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When should a colony be fed sugar syrup?


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This topic split from NZBF: - Do I add a honey super or not

 

 

Thanks for the link, it was useful! I might wait for a couple more frames to be nearly drawn out, then add another brood box. I'm going to check the hive tomorrow, hopefully there will be a lot more drawn foundation, the first couple of weeks the bees were only going through 1 litre of sugar syrup, in the last 2 weeks they were going though just under 1 litre every 2 days, fingers crossed!

Why are you feeding the syrup?

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As a backyard beekeeper I'm not aiming to harvest tonnes of honey so I don't feed 1:1 syrup as a stimulant to make super strong colonies before the flow. Although I did do this to one hive for a month in early spring and compared that hives progress with another that wasn't fed. All part of experimenting and learning.

 

Last Autumn I had a bad varroa infestation that nearly claimed two hives. Part of the emergency treatment involved feeding syrup to conn the queen into laying more brood to replace the diseased brood that was in the hive. Both hives survived the varroa but the late feeding stuffed them up in terms of their wintering down.

 

I did an inspection of all our hives yesterday. All but one had good stores. The one without is a captured prime swarm. The first new bees have only recently emerged so bee numbers are just starting to recover. The queen has laid up a storm with in excess of six full frames of capped and uncapped brood. Meanwhile stores are almost non-existent. We had several days cold wet weather last week and this week isn't looking much better. To complicate matters further I won't be able to check on them again for a month. So they got a big feed as insurance against starving. The downside is that they'll clog the brood area with syrup which will result in a patchy laying pattern. The upside is that they'll draw more comb to store what they consider is a strong flow.

 

So there are lots of reasons why you might feed syrup. The key is having a reason in the first place and being prepared for what happens next.

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As a backyard beekeeper I'm not aiming to harvest tonnes of honey so I don't feed 1:1 syrup as a stimulant to make super strong colonies before the flow. Although I did do this to one hive for a month in early spring and compared that hives progress with another that wasn't fed. All part of experimenting and learning.

 

Last Autumn I had a bad varroa infestation that nearly claimed two hives. Part of the emergency treatment involved feeding syrup to conn the queen into laying more brood to replace the diseased brood that was in the hive. Both hives survived the varroa but the late feeding stuffed them up in terms of their wintering down.

 

I did an inspection of all our hives yesterday. All but one had good stores. The one without is a captured prime swarm. The first new bees have only recently emerged so bee numbers are just starting to recover. The queen has laid up a storm with in excess of six full frames of capped and uncapped brood. Meanwhile stores are almost non-existent. We had several days cold wet weather last week and this week isn't looking much better. To complicate matters further I won't be able to check on them again for a month. So they got a big feed as insurance against starving. The downside is that they'll clog the brood area with syrup which will result in a patchy laying pattern. The upside is that they'll draw more comb to store what they consider is a strong flow.

 

So there are lots of reasons why you might feed syrup. The key is having a reason in the first place and being prepared for what happens next.

Thanks Rob. You have created a new thread for me. Obviously not a small topic.

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We are commercial, we don't ever take all the honey. We could, and then feed syrup. The commercial argument is that honey = $$$$$$ syrup = $. We have a lot less hassles and hopefully healthier bees. It's a decision that we made very early on in the piece. Perhaps not a commercial decision, but ours to make all the same.

 

We feed dry sugar before it is an emergency or if a hive is hungry and has eaten its stores syrup. Not very often and not for long periods. We don't feed splits but split them with stores from mother hive. We also don't multiple split mother hive unless they are exceptional.

 

We have good sites that we use all year round the bees get good forage, no need for feeding. Once they are sited that where they stay.

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Thanks Rob, I'm feeding them syrup only to help them draw more comb, not sure what the difference would be if I didn't feed them?

When I got the swarm nuc the guy that caught it put it in a 5 frame nuc box with 2 frames already drawn and added 3 frames with only foundation, when I got the nuc the guy said to feed them because the queen has gone mad with laying and they might run out of room soon,

When should I stop feeding? Should I let the bees draw out the second brood box with out my help?

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We are commercial, we don't ever take all the honey. We could, and then feed syrup. The commercial argument is that honey = $$$$$$ syrup = $. We have a lot less hassles and hopefully healthier bees. It's a decision that we made very early on in the piece. Perhaps not a commercial decision, but ours to make all the same.

 

I recently read a book called The Beekeepers Lament which followed a commercial beekeeper with 10,000 hives around the US for a couple of years. Before CCD the beekeeper would take every bit of honey he could get (including from the brood box) and fed with corn syrup, as it was cheaper than sugar syrup, right up to the start of winter. Since CCD the beekeeper now only feeds sugar syrup and all his hives overwinter on 2 x FDs of honey - even if they have a terrible year and that is all the bees collect.

 

The basic maths was that after; buying the sugar syrup, getting the sugar syrup into the hive, getting the honey out the hive, extracted, packed and sold, and crucially taking into account the massively increased losses from trying to overwinter stressed bees on corn syrup it worked out cheaper to just leave any non-supered honey in the hive and fed more expensive sugar syrup.

 

The guy was definitely not suffering from ABS, the way he splits and re-Queens his hives was brutal.

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