Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Are Your Bees Hungry?

A winter cluster of bees

Winter in the north can be any extreme.  We can experience temperatures of around 0 for days at a time; or several days of 50 degree weather.  The snow can be very deep, or barely nothing at all.  

Here in Central Illinois we have experienced a bizarre winter.  Now, I realize I have a lot to do with that.  Last August I got my motorcycle license, and after getting it so late in the year, I realized that I wouldn't be able to ride for very long before putting my bike up for winter.  So I wished and prayed and kept my fingers crossed for a mild winter, and I got it! I have been out on my bike a number of time in December and January, and today --February 18--the temperature has hit around 50 degrees again.

All of this to say that this kind of weather does strange things to the nature around us too.  Trees or plants blooming too early can be cut down as we get a freeze, which is still likely in the next month or so. The honeybees are out looking for something to devour and not finding a thing.  Which leads them to eat an abundance of what they have on hand--honey!

A warm winter can lead to honeybee starvation far quicker than a very cold winter.  In the coldest of winters, bees will cluster in a ball to stay warm, using very little resources and needing very little food.  They use those rare, occasional days of warmer temperatures to fly out to defecate and hunt for their honey.  But with the weather being so warm, and for so often, they are going through their storages quickly.

Or for some, those bees didn't have enough to start off the winter.  Some beekeepers, mostly out of a lack of skill or knowledge, will take off too much honey.  Or, anticipating a late fall nectar flow, will take off all the honey in the deep summer, and then realize because of weather conditions, that fall flow didn't happen, leaving the bees short on stores for the winter. 

Bees then need to be fed.  Because we have asked these bees to live in our yard, in our boxes, in our environment, in our weather, I believe we have the responsibility to help them out.

One of the easiest things you could do is make sugar patties--a sort of a "fondant".  Some companies have now started selling these, but they are very simple and cheap to make--I wouldn't suggest putting your money into purchasing them and paying shipping when it is so easy.  Simply take 2 cups of powdered cane sugar (beet sugar is  a GMO, cane sugar is not--the package has to say CANE) and combine with 1 ounce of water.  Roll into a ball and flatten out and lay on top of the frames where the bees are (obviously don't put it three supers up away from the cluster).  I also add 1/2 cap full of Honey B Healthy and 1 - 2 tablespoons of pollen/pollen powder.  If you only have pollen patties, just cut a small section and press into the sugar patty. 

Easy peasey as my youngest says.  Now, go feed those bees. :-) We also sell a candy board at if you are interested.


Anonymous said...

Thank you Sheri. Good article.

RoseMary said...

Love to hear about your bike more. I want to learn to ride also.
I would love to live and a farm again. I really miss it.

Guy Ross said...

If you find time I would like to see a video of them being made. I made snow balls last year with 1:1 only using enough syrup to hold it together. Is powdered sugar sold as confectionery sugar? Thanks for the post.


Guy Ross said...

Are you using confectioners sugar? I'm not and wondering it that is my trouble with mine falling apart.

Guy Ross