Check Your Bees for Hive Health

In March, bees may need more food if their honey stores are depleted. Photo by Jim PathFinder Ewing

In March, bees may need more food if their honey stores are depleted. Photo by Jim PathFinder Ewing

Here’s a photo I took of one of our bee hives on Tuesday (March 19, 2013).

By Jim PathFinder Ewing

Blog followers may remember that I was surprised in December that I had a whole super full of honey — due to the unusually warm temperatures and a huge goldenrod crop. Bees were still gathering nectar and making honey.

I have two hives and the one with the Cordovan bees had enough honey to harvest, while the other one of Italian bees was not so full. I went ahead and harvested honey from the Cordovans, even though it was late, but left the Italians alone, making a note that I would check on them in early spring to see if they needed feeding.

Well, I checked them and both hives came through winter without problems, the Cordovans quickly populating. When I took off the top box, there was the queen busy laying eggs right there!

However, it appeared they were a bit low on honey. So, I checked the Italians and, guess what? They, apparently, were continuing to harvest nectar in December and had plenty to spare. So, I took two frames of honey from the Italians and gave them to the Cordovans, putting empty frames (shown in the photo) from the Cordovans to the Italians.

I’ll check back in a couple of weeks and see how they are doing. But, for now, they look great!

Check your bees to make sure they have enough food to eat before the honey flow. Now is the hardest time for bees as they rely on their stored honey while building populations. If they need food, you can mix organic sugar with water to make a syrup. How much?

Experts differ on ratios. I use hot water to mix; as long as the sugar when stirred in is absorbed, keep pouring; when it starts to precipitate (grains falling to the bottom)  then stop. That’s generally around 1:1 – or one cup of water to one cup of granular sugar, more or less. Let the water cool before giving it to the bees.

To feed: I usually put an empty box without frames on top of the inner cover, with feeder sitting on top of it, then covering it with the telescoping top. That way, more aggressive bees (and wasps) are unlikely to fight for access to the sugar syrup, as with an entrance feeder.

Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, writer, editor, organic farmer and blogger. His latest book titled Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press) is in bookstores now. Find Jim on Facebook, follow him @edibleprayers or visit

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