CHAPTER XII Edit
WHEN TO FEED
AT least twice during the season bees are likely to need more food than they can get in the fields, if the bee-keeper is to do a profitable business. Once early in the spring when for some reason the nectar supply fails, and it is desirable to stimulate the rear- ing of brood; again, late in the season when the colony has not enough honey for winter use. When the cupidity of the bee-keeper leads him to extract too much honey, then must he forsooth open his pocketbook and buy expensive sugar to feed back to those whom he has robbed. However, bees should be watched closely; they may need feeding at any time, for it is hard to predict when the honey or pollen harvest may fail in a given locality.
When food is given the bees in the spring, it is largely for the sake of stimulating them to extra activity; and thus develop large, strong colonies ready for work as soon as the harvest occurs. The brood-chambers should be closely watched in the early spring and if there is not sufficient food for the brood present, it should be provided. In the fall the hive should be examined by the middle of September or the first of October. A colony of ordinary size ought to have at least thirty pounds of capped honey. The ordinary Langstroth frame, when filled on both sides, contains about five pounds of honey; therefore, there should be an equivalent of six filled frames in each hive. If the swarm lacks this amount, an estimate should be made of how much more it needs, and this amount should be fed.
Bees are usually fed upon honey or syrup made from the best granulated sugar, although some have claimed that the best grade of coffee-sugars make a good syrup; but the consensus of opinion is in favour of the granulated. The syrup is made in two ways: First, by heat. Melt the granulated sugar in its own weight or measure of water; it should be heated slowly, and never reach a tempera- ture higher than 180 F. lest it burn, for scorched syrup fed in winter is as fatal to bees as so much poison. The mixture should be stirred until the sugar is entirely dissolved, then allowed to cool slowly, and it is ready for use. If there are many to feed, a wash-boiler is a very convenient utensil to use, as it is easier to make a large quantity at a time. Because of the danger of scorching a cold process has been evolved. It consists of taking equal measures of sugar and water; the latter should be boiling hot and the two stirred together until the sugar is dis- solved. This may be done in a churn or in the honey extractor. In following this process it is best to add the sugar a bowlful at a- time, while stirring the mixture industriously. The syrup should be thin when finished, as it is better to let the bees attend to the ripening of it.
HOW TO FEED
There are two general plans for feeding bees. One is to place the syrup outside the hive, and the other to place it within the hive. The first is much more convenient for the apiarist, but unless the work be done very carefully or in the evening, and the syrup well guarded, the bees may become demoralised and begin robbing. Feeding outside the hive can be done only during warm weather. There are several simple feeders in which the syrup is placed at night, and taken away in the morning; but the method most generally followed is to fill a Mason fruit can with the syrup and place on it a perforated cover, then invert it in a box in front of the hive; the entrance to this box is so connected with the entrance to the hive that robbing is impossible. The box and cover are sold under the name of the Boardman feeder. As there is very little air in the can, the syrup oozes out very slowly through the perforated cover, and the bees take it as fast as it comes. This feeder is satisfactory in that we can tell at a glance when it needs replenishing.
However, most apiarists follow the custom of feeding within the hive, and strive to accomplish this without loss of warmth in the brood-chambers, and without disturbing or daubing the bees. Of all the devices for feeding within the hive, the division-board feeder is the most practical. It consists simply of a division board made to hold the syrup, which is placed in the hive instead of a frame Plate XII. There is a hole at the top so that it may be refilled by simply pushing back the cover, and pouring in the syrup from a pitcher. The only objection to this feeder is its size, as it does not hold more than two pounds of syrup, and if used for fall feeding would need to be filled many times. This feeder is especially useful for stimulating the bees in the spring, and is also most practical in developing nuclei. In a small apiary it is quite practical for all purposes.
