I added a medium super to both of our hives today (for a total of two on each hive) and installed double frame feeders in each. The frame feeders are designed for deep supers, but two mediums will also do the trick.

I added the 7-litre double frame feeder to Hive #2 (on the left) above the inner cover because the bees were sucking the syrup from the Boardman feeders faster than I could refill them. (The Boardman feeders were sheltered inside a medium super to keep wasps away.) We did a full inspection of the hive yesterday and noticed three or four empty frames, meaning those bees need to build a lot of honeycombs fast to have them filled for the winter. Adding the frame feeder is the quickest way to feed them, so that’s that.

But Hive #1 is a different story…

Hive #1 (on the right) has always been ahead of Hive #2. It hasn’t been too active for the past two weeks, though, since drone larvae pupae were discarded and we got hit with Hurricane Igor. I also noticed the bees were bearding a couple days ago, often caused by poor ventilation or congestion within the hive. I couldn’t get hold of any experienced beekeepers for advice, so I took matters into my own hands and lifted the inner cover today to see what was going on. Without having to pull the frames, I could easily see they were all fully drawn and packed with honey, and there were plenty of bees rushing around. So maybe the bees are congested. The queen might even be honey bound. Either way, both of those scenarios mean the bees need more room. (But don’t quote me on that.)

So, technically, I’ve expanded the brood nest. The first honey super holds eight foundationless frames (that’s all that can fit with the double frame feeder installed). The medium super on top is in place simply to hold the frame feeder. If the queen is honey bound, the worker bees, theoretically, will clear out honey cells for brood and build honeycomb in the new honey super. I would eventually remove the honey super before winter, but for now, it seems they could use the room.

Then again, this could be the worst thing I could do to a hive at this time of year. I don’t know. I guess I’ll find out.

P.S. (a few hours later): I’m not concerned about Hive #2. I just checked it and the bees are working like mad sucking up the syrup, coming and going like a strong colony of worker bees. But the bees in Hive #1 are behaving in a manner that’s almost out of character for them. That colony is usually active to the extreme. Some foragers are still coming and going, but it’s a trickle compared to what it’s usually like. Which is strange because there doesn’t seem to be a shortage of bees when I look inside the hive. So I’m not sure what they’re up to. Maybe they’re just shutting down for the season. It really sucks not having an experienced beekeeper close by who can look at the bees and tell me in a second, “Nah, that’s nothing.” Or it is something. And there’s a point where information from the internet just doesn’t cut it… One other odd behaviour I’ve noticed from the bees in Hive #1 for maybe the past week: They’re attacking each other. Not all of them and not all the time, but at least once or twice a day since the hurricane went through, we’ve observed what looks like bees surrounding a single bee and attacking it. Sometimes it’s a group of bees on one bee, other times it’s just one or two bees going for it. But they just latch on to a bee and don’t let go. At first I thought the worker bees were kicking out some drones, but the bees that are being attacked are too small to be drones. Other possibilities: Worker bees from Hive #2 are robbing from the colony in Hive #1, and naturally there are a few skirmishes. Or just maybe it’s a bunch of queens emerging from supercedure cells and the workers bees are killing off the queens they’ve rejected. (Is that even possible?) Anyway, it’s another unusual bit of behaviour I don’t have much of a clue about. We need more experienced beekeepers in Newfoundland.

Continued in the next post.

UPDATE (Dec. 23/10): I recently learned through a comment that our bees are a hybrid of Italians, Russians and Carniolans. Russian honey bees react faster — and more dramatically — to environmental changes. The cold snap we had at the time may have triggered a wintering response in the bees, which is natural for Russian bees because they stop rearing brood early in the fall anyway. So all of the above behaviour is probably normal for our bees. The fights we saw were most likely caused by robbing from the other hive.

8 Responses to “Adding Fall Supers (Huh?)”

  1. Jeff Harris says:

    In time we’ll have the experience. But there will be growing pains along the way.

