Hello Fellow Beekeepers,
It is January 8, 2021 and we are in the middle of winter (it has been mild thus far – hope that I did not jinx us) but we are over 3 weeks into the beekeeping season given that the Winter Solstice was December 21 which marks the beginning of the beekeeping season.
I want to talk to everyone about a nice winter feeding method that I have used for several years and that has been used for over 100 years – The Mountain Camp Sugar Feeding method. This is a nice method of feeding your bees over the winter that accomplishes two important goals in my opinion – 1) Winter feeding and 2) absorption of moisture that drips down from the inner cover due to condensation.
Basically you remove the inner cover, place an empty hive body on top of the hive, lay down a single sheet of paper and wet it, layer sugar and spray with water and then replace the inner cover and telescoping cover. The sugar will solidify on the paper due to the moisture and then the sugar will absorb moisture from the hive created by condensation. The bees will eat through the paper and underneath the sugar itself and around the edges. And that is it – simple and easy.
The following youtube video explains this much better than I can and I would suggest you watch it. If you do not know about Kaymon Reynolds in TN you should watch his youtube videos, they are very educational.
Below is a picture of a hive that Paul Esker and I utilized this method on. You can see some chewed up paper, some burr comb on top, and my special treat in the right hand lower corner of mixture of old honey from cappings and sugar mixed in a zip lock bag that solidified (we removed the bag) mixed in with the sugar utilized in the Mountain Camp Method. You also notice that the sugar has solidified due to condensation dripping down from the inner cover (even though we had vented the inner cover and telescoping cover).
I also wanted to include a link from the October 21, 2016 Bee Culture magazine that I thought was informative regarding the winter management of beehives. There was a nice explanation about the bee cluster, heat and temperature control, condensation, insulation etc in this article and I would recommend reading it. The only thing that I would say though is that Paul and I don’t use insulation during the winter given our fairly mild winters in this region.
Good luck this winter, heft your hives and if they feel light then try this winter feeding method. I bought some unassembled nuc hive bodies from Honey and Bee Connection and plan on putting them together for the spring (to give me something to do).
Here are some more pictures regarding this method of winter feeding. You can see each hive also has my sugar / honey mixture block made from old honey from the wax melter at the time of uncapping (even though I drain the wax cappings I still have a lot of honey obtained when I melt the cappings in the wax melter).
Notice the bees are not visualized here but have eaten away at the left hand side and are probably underneath the sugar mixture ‘block’.
The bees in this hive are more located in the right hand side probably because of the location of the cluster. They will slowly move over to consume more of the sugar mixture.
Kent J. Kessler
President Madison County Beekeepers Association