Feed or Not To Feed Bees – Surviving The Dearth

It’s official, Deerstalker Apiaries is now certified to sell bees. The MS Department of Agriculture & Commerce inspected my bees last week and gave me the thumbs up. The process was fairly painless and the two guys that came out were super friendly.

We only inspected 8 of my 24 hives and damned if I didn’t land on almost all the bad ones. I came across 3 that were queenless and a few of the other hives didn’t seem to be storing as much honey as I felt they should. I kept a brave face while the inspectors were there but when it was over, I may or may not have cried a little bit. However, I have been doing this long enough to know that a hiccup like this can be mitigated.

Mitigation

My plan was to breakdown the weak hives to a single super and feed them 1:1 sugar water – that would prevent sugar water from getting into my honey supers and help all the hives limp along until the next nectar flow.

1:1 Syrup Recipe

By the way: 1:1 is by weight not volume. So 25lbs of sugar and 3 gallons (25.5lbs) of water will make 5 gallons of sugar water with just enough room in the bucket so it doesn’t slosh out. How serendipitous is that?

So on Saturday morning at 10:00am, Noah and I headed out to Dr. D’s place. By then is was already over 90 degrees and the humility was high. We started at Hive A1 and went systematically through the yard. We opened each hive and when there was a problem, I would stop and deal with it while Noah went on. Surprisingly, most of the hives were in really good shape.

The 5 Problem Hives

  • A1 was queenless (but had queen cells) so I swapped it’s location with B1 (a very strong hive). I read in a book once that swapping the two hives could strengthen the weaker hive. I’ll let you know how it worked out next week. I also fed this hive.
  • Hive C1 was weak, so we broke it down to the single super and fed it.
  • Hive A2 was queenless, so I broke it down to a single super, gave it a frame of eggs and fed it.
  • Hive A4 is fairly strong but has been queenless for about a month. During that time I have added 3 frames of eggs/brood and even though it has yet to requeen it is full from those 3 frames of hatched brood. I gave this hive another frame of eggs BUT we did not feed it.
  • The last hive to have an issue was E5 and it was overrun with beetles. So I removed each frame, banged them on the lid, and manually murdered each of the invading pests. I then replaced the frames with 2 frame of honey from another hive and 8 frames of undrawn comb. I didn’t put brood in this hive because I felt like it needed a week to recover from the beetles onslaught. I also did not feed this hive for fear of feeding the beetles.

It appears that during the first inspections, I was in a blind panic because the rest of my hives are very strong and were actually making honey. There is still not a lot of flowers but the bees are making due with what they have.

This year the Delta has had a lot of flooding and so the soybeans were planted late. While soybeans normally begin to flower around the summer solstice, I expect the fields near my hives will bloom in about a month. By then my hives should be in good shape to load up on honey.

Time To Check The Bees

To check all 24 hives and make the 5 corrections only took 2 hours. That is 120 minutes for 24 hives or 5 minutes per hive. It was hotter than midget porn that day, so we had to take a break, sit in the A/C, and drink water for 10 minutes in the middle but that is included in that 2 hours.

2019 Goal

At present I have 24 hives with a combined total of 58 supers of bees. My goal for the year is 100 hives, however to achieve that goal I will need to do two more splits this year. I’ve bought some pollen patties and will start grafting queens next week. 100 hives is not out of the question but it will be close. The last thing I want to do is over split and kill all my bees.

Leave a comment and let me know how your bees are doing.
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7 Comments Add yours

  1. Wow I can imagine the flooding must affect your bees – if there isn’t enough nectar going around. Hope they recover well!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. EV says:

    You are super systematic about the way you approach your goals…you write down what you want to do, how you want to do it, and then do it. I don’t think you’ll have any major problem meeting your 100 hive goal! Congrats on the certification!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Bryan Layton says:

      You’re very kind. Thank you.

      Like

  3. Congratulations on the certification Bryan! I don’t have any bees. However I have began worm composting this year. Reading this post is a good reminder to be a good caretaker, record keeper and long-range planner!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Bryan Layton says:

      Thanks, Denise. I always set my long range plans at the “best case scenario”. So while my ultimate long-range plan is 100 hives this year, 300 next, and finally 500 by 2021, those numbers are all on a sliding scale that coincides with my reality. If I only make it to 50 this year, then next year I’ll get 200 and the following I should still make the 500 by 2021.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. CarolCooks2 says:

    It’s all in the planning ..Well done on your certification and thank you for the follow 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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