Dry Sugar Feeding issues/assessment

Discussion in 'General Beekeeping' started by d.magnitude, Mar 8, 2012.

  1. d.magnitude

    d.magnitude New Member

    Messages:
    396
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Hi,
    I tried feeding dry sugar (Mt. Camp method) this winter on all of my colonies, since they seemed rather light going into the winter. I basically placed a shim on the top of the hive, put newspaper on top of the uppermost top bars, dumped in +/- 5lbs. sugar, and covered it with the inner & telescoping cover, making sure there was top ventilation. Pretty standard, I think. I've been checking once a month, and topping off the hives that need it. Now that we're starting to come out of the winter season, and I've been able to really peak into a couple of hives, I'm trying to asses this method.

    The positives I saw- It's a lot cheaper than buying fondant. It's really easy! It cakes up in short order after putting it into the hive, making a "sort-of" candy board. No cooking to make candy boards or my own fondant. It absorbs some moisture in the hive (good thing?).

    Negatives?- When I inspected my hives today, I noticed a surprising amount of granulated sugar that had fallen down and into the cells below it. It was stuck to several frames and definitely in some open brood cells. That may have just happened as I opened the hive, but it still can't be good. Also, there was a good deal of sugar on the screen bottom board, so there was obviously some waste.

    Also,I noticed that my inner covers were all damp. I wonder now if the sugar absorbed moisture in the hive that would have otherwise vented out, but was now "trapped" in the caked sugar. Could the moisture absorbing properties not be such a good thing? I have otherwise good ventilation (open SBBs, and top ventilation), so I'm wondering what could be the issue. One dead-out hive was so damp that there was mold growing inside.

    Just wondering what is other people's take on this feeding method, and if you've experienced and/or solved any of these issues?

    Thanks, Dan
     
  2. tecumseh

    tecumseh New Member

    Messages:
    6,487
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    'long ago' we fed dry sugar as emergency feed.... primarily to give starving hives a chance without feeding syrup which almost invariable caused a bit of robbing. at some point as the season progressed 'the bees' would seem to change their minds about the dry sugar and would haul it out the front door. I have heard other folks comment that pollen patties can suffer the same consequence... but it being not white we never notice this as litter at the front door. in my own particular case (mentioned above) the sugar on the ground actually meant we had been successful, since dead bees don't haul out no trash.

    mold in my mind takes not only a bit of extra water but lack of proper ventilation/circulation and any hive with a robust population 'should' develop some water at the area of the center of the hive cover (inner cover for you). a large population actively converting stores should deposit a larger wet area than a small population and a small population will almost always have a larger problem with ventilation/circulation than a large population.

    not that 'winter camp' is much in my own play book (although I may have given the process it name) but my question would first be... how did you place on the newspaper when you began this last fall?

    at the end of the day you want to look at these kinds of things in very reflective way... did it help you get hives thru the spring time that might/would have otherwise perished? then attend to the smaller detail as to what really made the difference in the individual hives that perished or didn't do so well.

    in almost all things, with a bit of experience under your belt, you and I can do better next time.
     
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2012

  3. d.magnitude

    d.magnitude New Member

    Messages:
    396
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    To answer your question Tec, and to provide some more detail on my set up: (note- as always, if this is a tedious amount of info, feel free to ignore my post)

    Back in late Fall, I placed a shim about 1.5" high above the top brood box (either 2 deeps + 1 med, or 3 meds). In this I laid a single sheet of newspaper so that it went up the two sides of the shim, but left about a 1" gap of top bars exposed along the front and back of the hive. I spread 5lbs. sugar on that, being careful not to let it fall down the gaps in the front and back. Over this I put the IC upside down with the vent notch facing down and to the front. Outer cover over that.

    The first time I peaked in during the winter, it seemed the "sugar cakes" had firmed up completely. If I felt that I needed to refill at all, I would just lay another piece of newspaper right over any remaining sugar clumps, and dump more on top, following the same procedure.

    Hope this helps anyone not totally familiar with this emergency feeding method, and I still welcome any troubleshooting that anyone can offer.

    -Dan
     
  4. tecumseh

    tecumseh New Member

    Messages:
    6,487
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    thanks for the elaboration... sometime the devil is in the detail and everyone's detail can vary quite a bit.

    I myself don't think the dry sugar falling is much to be worried about.

    I would guess (based on conversation I have had with other northern bee keepers) that fall prep is what really shows itself come spring time (to some small degree important here, but not nearly as much as in your location). Adding weight and or new bees to the fall cluster require time and planning and certainly at the end of this 'fall prepartion' list emergency feed is something to consider. Like ALL things that are a process... one small detail gets forgotten or not considered and the entire process has the potential of collapsing.