July 2019 Introduction: I don’t add dry sugar to my hives like this anymore. I use sugar bricks instead. However, I’d probably follow this method if I couldn’t use sugar bricks.
I’ve been feeding my bees in the winter for a while now by pouring dry sugar on newspaper over the top bars. Some people refer to this style of feeding as the Mountain Camp Method. I like it because it’s the quickest and easiest method for feeding bees in my particular winter climate.
Although I’ve never had any problems with it, there is some room for improvement. Some people only put newspaper over the back two-thirds of the top bars so that the front is left open for better airflow. That’s an excellent tweak to the method and it works. There’s no urgent need to change it. However, in my experience, the cluster usually breaks through the top bars in the middle and spreads out from there. Most of the moisture — or humid air from the bees’ respiration — flows up from the middle as well. My little tweak is to create a hole in the middle of the sugar for better ventilation and to give the bees easier access to the sugar.
I would have used newspaper that covered more of the top bars on the sides, but I only had small pages from a local arts and culture newspaper on hand at the time. I usually add twice as much sugar or as much as I can pour into the hive over a wider area of newspaper so I don’t have to add more later in the winter. In any case, the hole in the middle of the sugar is also a great spot to drop a pollen patty for colonies that are low on brood.
The newspaper usually gets soggy within days and the sugar hardens fairly soon after that. If for any reason the sugar doesn’t harden up, I’ll give it a good hit of mist, just enough water to seep in and stiffen up the sugar. I don’t worry about the extra moisture because I use moisture quilts on my hives and they keep my hives dry no matter how much moisture gets inside.
I’m not saying this tweak to dry sugar feeding is a ground shaking breakthrough in beekeeping, but it’s not bad. I’ll post a video as soon as I can and I think I’ll call it the Mud Songs Method. Why not?