Before you read any further, please reread the title with a sarcastic voice. Ok, now we can go on.
Since the temperatures are dropping, I doubt we will have another opportunity to check the bees this year. In the last post about the bees, I wrote about the fact that we had decided not to supplement our bees with sugar water this summer. My husband has conducted hive checks since then, but I kept waiting for us to be able to do one together before I wrote this post. (Having littles makes it hard to do much of anything together at times.) Now that we're having days where the high is in the 50s, I don't think that I'll have an opportunity to check on the ladies again this year, but I wanted to give you one last update on how our first hive is doing.
I'm sure that you are wondering why I chose the title I did. Well, after the hive check we completed where we found that they weren't building as much as we had hoped without supplemental feeding, I started doing more research and I reached out to some beekeeping groups for advice. One group that I reached out to was a BEGINNER beekeeping group on Facebook. Let me tell you, some of the responses not polite and were not helpful. I honestly cried one day. Lack of sleep may have contributed, but still. I don't understand why people feel the right to be hateful to others that they don't know online. Many in the group asked me if we "wanted bees that were alive or natural dead bees." Well, obviously we want bees that are alive. Beekeeping is not a cheap hobby. We did not spend $140 on bees plus what it cost for the hive boxes, frames, suits, etc. to intentionally kill them, so no, I'm not actually trying to kill my bees.
There is a lot of research and articles out there that point to why feeding sugar water to your bees is not good for them. It was these articles that helped me make the decision to not feed over the summer. In the late spring and summer, flowers are abundant. And nectar and pollen contain additional nutrients beyond just sugar and water, nutrients that can help ward off parasites and boost the immune systems of the bees. In a post on Beekeeping Like a Girl, she talks about how bees actually will prefer certain flowers that have the necessary properties to kill any parasites that may be present in the hive.
Besides the online resources and groups, we also asked my brother-in-law what he did. He made a few good points. 1.) If you feed bees sugar when there is also an abundance of flowers, the colony make focus on making honey instead of brood. The brood (think babies) that the queen lays in late summer and autumn will like be the bees that make emerge in the spring. You want to make sure that there is room for them in the hive. 2.) BUT if you don't feed them at all in the late summer and early autumn, they may start eating their winter stores of honey early due to the lack of natural forage.
After all of the advice and reading, we did decide to feed our bees a mixture of sugar and water shortly after I wrote my post. There were fewer flowers around, mostly just goldenrod, making natural forage harder to come by. We were concerned that they hadn't filled up that top box yet and DID NOT want them to not be prepared heading in to winter and then not make it.
We did add in ingredients to our mixture so that the bees got more than just sugar and water. For every cup of sugar we added a drop of doTERRA wintergreen oil and doTERRA lemongrass oil. These oils are good for parasite and pest prevention. We also added a teaspoon of vegetable glycerin and a tablespoon of local honey we had bought from another beekeeper.
My husband says that things are looking good for the bees. They had started to build in the top box when he last checked. Now we just have to prep the hive for winter and hope that they make it until spring.
I'm comfortable with the choices we've made so far. As much as I want to be wholly natural, we do need to do what is best for the bees. If they lack honey of their own, we'll feed. If they have plenty and there are flowers out, we won't. And I think the longer we keep bees, the better we will be able to determine when or if they need the sugar water mixture.
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