I harvested more than enough honey to last us until next year, so instead of topping up my hives up with sugar syrup to get them through the winter, I 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 me 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 I’m in the position to feed them back their own honey, why not?
I began feeding the bees their own honey from partially capped medium frames that I didn’t harvest from the honey supers. Then I switched to deep frames full of honey that I 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 in an online video).
I also took some pint-sized jars of honey and installed them over the inner covers of some of the hives just like I 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. I 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 my 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.
Here’s the video version:
March 2019 Postscript: I used to make my own pollen patties from pollen supplement powder. These days I just order pre-made patties from a local supplier. It still costs about twice as much as most beekeepers pay in North America, but it’s cheaper than what I used to pay. At any rate, I noticed a mistake in how I used to make pollen patties and install them in my hives. Most of the time, I just put the pollen patty on a piece of paper and that was it. As can be seen in one of the photos above, the pollen patties dry out pretty quick that way. What I should have done is sandwich the patties between two pieces of paper to retain the moisture and then simply scratched an X in the bottom of the patty so the bees could get at it from underneath. For years I did it wrong and my patties would dry up like pizza crusts.