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:
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.
It was -14°C today with a -26°C (-15°F) wind chill. The hives bore it well.
Only another three months to go, if we’re lucky.
Continued in Gone Away is The Bluebird.
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.
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 photos in this post have disappeared. I’ll fix as soon as I have the time. Sorry. Click the Dry Sugar category to see other posts that still have their photos.
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.
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.