again, see our How-To page for more info on all that.) Those extra items will come to about $100.
Then add $200 for a nuc box (i.e., the bees) from the one supplier of nucs on the island. (You can contact me for their email address.) You may have better luck getting your bees from another NL beekeeper instead. (I know someone who might be able supply nucs by 2013.) But let’s just assume the bees will cost about $200 no matter where you get them.
Okay then, here’s the one-shot hypothetical order for anyone interested in starting up a single Langstroth hive in Newfoundland in 2012. It’s everything you’ll need for your first summer, fall and winter of beekeeping.
Read on . . . »
A word of caution to beekeepers who use hard insulation in their hives for any reason: some ants have an appetite for insulation. Check out this photo sent to me from a beekeeper in Indiana:
I doubt this kind of infestation would be an issue for beekeepers on the island of Newfoundland or in similar climates (though you might want to look around for ant nests). Ants are usually long gone and out of sight by the time we have to put on insulation in November, or take it off in April. I suppose that’s a benefit of living in one of the chilliest, wettest, windiest places on the planet.
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THE FOLLOWING WAS LAST UPDATED ON FEB. 16, 2012.
More dead bees are showing up on the bottom of the foundationless hive, enough to nearly clog the entire bottom entrance. (I first noticed the dead bees on December 22nd.) Most of the them appear to be drones.
Are drones fed like the queen, or can they access and eat honey on their own? I don’t remember. If they rely on the workers to be fed, then my guess is they’re deliberately being starved out of the hive. I’m surprised so many are still around.
I’ve also noticed that the bees in the foundationless hive are clustering heavily in the bottom box. This is what the edge of the cluster looked like a few days ago during the Dry Sugar Feeding (I fed them even though I don’t think they’re running low on honey):
THE FOLLOWING WAS UPDATED ON NOVEMBER 25, 2013.
We decided to give each of our honey bee colonies about 4 pounds of sugar yesterday because the bees have been clustering at the top of the hives for the past few weeks and are possibly running low on honey stores. We fed them dry sugar following what in some circles is referred to as the Mountain Camp method: Place a piece of newspaper over the top bars, pour dry sugar on top and shelter the whole thing inside a shallow super or an eke. Here’s a brief video that shows how we did it:
We sprayed the newspaper lightly to make it easier for the bees to chew through it. The dry sugar will harden on its own by absorbing moisture from the bees’ respiration, but we also sprayed it a bit to get the process started. (Update: Both the sugar and the newspaper will absorb plenty of moisture without having to be sprayed.)
I’m not convinced the bees are running low on honey. All the hives seemed to have plenty of honey the last time we checked them in the fall. Maybe the bees are clustering high in the hives because it’s easier to stay warm up there. Whatever the case may be, the dry sugar feeding was the quickest, simplest precaution we could take. And it sure beats having to mix up a batch of hard candy for them.
Read on . . . »