Spring Management of Wintered Hives
Overwintered bee colonies should be checked in early or mid-March
for the presence and position of the honey stores. Colonies that have died
during the winter should be checked for the cause of death(starvation,disease,moisture,etc..)and
either closed or taken home for storage.
When examining the colony,open the cover and peer down between
the frames. The cluster should be about 1/2 down in the hive body with frames
containing honey next to and above the cluster. If the bees are very close
to the top of the hive and low on honey then the colony should be fed or it
will starve later during the spring when the level of brood rearing increases.
Starvation may be prevented in several ways. First,frames of
honey may be given to the colony from a disease free source.Place the frames
of honey on both sides of the cluster or give the colony a super of honey
directly above the cluster.
If frames of honey are unavailable,then the beekeeper must resort
to feeding dry sugar or combs that have been filled with sugar syrup. Feed
dry sugar by pouring 3-5/lbs over the inner cover or on a sheet of newspaper
placed over the frames. When using newspaper,be sure to leave several inches
of space so the bees can climb above the paper to consume the sugar.
Alternatives to feeding dry sugar include feeding sugar candy
or a sugar slurry. The candy is made by using the following recipe: 15/lbs.sugar>3/lbs
of glucose or white corn syrup>1 quart of water>1/2 teaspoon cream tarter.
Dissolve the sugar in water by stirring and boiling until the temp rises to
240 degrees F. Let the syrup cool to 200 degrees-182 degrees F. and beat the
mixture until thick. Pour the candy into molds lined with wax paper. Optimally
molds should be 8x10x3 inches. After the candy has set it may be fed to bees
by placing it above the cluster elevated from the top bars. by using sticks.
A slurry is a very thick sugar mixture made by dissolving sugar in hot water
until it is solid. The slurry is usually fed to the bees above the inner cover
or in a "feed rim". The slurry may also be placed in a zip-lock plastic bag
with several holes in one side faced down.The bag is then placed over the
When colonies are found to have a large cluster size and be
extremely low on honey,division boards feeders or combs containing sugar syrup
may be given to the colony. This is accomplished by spraying 2:1(sugar:water)
syrup into empty combs and placing these frames into the colony as if they
were frames of honey.
Whenever syrup is fed to bees early in the spring be sure to
feed the bees at dusk or screen the entrance of the hive for the day. If these
precautions are not taken,the bees thinking there is a nectar flow,will fly
out into the cold and perish. Hives that have adequate honey stores may be
given protein supplements such as Beltsville Bee DietŪ or soyflour in early
to mid-March. Usually the soyflour is mixed with an equal amount of sugar
and enough water is added so the diet mix has a doughlike consistency. The
mixture is then formed into a patty about the size of a pancake and wrapped
in waxed paper. The patty is then placed directly above the cluster on top
of the frames.
Toward the end of March or early April,when the weather conditions
begin to moderate,it is time for the first extensive colony manipulations.
At this time the bottom boards should be scraped and examination of the brood
Tony Jadczak/Maine State Bee Inspector