Honeybee Colony Winterization: Feeding
During early spring, beekeepers feed 1:1 sugar-water solution to stimulate reproduction. In late summer 1:1 again is fed to stimulate reproduction to increase winter populations. In autumn, 2:1 can be fed if honey stores are light as winter approaches. Keeping with simple ratios, I provide 20:1 [edit was 12:1] sugar blocks “just-in-case” and to give the girls something to do.
These instructions are for use with an empty hive set above a 3/4″ plywood inner cover. The inner cover has screened holes for ventilation and a hole to accomodate a standard-sized mason jar feeder. The sugar block created will be fed thru the feeding hole.
Mix sugar and water at a 20 parts sugar to one part water by weight ratio. This will form a somewhat wet granular paste. Spoon the mixture into insulated drinking cups (16 liquid ounces an ideal size). Add a couple drops of either lemon-grass oil or Honey-B-Healthy to attract the bees. Invert the cup over the feed hole. Check and replace as necessary.
Not so hard?
If 20:1 is hard to calculate, use 5 pounds sugar to 1/2 cup water. If you don’t have a simple kitchen scale that measures grams, ask for one for Christmas.
Feeding in winter is something that hopefully isn’t necessary. In Virginia, where I live and where this advice is most relavant, if a colony has a full medium hive body of honey – 50+ pounds net weight – the colony ought to be in good shape for winter. But things happen. Winter 2016 had 70 degree days leading up to Christmas, such that bees were burning calories (and stored food) on foraging flights.
Then there is the question of whether a colony will eat provided food (some won’t), or treat sugar as debris and remove it from the colony (some do). Sometimes bees will store sugar granules in food cells. Another good thing about block sugar feeding, is that come spring, when it is time to start 1:1, the unused portions of sugar blocks can be recycled and won’t go to waste.