Feeding bees in the snow!

1. Introduction

January 6, 2012. It was 50 F (10C), but with strong sunlight it felt like 65 to me. Alex (my postdoc) and I checked one yard near Owosso and found 12 colonies alive. He did another yard and also 14 alive. Only one dead at home yard. That day some bees were near the top of the hive, that means they are running out of food. Bees will only move upward in the winter (and they move pretty much that way during summer too, but at least they can reach for food anywhere during summer) and if there are food below, they could still die from starvation! Alex will be going back to China tomorrow so we made some sugar boards today and took some photos. He made 4 yesterday.

2. Method

2.1 recipe:
John Sinanis gave me this recipe below (and he also donated 6 boards to me last year):

1) heat up 4 cups of water (=940 ml), till boil
2) add 15 lbs of sugar (7=kg), mix well with water
3) add 4.5 tea spoonful of vinegar (~22 ml)
4) Boil to 234 (110 C) degrees, Put the lid on for 3 minutes.
5) Let it cool to 200 degree (90), then whipped no more than 2 minutes you will see white bubbles.
6) Pour sugar to the tray, Let it cool for one day or overnight, Then is ready.

This time we made it right. Last time we thought it was 4.5 cup of vinegar and the liquid wont solidify!

2.2 Photos
1. Stirring the sugar + water + vinegar mix, Turn the dial to around 4 o’clock setting on the stove. This will take about 20 min.

2. Once the mixture starts to boil, it will be at 110 C. so you do not really need a thermometer.

3. cooling it cold water will take only 5 min to come down to 90 C

4. Carefully pour the sugar to the sugar board, which is a board with a central hole (for bees to come up), and the same size as the outside dimension of a standard Langstroth hive.

5. There are boards Alex made the day before. The new ones are not ready until a day later.

6. We drove to the George’s yard, which is about 30 minutes away, just north of the Sleepy Hollow State Park. There was a truck at the road, stopping us from driving in. I thought we could drive in fine since it was 22 F that day (-6 C) and the soil was frozen.

7. we used a dolly to haul the 4 boards to the bees, about 200 meters away.

8. We had to across a small bridge over a stream.

9. Finally we are there!

10. I recorded that the 4 hives near the end had less food. The first one was fine, the bees were below the top most medium super and we had to knock on the hive to hear the humming to know the bees are still alive. My only good ear had trouble hearing though, and I had to hit the hive hard to hear a response.
But the 2nd hive, the bees were near the top…and 5-6 of them flew out after we removed the inner cover! Alex was in a defensive posture here :)

11. One bee was crushed when we closed the hive (the inner cover go over top of the sugar board) in a hurry.

12. Ready to open the last one (#4 in this yard).

13. Bees were alive and near the top…

14. a bit closer…

15. Alex’s left ear becoming red after a 30 min exposure in the 22 degree temperature…

16. Back “home” around 3:47 pm.

3. Results and Discussion.

It remains seen whether the ones receiving the sugar boards will make it or not, will update around beginning of April.

Author: Zachary Huang

3 thoughts on “Feeding bees in the snow!

  1. Hi, I hope your bees make it through the winter. We are lucky to have fairly mild winters here in Vancouver. I’m getting two packages of bees next week from New Zealand so hoping for warm weather to install them in their new home. I think your photography is amazing and lets us see the true beauty of bees.
    In your sugar board recipe what is the purpose of vinegar?

  2. So cool! I’m really interested in starting to keep bees but I don’t know if I will be able to. I live on the 15th floor of my apartment building and I’m not sure if the bees will be able to find their way to and from my balcony. At least here in Miami I will not have the problems with the cold that you have! If you can offer any advice about beekeeping from a balcony I’d love to hear it!

  3. Wow, that was some day and I really like the photos. I keep wondering tho, why is there vinegar in the recipe? Best of luck with the bees!

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