We have had the good fortune to have an opportunity to spend some time with a local commercial beekeeper to help with their winter maintenance. We spent 2 days with them while they were feeding and treating 160 hives.
One of the challenges over winter is to make sure that the bees will have adequate food to last the cold months when the bees are not leaving their hives. There are two approaches for dealing with this. The first is to leave honey in the hive to overwinter with. In our area that equals roughly 40-60 lbs. of honey. The other option is to feed over the winter, either feeding syrup, or dry sugar.
For a commercial beekeeper who's primary income is honey, then an average of 50 lbs. of honey per hive at a rate of $4.00/lb. at the bottom end, this is a potential of $200 of revenue that is lost per hive. Feeding sugar or a mix of sugar and pollen is significantly cheaper than what the honey would sell for. Most beekeepers will go somewhere in the middle, looking for heavy hives (with a lot of honey in the box), and then supplement with feeding overwinter.
The colonies thaqt we were working with were slated to be used be split to make nucs in the spring, and with the mild winter, we wanted to give them whatever boost we could. We fed them a dry feed into each of the hives, depending upon the weight of the hive and the population.
What We Fed Them
We first mixed up barrels of feed, consisting of:
- 5 parts dry sugar
- 1 part pollen substitute
We then added 2-8 pounds of this mix, based upon the strength of the colony and the existing stores. If the hive was heavy, and had a lower population, it would get fed less than a hive with the same weight, but with more bees, as the smaller population could live off the existing stores.
Oxalic Acid Treatment
We applied oxalic acid using the drip method as outlined on the excellent Scientific Beekeeping website. We used the "Medium" table. and dribbled this between each of the frames in the hives.
It was a long, but very informative day. We learned a LOT and got a lot of hands-on time with a lot of different bees.