Welcome to Cranky Puppy Farm!

This blog belongs to two Gen X-er's smackdab in downtown Kansas City where we've been renovating and decorating two old Victorians built in the 1890's. Our life is filled with 3 demanding Pomeranians (1 of them cranky, of course), honking cars, noisy neighbors and the hustle and bustle of city life but we dream of the day when we can move to our 40-acre farm and hear nothing but the wind and the cows next door. Until then, we're chronicling our triumphs and mishaps here as we try to garden and preserve on 2 city lots, raise chickens, and learn all those things we should have learned from our grandparents. Welcome to our world - we hope you'll stay awhile!

Feeding Bees in Winter

Friday, January 02, 2015

My beehive has been without human intervention for most of the year, since the issues with my back have pretty much kept me from doing any heavy lifting or even standing for more than a couple of minutes at a time.  And who wants to sit down next to an open, active  beehive?  I'm not that confident yet.

I've been monitoring the bees busy comings and goings from the hive all summer and fall and am pretty sure that they had filled the second super with stored honey, but not knowing for certain could translate into a lot of dead bees.  The turn into January is bringing Old Man Winter's icy fingers - this week is going to be extremely cold and with possible snow.  I couldn't bear not knowing if the bees were OK.  Reluctantly, J. agreed to help me check on them and give them some supplemental food, if they needed it. 

It was fairly sunny but cold (39 degrees), which isn't an ideal time to open a beehive.  Ideally, it would be a minimum of 50.  I certainly wanted to take care of this as quickly as possible to prevent the hive getting too chilled.  After removing the outer cover, I saw a thriving colony just below the inner cover.  This had me worried, as bees move up the hive as they eat their stores and bees near the top might indicate that they are running low on food.

Removing the inner cover and exposing the frames, I could easily see that they had filled all the frames with honey with the exception of the outermost frames.  From what I could see, they still had plenty of honey stores.  Bees cluster together in the center of the hive to keep warm in cold weather and, when I removed the inner cover, the top of the cluster spilled out onto the top of the frames a bit.  The weather makes the bees calm and non-aggressive, but that left-most bee (the one facing left) gave me a friendly buzz to let me know our meddling in the chilly weather wasn't very welcome.  Shortly after that, she landed on my hand and sat there.  Was she trying to decide whether or not to sting me?

Working quickly, I added a medium super on top of the hive (it was all I had - in fact, it wasn't even painted yet!)   This will give the bees room to reach the food we were adding.  Then I misted water onto both sides of a sheet of newspaper that was folded in half and placed it on the top of the frames.  It did cover some of the bees, but they moved back down into the hive and out from under it.  Next, I poured sugar on top of the newspaper just enough so that it was covered and then misted the sugar with water.   Then more sugar (about half a pound) and more misted water. The sugar will soak up the water and form a hard crust. 

This kind of feeding is called "mountain camp feeding".
Finally, the inner and outer covers went back on, and we added some heavy rocks to keep everything sitting tightly together since the bees haven't had time to "cement" the new super in place.The bees will eat through the newspaper to get to the sugar, and the newspaper also protects them from any condensation that might drip down from the covers.  A wet bee is a chilled bee, so I was careful to not mist any of them.

According to the Farmer's Almanac, the weather is supposed to turn milder later this month, so I will check them again in a couple of weeks when the weather is warmer to see how much of the sugar they've gone through. If necessary, we'll repeat the process and possibly add a pollen patty as well. 

This hive is less than a year old and I really want to see it survive. I think I've done the right thing after all my research.  Any experienced beekeepers out there that are willing to share some advice for this newbie?


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