    • Phillip says:

      Yup. One trip to the A man and most my concerns will be addressed. One thing I can say about this first year of beekeeping, especially since most of it is on my own, I am learning a lot. I’m curious to see what happens over the next few weeks. I’m pretty sure I’ll have at least one hive survive the winter. I just don’t know what one.

      And I’ll be overjoyed if both make it until the spring.

  2. jeff says:

    The single I have has to make it through to spring.

    I made to boardman feeders tonight and decided to place them on the front. You want to talk about savage. Hopefully they are calmed down in the morning so I can install the entrance reducer.

    They were wild. I guess it doesn’t help it is 19°C in Clarenville tonight and it;s at the end of the season.

    • Phillip says:

      They were wild. I guess it doesn’t help it is 19°C in Clarenville tonight and it;s at the end of the season.

      It was unseasonably warm in St. John’s, too, over 20°C. The bees in Hive #2 went even more wild when I added the frame feeder. Although Hive #1 is almost acting like they don’t have a queen. Bees can be strange.

  3. Jeff says:

    Well I checked the two boardman feeders this morning. Keep in mind I didn’t add the feeders until 10:00 last night and each feeder has 750 ml capacity.

    One feeder is empty and the other is over half gone. Also I mixed the sugar water ratio 1.5:1, rather than typical 2:1 for this time of year. That 1.5 liter of syrup will be gone by this afternoon.

    I know I need to feed them a little more as there is still one frame they need to build comb on but they were savages. Even this morning coming on light they were flying and running around the hive like crazy.
    On a side note I have 4 boardman feeders made now, and purchased 4 single frame feeders along with the single frame feeder I already have.

    The plan is to make a tophive feeder over the winter to get the girls all excited in the spring. This will get their numbers up to allow for progressive splits.

    • Phillip says:

      One feeder is empty and the other is over half gone.

      That’s about the same rate my Hive #2 was sucking up the syrup. (Hive #1 — I don’t know what they’re up to.) Installing the double frame feeder was a necessity for that hive. They still have a few frames to draw out from scratch, but the way they’re going at it, I’m not worried.

      Also I mixed the sugar water ratio 1.5:1, rather than typical 2:1 for this time of year. That 1.5 liter of syrup will be gone by this afternoon.

      Probably. Just for my clarification, what time of year should we feed them 1:1 syrup, and what time of year do we switch to a 2:1 mixture? Is it 1:1 in the spring and 2:1 in the fall?

      The plan is to make a tophive feeder over the winter to get the girls all excited in the spring. This will get their numbers up to allow for progressive splits.

      I ordered two tophive feeders from Beemaid, but I’ll be curious how your homemade feeders would out. It’s got to be cheaper making your own.

      We’ve got some weird weather coming our way — high temperatures. Early September, the temperatures took a serious dip and the bees starting cleaning house for winter. But now it’s like summer again. Must be confusing for them.

  4. Jeff says:

    Bees, Welcome to newfoundland….. where the weather can change 4 times in one day.

    From what I have read spring and early summer is the time for 1:1, before the nectar flow. This helps build up reserves to get the numbers up. Then use 2:1 in the fall to allow quick top up of the frames for winter stores.

    Also they reccommend a strong feeding in teh fall more than in teh spring as it stronger, better foraging hive in the spring.

    Apparently bees are not as big on pollinating pears as they are for other fruit trees. I was a little disappointed when I read this as I have 3 pear trees in my yard. Along with 3 sweet cherries, 2 apricots, 2 plums, 2 pawpaws and a weeping mulberry. Next year I am adding, another sweet cherry, another pear, two more mullberry (the fruit is awsome, like english blackberries without the seeds), 3 peaches and hopefully 3 more plums. The apples will go in after I build the shed. That will be 4 – 6 trees, depending on rootstock used.

    Then we have strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, red currents, black currents, red and green gooseberries and a few nut trees.

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