Last weekend, on January 21st (my husband’s birthday), my husband and I checked on our 4 hives. It was 53 degrees, partially sunny and the bees were out flying. The front hives have larger colonies and enjoy the full force of the sun, which keeps them warmer than the hives in the back and therefore more bees, in those hives, were out on a cold day.
Over the last couple of years, I have been saving up medium frames of honey, to be used to feed my bees in winter. I had 1 full super that I was planning on splitting between my 2 back hives. My 2 back hives were created in 2016 and were a little light on stores in the fall.
My 2 front hives were purchased/caught as a swarm in 2015. They overwintered between ’15-’16 and last year produced over 315# of honey, twenty 12oz honey combs and 16 ½ pints of creamed honey. For those two hives, I made 2 fondant blocks (fondant recipe below) in case they needed something extra.
1st 2016 created hive:
I went into the 1st 2016 created hive and noticed the bees were just starting into the top honey super, there were around 40 or so bees at the bottom of the middle frames. I carefully removed the bees and placed in a new frame full of honey and repeated this 4 more times. I also cleaned out the bottom board, finding only a handful of dead bees. (This tells me that the hive is doing well. They were still in their 1st honey super, they are not having a large die off and the colony is healthy enough to successfully remove their expired workers.)
2nd 2016 created hive:
I then opened my 2nd 2016 created hive; here I found the bees cluster at the top against the quilt box. My 1st thought here was that these bees are in need of feeding, my 5 frames of honey, that I was splitting between the two 2016 hives, was just not going to do it. For starters how would I even be able to replace the frames in the box with frames of honey?
I closed up the hive and took a few minutes to think through my options. I’ve been keeping bees for a full 3 years now, going on my 4th. I have many deep frames of honey, produced by my bees over these 3 years. Some of the frames were made using sugar syrup and some by the bees collecting nectar.
I returned to my honey house to collect as many deep frames of honey as possible. I was surprised to find that I had 3 full 10-frame deep boxes worth of honey. I hadn’t realized I was such a deep frame honey hoarder. J I was planning on using these to feed Nucs when creating colonies with grafted queens, but keeping my bees alive and healthy is my number 1 priority at this time.
I returned back to my apiary and placed a full deep worth of honey onto the hive.
This hive also had the most dead bees on the bottom board. Not a number that is too concerning (I know what it looks like when a complete hive dies and all the bees are sitting on the bottom board – this was nothing like that), but more than I would like to have seen. (In summary, this hive was running out of stores and probably was dying off from lack of food. It was a good thing that the weather allowed me to take a peak.)
My 2015 caught swarm hive:
Next I peaked in on my hive that I caught as a swarm in 2015. There were bees collected near the top, near the opening and very few bees on the bottom board. I don’t believe they needed food, I believe the bees were gathering near the upper opening so they could take cleansing flights. But to be on the safe side, I gave the hive 1 full deep worth of honey.
My 2015 purchased hive:
This hive was in the same shape as the 2015 caught swarm hive. So, like the other, I gave this hive 1 full deep worth of honey.
Lastly, the 2 fondant blocks and all the extra medium honey frames I could find went onto the 1st hive that I had opened. This gave the hive 13 full frames of honey and 2 fondant blocks.
Once all hives were fed, I sealed up all cracks using duct tape.
The next time I hear that we will have temps in the 50s on a sunny day, I will make more fondant.
I hope your bees are doing as well as mine are.
~ May all your wandering take you to many wonderful places!