The queen has been steadily increasing her egg-laying output for well over a month as the colony is building up for spring. There are many more mouths to feed now than there were even two weeks ago. Additionally, many colonies are reaching the last bits of their winter stores, making them extremely vulnerable to periods of rainy weather. If your bees cannot leave the hive to forage, they will be unable to feed themselves or their developing brood, much less continue to increase their population. They may even be forced to cannibalize brood to recycle precious protein. Don’t let this happen to your bees! Colonies in this state rarely recover.
- Be vigilant! If the bees are clustered just under the inner cover and/or the colony feels light when you lift it from the back, take action to provide supplemental nutrition.
- Feed syrup if temperatures are well above 50 degrees and fondant if it’s cooler. We recommend mixing a little bit of dry protein powder into your fondant to help the bees replenish protein stores, but the main goal of the sugar/fondant is to provide carbohydrates that will be used to heat the hive, energize the bees during good foraging weather, and feed the brood.
- It is time to feed protein. If your bees don’t have a healthy (at least 3-4 cells wide) ring of pollen between the honey and the brood, they need protein supplementation. Feed protein patties as near to the brood nest as possible.
- Do not allow food to run out once you have started feeding. This is important! If the food source disappears suddenly, the bees will be forced to shrink their brood nest in response. Many bees will die. Keep providing supplementary food until the weather is nice enough for the bees to forage or until the bees stop taking it. Bees prefer natural nectar and pollen and will stop taking supplementary food as soon as they are able.
- With all the brood in the colonies, mite levels are exploding! We are currently recommending a one strip treatment of Mite Away Quick Strips, with a mite count both before and after treatment. We feel the full two strip dosage is too risky to use until queens are readily available. Apiguard (thymol) is a good option when daily highs are above 59° for an extended period of time.