It was unseasonably warm at 6°C in my beeyard today (43°F), warm enough for the bees in most of my hives to get out for some cleansing flights, possibly for the first time in months.
Honey bee after a cleansing flight. (March 27, 2016.)
The bees were flying all around me and landing on me and I swear I could smell… bee farts.
Spring time in Newfoundland.
Newfoundland weather report for March 24th, 2016.
It’s been like this for most of March.
Translation for Americans: -18°C = 0°F; 82km/h = 51mph. And most of you probably know what snow is.
I used 6mm mesh (quarter-inch mesh) on my hives this winter for the first time because I lost most of my colonies last winter when shrews managed to squeeze through the half-inch mesh I kept on the bottom entrances. I’m not sure if the shrews got into the hives through the top entrances, but to be safe this winter, I covered both the top and bottom entrances with 6mm mesh. Now I’m wondering when I should remove the mesh, at least from the top entrances.
Opening the quarter-inch mesh and releasing the bees for cleansing flights. (March 19, 2016.)
One of my colonies has been quiet for a some time now and today I found out why. The bees have been slowly starving to death. The cluster is not much larger than my fist and it’s probably queenless by now.
Tiny dying cluster (March 13, 2016.)
I took a quick peek under the hood and could tell the cluster was tiny. I also noticed poop on the frames near the cluster which usually means the queen is dead. Feces inside the hive is often a sign of nosema, but the bees also make a mess of the hive when the queen dies in the middle of the winter and can’t be replaced. I’ve seen it before. In this case the cluster got so small it wasn’t able to stay warm enough to keep the queen alive. That’s my best guess.
SHORT VERSION: Dry sugar feeding may be more likely to work when the sugar is given a little spritz.
Bees chowing down on dry sugar. (Jan. 08, 2012.)
I know many beekeepers who prefer feeding their bees in the winter by pouring dry sugar
over the top bars because it’s quick and easy and it works. I know other beekeepers who don’t use dry sugar because the bees, instead of eating the sugar, remove it from the hive like they would with any kind of debris.
But here’s the key to the dry sugar method: THE SUGAR NEEDS TO HARDEN. It probably doesn’t absolutely need to harden. I’ve seen starving bees consume every granule of sugar within a day. Beggars can’t be choosers. But when the bees aren’t starving and the sugar is loose and crumbly, they sometimes remove it from the hive like tossing out the garbage. Anyway…