Since the bees had forgotten how to be honeybees, I needed to try to help them. Both of the hives were very low in food stores. Feeding them was the best option to try to boost their stores. Fall feedings are different than spring feedings. In the fall the bees are given more sugar which makes a thicker syrup. The ratio is 2 parts sugar to 1 part water.
One of the big factors in fall feeding is the temperatures. Once it gets too cold the bees no longer take in the syrup and the beekeeper needs to switch to solid foods for the bees. Once the bees stop taking in the syrup, if the feeders are left in the hives it can cause excess moisture. In Massachusetts, extra moisture in the winter is a concern. If it happens to freeze, it can be devastating for the colony.
The syrup feeders that I have for my hives are double feeders and hold two 1 quart jars each. Each batch of syrup that I made was 10 cups of sugar to 5 cups of water. I found a lot of conflicting information online about wether you should boil the water or not. For the syrup I made, I did not boil the water. I heated the water enough so that I could dissolve the sugar into it. When I am making food for the bees, I make it the morning that I am going to feed it to them.
There is a lot of debate about essential oils and if they provide any benefit to the bees. Of course there is debate about wether essential oils provide benefit for anyone, I believe that they do. I use them in my home and with my family for different things. If they can provide any assistance to the bees I will continue to put them in their food. I found a recipe from Don “The Fat Bee Man” on YouTube for essential oils to add to the winter syrup here; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NvhlTufUV3Y.
I used my immersion blender to make it and it worked really well.
Both of the colonies took in a lot of syrup before the temperatures got too cold. I also learned quite a bit this year during the fall feedings. Having the bottom of the hives open is a very bad idea. The hungry wasps, that get much more aggressive in the fall, can smell it and they want it. Closing up the bottoms of the hives and putting up some kind of baffle over the entrance is the safest way to go. Both of my colonies were on the small side this year and they needed all the help they could get.
It’s close to the end of September, the weather is beautiful. It’s warm and sunny out. At this point in the season I am looking for the bees to fill up their hives with honey. The farm that they live on has plenty of forage all through the year and the bees have constant access to water. It would be much better for them to fill their hives with honey than for me to feed them sugar syrup.
Opening the Orchard Hive first and finding them very grumpy. The hive has 26 bars with comb on them, but 8 of those combs are empty. There are 17 bars with very little capped honey on them and 13 of them have some nectar too. On 12 of the bars there are capped brood and 5 of them have larvae. I only saw 1 bar with some eggs and the queen was there too.
There should be more honey than this at the end of September. It looks like I will need to start feeding this hive as soon as possible. I want them to be able to build up enough stores to get through the winter. Right now they don’t have nearly enough. This is usually the inspection where they surprise me and have lots of honey stored up. That’s how it has been the last two seasons, I guess these bees didn’t get them memo.
The other concerning things that I found were deformed wing virus and mites. I spotted 15 bees with deformed wing virus and I saw 4 bees with mites on them. These things could be one of the reasons that the bees don’t have enough honey. The mites can cause so many issues within a colony and the diseases that they carry can confuse the bees. This could be causing the bees not to act like bees and the deformed wing virus means less forager bees to bring in the nectar.
Now to the Willow Hive. Luckily, they were much more pleasant to work with. It is so much easier to inspect a happy hive. This little colony has not built any new comb since moving into the hive. They have 11 bars, 2 of the bars are empty and I removed 1 of them. There are also 2 bars with comb on them, but the comb is empty. For now I will leave those and hopefully they will fill the combs with honey.
They have 2 bars with capped honey and on 6 bars there is nectar. The 2 bars that have some capped honey have a decent amount of nectar on them, the other 4 bars have only a little bit of nectar on them. There is capped brood on 5 bars and 3 of them had larvae too. I did not see any eggs nor did I find the queen this time.
In this hive the pest I found was small hive beetle. I found 7 of them and I squashed them. During the inspection, I also kept an eye out for small hive beetle larvae. This time I didn’t find any. This colony looks good, but I am concerned about the lack of honey in their hive too. It seems like these honeybees forgot how to be honeybees this season. Let’s hope they kick it into high gear and build up their stores for winter. In the meantime, I will start feeding them 2 to 1 sugar syrup for fall.