September 21, 2011
It's Time to Feed the Honeybees!
I’ve been keeping honeybees for many years. These little extraordinary creatures work hard to pollinate my crops and in doing so, produce delicious honey, which is enjoyed by many. Perhaps you recall my blog from last August when Carlos and beekeeper, D.J. Haverkamp of Bedford Bee, extracted honey from my beehives. During spring and summer, there is much nectar around for honeybees to gather, which they take back to their hives and turn into honey. But, in autumn and winter, it’s important to offer your bees sugar syrup when the nectar flow is scarce or nonexistent. As with nectar, honeybees will turn the sugar syrup into honey for the hive to consume during the cold days of winter.
1 You may recall that we had a very nice honey yield this summer and now it is time to supplement the hives with sugar syrup so that the bees can create new honey to carry them through the winter.
2 Before approaching the hives, Carlos dons a beekeeping veil and preps the smoker.
3 Bee smokers have been used for centuries to calm bees.
4 Carlos fills the smoker with some dried hay from the stable and lines the top with some newspaper.
5 The newspaper makes a great firestarter.
6 Carlos lets the flame build until the hay beneath ignites. Smoke masks alarm pheromones that are released by guard bees when the hive is opened for inspection.
7 Carlos gently pumps the bellows, which are attached to the smoker, feeding the flame with oxygen.
8 One bee's pheromone alerts the hive of imminent danger. If a single bee feels threatened, it will convey that to hive members nearby who, in turn, pass that warning onto the rest of the hive.
9 Carlos pumps the bellows, releasing a few puffs of smoke. Bee activity is minimal and it's time to open the hive.
10 Carlos first removed the outer cover, exposing the inner cover.
11 Next, using his hive tool, Carlos began prying off the inner cover. It needed prying because the bees seal any hive cracks and opening with a resinous mixture called propolis, which they collect from tree buds and sap flows.
12 Rigid hive tools are a must in beekeeping. They're used to loosen hive bodies and frames, as well as scraping combs, and even removing bee stings!
13 Beneath the inner cover is a shallow honey super, where the bees will make honey comb to store their honey supply. You can see the amber-colored propolis seal around the inner edge of the super.
14 Carlos loosened and lifted a frame, showing the beeswax foundation but no honey comb. The bees need food in order to start making their winter honey supply.
15 This is the hive-top feeder, which is placed directly on top of the upper honey super. The bees enter the feeder from below by means of a screened access.
16 Carlos filled the feeder with cool syrup. This is a mix of 2-parts white sugar to 1-part water, heated to near boiling to dissolve the sugar.
17 The amount and frequency of feeding will affect the size and the viability of the hive. To keep the hive healthy and growing, we feed the bees every couple of weeks.
18 Two hives down - one to go!
19 I am proud to say that Carlos has learned a lot about beekeeping this past year. He's much more comfortable around the bees.
20 As if by magic, the bees eat the sugar syrup, mix it with special enzymes, and regurgitate it into the honeycomb cells as honey. They will use that honey as their food source throughout the winter.
21 With the hive-top bee feeders in place, the inner hive covers are not needed. They are cleaned and stored until spring when the feeders are removed from the hives.