Saturday, November 22, 2008

Bee feeding. Or not

I looked around online and found that bee food is pretty simple. It's just sugar water, 2:1. If you're working with a regular hive, there are bottles and trays you use, but I also saw where people put out a saucer of syrup. You want it shallow so the bees don't drown in the stuff. I covered an old cookie sheet with plastic wrap to hold the syrup, and stuck in red and yellow things in an attempt to attract the bees.

But it didn't seem to work. I don't know what else I can do.

There are bees:
They're flying in and out, and hanging around the entrance.
The one above is different from the regular ones. Is that a drone? It's bigger, and it looks like it has one big eye across the front of its head. Clearly I need to study more.
Well, there's only so much I can do for them. They'll make it or they won't.

Meanwhile, I've got a lot of mulch to spread. It's not an unreasonably large amount, happily, and I have plenty of places to put it.
It's hell on my back, though.


  1. Oh I hope everything works out with the bees! I believe that is a drone. Please please please watch your back! Oh yeah, many honey bees live off their "stores" of honey in the winter. They usually do the "sugar water thing" from spring to fall...You are going to be great at this!

  2. I think this is such a cool experiment - thank you for posting about it!

  3. Bee food sounds a lot like hummingbird food. Do bees also like red? Mimi's comment about when bees do the "sugar water thing" is interesting too.

  4. I wouldn't worry too much about them not taking up your food. It's the end of the season, and they probably have plenty of their own food right now, unless in cutting out the hive the arborists removed substantial amounts of comb.

    Usually, you'd feed a hive that you've robbed out (to harvest honey) or a new hive in the spring, to help them get going. Sometimes you give them food inside the hive to help them make it through a tough winter. When I kept bees, even in New England, I never fed them.

  5. Too bad about the bees. It seemed like a perfect home for them in that tree.

  6. Ayse offered some very encouraging thoughts. Makes sense too; trees fall all the time with bee homes in them and the bees probably have lots of ways of surviving such a fall, especially with the extra protection you gave them. Now benign neglect might be in order?

  7. Thanks, everybody!

    Here's my thinking on feeding the bees now. There was probably serious disruption to the hive, which may take a fair amount of work to repair. I know the bees moved into this tree in June, which means they were starting from scratch rather late.

    So I am thinking they would appreciate an easy source of energy now that doesn't reduce their stores, leaving them that much more honey to get through the coldest months when they will not be able to fly out. If they don't have ample stores, they will starve to death.

    I also wonder if they will fall prey to robber bees.

    Mimi, why do I need to watch my back with drones? They don't have stingers.

  8. I am very interested in reading about your bees. I'd like to get a hive going but don't know anything about them yet -

  9. I think you're right that robbing out is your biggest concern. If it were me, I'd make a sturdy lid out of plywood to cover the hive, so the bees could propolise it shut (which they will have trouble doing with a tarp) to protect themselves. Set a rock on it to keep it from blowing off or being tipped off by animals, and the bees are in a much better position. Over the winter you can pry the top off and give them food there if you're worried.

    Then start planning for spring, because it's illegal to keep bees in a hive with no movable frames (in every state in the US), so if you're going to keep them, you'll need to be ready to move them into a new house.

    Getting into your local beekeeping club would be a start, but you'll also probably be building boxes and frames like mad. I work super-slowly, and it took me from December to February (the start of beekeeping season here) to get all my hardware built.

  10. Thanks, Ayse! I'm figuring that they will either not survive the winter, or they will abscond in the spring. I doubt there's any way to get them out of there, otherwise. Well, short of using a chainsaw.

    If I can catch them absconding, I'll put them in a proper box.

    The tree-trimmer left one small hole at the top, and that is covered right now with sheet and rug and not accessible from the outside at all. I'm going to nail a piece of wood over it. Otherwise, the bees just have their original knothole entrance, which I think should be small enough for them to defend. I don't think I can seal the hive completely; it's still warm enough here during the day that they'd roast.

  11. I am happy to see you have bees it troubles me the are decling worldwide.

  12. Thanks, Yolanda. I'm trying to do my little bit to help them.