We harvested more than enough honey to last us until next year, so instead of topping up our hives up with sugar syrup to get them through the winter, we decided to give them back their honey. It saves the bees the trouble of evaporating the syrup down to the consistency of honey; it reduces the risk of condensation building up inside the hive (evaporation creates condensation, especially in cold weather); and it saves us the trouble of having to mix the syrup and mess around with messy feeders — and the honey is much better for the bees than sugar syrup. So if we’re in the position to feed them back their own honey, why not?
We began feeding the bees their own honey from partially capped medium frames that we didn’t harvest from the honey supers. Then we switched to deep frames full of honey that we pulled from the hives earlier in the summer to prevent the queens from becoming honey bound.
The inner cover is flipped to the winter position; all the wax cappings are scraped open on the deep honey frame; the frame is then installed inside a deep super over the inner cover; the bottom of the frame passes right over the inner cover hole so the bees can easily climb on to the frame; and the whole thing is sealed in with a top cover. The bees cleaned up the last deep frame in about two or three days. That’s about six pounds of honey. It would take over 20 litres (over 5 gallons) of syrup for the bees to make that much honey stores (or so I heard on a video from Brushy Mountain).
We also took some pint-sized jars of honey and installed them over the inner covers of some of the hives just like we would with regular jar feeders full of syrup. The bees can’t down the honey as fast as they can from the scraped frames of honey, but they’re doing alright. We can always give them a couple jars at a time.
Last year when I didn’t know any better, I briefly fed grocery store honey to our bees. But that’s a big no-no. Even super heated tasteless grocery store honey can carry spores that can make the bees sick. The only safe way to fed bees honey is with their own honey.
UPDATE (Oct. 24/11): Here’s the video version.