We try to manage our hives as naturally as possible. We don’t treat with chemicals or essential oils; we minimize intrusions into the hive; and we limit feeding as much as possible. I’ve spoken out against feeding previously and I still stand by that. In particular, we don’t want to engage in stimulative feeding to artificially increase the population ahead of a nectar flow.
But we do step in when a hive looks like it’s going to starve. Inspecting the hives yesterday we found significant differences amongst them:
- Hive #1 has a big population and is running low on stores. But there’s enough for another couple of weeks, by which time hopefully trees will have started blooming.
- Hive #2 is in excellent condition. It’s been very frugal with stores, yet there are still a good number of bees. They should have no trouble making it through spring on their stored honey. Incidentally, they are also really gentle compared to the other hives.
- Our nucleus hive (swarm from hive #1) is in the worst shape in terms of honey. It’s packed full of bees with essentially no honey left. We gave this hive a fondant board to tide them over.
A top bar hive presents its own challenges for winter-feeding. You can’t just dump raw sugar or fondant on top of it Langstroth-style, because there is no gap between the top bars for the bees to access it. Our solution is to apply fondant to a follower board, which can then be suspended anywhere within the hive space.
Here’s the step by step of how we made the fondant board: