Sugar Syrup

Tuesday. Temperature in the 50s! I decided to give the bees their first sugar syrup this year. There is little in the way of carbohydrates (sugar, nectar, etc) for bees at this time of year around here, but just about now they are putting in a huge amount of energy into raising brood (bee larvae) in preparation for spring (see Honeybee Facts below). I did give them a honey-pollen patty last week, but it seems warm enough to start giving them sugar syrup again. The sugar syrup is a food supplement that beekeepers give to honeybees to help them through rough times. I provided them with a lot of sugar syrup last fall so they would build up enough supplies to get them through the winter. You can't give them sugar syrup in winter.

 That's 3 lbs of sugar. Repeat 2 more times.

That's 3 lbs of sugar. Repeat 2 more times.

How to make sugar syrup: basically, you add a 1:1 ratio of sugar to water (just plain sugar from Stop & Shop). The water needs to be heated up to boiling. Then pour it into a container and add the equivalent weight in sugar. The water needs to be hot for the sugar to dissolve completely. I can never get over how much sugar! Today I weighed out 9lbs of sugar (see photo above) and 9lbs of hot water! I poured half into the division board feeder in each hive and it actually all fits! See feeder in picture below, where the two holes are: there is a plastic container as deep as the hive box with two mesh tubes, closed at the bottom end and open at the top. You pour the syrup into one of the holes from a watering can and it flows through the mesh and fills the entire feeder. The bees can crawl down into the tubes clinging on to the mesh, and lap up the sugar syrup, without even having to leave home. Many bees try to do this at the same time, and the trick is to not fall in and drown (in the photo below, there is no sugar syrup in the feeder, which is why there are few bees there). Some of the bees always try to reach for the syrup flowing out of the spout of the watering can. You see them perched on the rim of the hole, reaching towards the stream of syrup as far as they can, flailing their little feelers towards it but never quite able to reach. Actually, one poor bee did succeed in reaching the stream today and there was a plop! as she was carried rapidly down into the syrup below. Must have been a surprise!

There are a lot of skunk cabbage flowers out there. Tripped over one on my way to the hives. Have to look where I'm going now!

Honeybee Facts: The bees you see in the hive below (the nursing worker bees) and the ones flying around to and from the hive (the foraging worker bees) were the last bees to emerge in the fall. All the other bees that were around in the fall would have died by November or December, with the exception of the queen (she is somewhere down inside). While most workers live only 6 weeks, the winter bees can live all the way into March/April. Their job is to start raising brood laid by the queen at the end of winter. These new bees will have completely replaced the winter bees in a few weeks. I find this amazing! So this means that, in about a month, when I go visit the hives at that time, as usual I will see a large bunch of bees just like I see now, but in fact they are not the same bees!

Another interesting fact is that, once a worker bee starts to raise brood, the clock starts ticking and they will only have 6 more weeks to live. Their body starts to break down and after 6 weeks they will die. A worker that has not raised brood can live for months! Amazing, don't you think?