THE FOLLOWING HAS BEEN UPDATED SINCE ORIGINALLY POSTED.

Jenny and I added some pollen patties (and one candy cake) to our hives today. Here’s the video, and then I’ll talk about it and show you some pictures.

UPDATE (Feb. 19/11): We don’t like to smoke our bees, but if we could go back and do it over again, we’d smoke ‘em first. A few good puffs of smoke through the upper entrance may have driven the bees down below the top frames. That would have made it much easier to slip in the pollen and sugar — and it would have prevented me from squishing a clump of bees between the pollen patty and the inner cover when I put the inner cover back down (possibly squishing the queen).

BEE

The long range forecast didn’t call for above-freezing temperatures until March. But it went up to 2°C in the backyard this afternoon, so we made the most of it and gave the bees a few extra goodies to get them through the next two months of snow. Here are the photos:

That’s Hive #1 with the top off and the insulated inner hive cover showing.

I wouldn’t say the bees are clustering at all. To me, it looks like the whole colony is hanging out on the top bars.

That’s me adding a pollen patty to Hive #1. (All the photos are of Hive #1.) I’m glad I opened the inner cover like a door with one edge down. Many bees probably would have died (from flying away) if I had to bang them off the cover for any reason.

Sliding the pollen patty into the middle of the frames. It’s a half-pound patty. I’ll add another half maybe sometime in March if it gets warmer.

Those are candy cakes in the corners. I hope the queen is safely down below.

That’s totally nuts. What is going on with those bees? You can see the blank spots from the candy cakes in the corners.

Tools of the trade.

Hive #2 half buried in snow.

I dug out much of the snow around the hives. Does snow really insulate the hives? That snow is almost like a block of ice.

I don’t know if the bees are starving, freezing, or if the queen is dead. Or maybe the queen has laid loads of hatching brood and the hive is getting crowded. I don’t know and I’m not going to worry about it because there’s nothing I can do. The bees are alive, so I’m happy.

Whatever is going on, it’s the same in both hives and, judging from how much of the candy cakes they’ve eaten in past three weeks, I’d say they have enough to stay alive well into March. I hope.

I don’t want to touch them for another month if I don’t have to.

P.S.: (Feb. 19/11): I emailed some of the photos to a few experienced beekeepers. They all agreed the hives are most likely very low or even empty of honey and that we definitely saved the colonies by adding the candy cakes. I’ll take their word for it. I’d still like to see how many empty frames we find during our first spring inspection, just to confirm it. I’m amazed the bees can eat through so much honey so fast. Or maybe they didn’t have as much as we thought they did. Crazy.

6 Responses to “Adding Pollen Patties”

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  1. As always thanks for sharing.
    The population count looks good. My partially educated, unexperienced 2cents worth is if they are eating the cakes their honey stores must be low and checking my copy of “The Hive and the Honey Bee” published by Dadant Publication it seems from now until enough forage is available regular feeding may be required. This really is a great book if you can get your hands on a copy…. got ours from the local library surplus book sale!
    Having said all that, with them all milling about on top they must be warm enough. As far as I know snow is a good insulator and with a good seal from wind maybe their enjoying a balmy winter!

    • Phillip says:

      From what I’ve read, too, when the bees are high up like that, it usually means they’re low on honey. There may be other causes, but being low on honey is usually #1 on the list. Just about every frame was packed with honey the last time I checked in September, so it’s seems odd. But everything is odd to at this point because it’s all new and, even with all my reading, often confusing.

      I’ll continue to feed the bees candy cakes while snow is still on the ground. Then I’ll switch to syrup until I see them bringing in pollen, most likely from Dandelions. Then they’re on their own for the rest of the year.

      My concern from putting in the pollen patty and the one cake is squishing the bees when I put the inner cover back on. They were holding on thick to the inner cover, so when I put the cover back, I probably flattened a nice clump of bees against the newly placed patty. I was too concerned with getting in and out as quick and I could, and forgot to consider to the potential squishing.

      I may have to use smoke if the bees are as thick on top when I add more cakes or patties sometime in March. We prefer to avoid the smoke when we can, but the smoke does drive them down into the hive where they can’t get squished at least.

      I just hope I didn’t squish the queen.

  2. Phillip says:

    I just made some significant updates to this post. I will likely update it over the next while as more info comes in.

  3. Rusty says:

    I always use a two-inch spacer rim to accommodate sugar cakes, pollen patties, grease patties–whatever you’ve got–otherwise you will definitely squish bees.

    • Phillip says:

      Yup. I gotta get myself a spacer. My insulated inner hive covers have quite a bit of space under them, but with what looks like the whole colony hanging around up there, it got a little thicker than I anticipated.

      I’ve sent photos of the bees to some cold-climate beekeepers and I’ve been getting some really great feedback. All kinds of good info… which I’ll load up with my next post. In March.

  4. Tara Burgess says:

    I live in CT and we’re coming out of a cld snap. Very mild up until last 2 weeks. Getting ready to add a pollen patty.

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