Of the larger inside feeders the Smith, the Heddon and the Miller are generally used. These are alike in one respect; they are flat boxes placed directly above the frames and beneath the quilts. The Heddon and the Miller each take a certain specified number of pounds of syrup, so that when we use them we can tell just how much we are feeding. The Miller is especially convenient in this respect, and has one advantage over the others in that the entrance for the bees is directly above the. centre of the brood-chamber, so that the bees may enter it easily without loss of heat. This fact renders it an excellent feeder for cold weather. Some still use the pepper-box feeder, which consists of a tin can with perforated cover, inverted above the frame, but this lifts the quilts and lets in the cold, and is awk- ward to use; and as it does not hold very much it is quite inconvenient to manage.
Some altruistic people take the frames of comb from which honey has been extracted and fill the cells with syrup. This is done by laying the comb flat and letting the syrup into it through a fine sieve, or by using a force-pump with a spray nozzle. After the frame is filled it is allowed to stand on edge until the drain has ceased and then it is hung in the hive, and presto ! the bees never know that they have been robbed.
In the happy days, when we were getting our first experience, we fed some colonies for the winter by introducing chunk honey into the bottom of the hive/ and it worked like a charm, except that we were obliged to lift the hive to put in the honey, and again to remove the beautifully cleaned comb. One never realises how beautiful empty honey-comb may be unless he has had the privilege of examining a freshly made comb or one which the bees have cleaned. Bee-books advise putting in the chunk honey above the brood-frames, using Hill's device above it so it will not be crushed by the quilt. We have done this, setting the comb in every direction, and our bees ignored it in a most provoking way; but when they found it at the bottom of the hive, they carried it up at once. We never knew why our bees were so con- trary in refusing to take the honey from above because other people's bees seem to like it ad- ministered in that way.
HOW AND WHEN TO FEED CANDY
If necessary to feed the bees in midwinter many people use candy. This is made by boiling granulated sugar in a double boiler until it is brittle when dropped in cold water. It is then taken off and stirred and poured into flat dishes to harden, from which it can be taken as a cake and placed on top of the frame at the centre of the hive. Some pour the candy into the wooden butter-trays and after it hardens invert the tray over the middle of the brood- nest. Some, instead of caking it thus, mould it in a brood-frame by holding the frame flat on a table or board covered with oil paper and pouring the candy in; it thus hardens fast to the frame, and may be put directly in the brood-nest. The famous Good candy, so called because it was invented by Mr. Good, although the excellence of the product would have given it that name anyway, is made by taking extracted honey, and heating it until it is quite thin, but not allowed to boil, and mixing into it confectioner's sugar until the spoon can no longer stir it ; then the mixture is taken out, and placed on a board and more sugar kneaded into it until it is of firm consistency. In hot weather more sugar is needed than in the winter. In making this candy skill is evinced in getting it as soft as possible, and yet stiff enough so that it will not flow. Only the best honey is used for this; and if the confectioner's sugar seems impure, then granulated sugar should be pounded in a mortar or rolled under a rolling-pin until fine and used instead. The confectioner's sugar may be tested by putting a little in a glass of water and noting if there is a sediment.
FEEDING RYE FLOUR
This is given as a substitute for pollen, and is often of great use in the spring when the flowers are late in blossoming, or when severe rains wash the pollen from the fruit bloom. Pollen or its equivalent is absolutely necessary for rearing the brood. The unbolted rye flour, or even oatmeal, or whole-wheat flour may be used by the bees as a substitute with perfect success. The meal may be mixed with the candy if it is desirable; but the usual way is to place it in a trough or box that is shallow, press it down hard so that it will be not more than an inch or two thick, to prevent the bees from getting suffocated while working in it. We must remember that the bee has two rows of holes along each side of the body through which it breathes, and thus could be suffocated as easily in soft flour as in water. The box contain- ing the meal is usually placed a few rods distant from the apiary, and often some old combs with honey in them are placed on top so as to attract the bees to the box, and let them know that it contains food for them. Most bee-keepers say that the box needs to be placed in the sun or the bees ignore it.
FEEDING FOR HONEY
Some bee-keepers practise feeding all the colonies early in the season so that the brood has plenty of sugar-syrup stored near it when the honey season opens; and since the brood-comb is full the bees begin at once to store in the supers. Mr. Boardman who invented the best entrance-feeder practises this, with the result of getting more honey than other bee- keepers of his neighbourhood, who do not feed at this time. It is especially valuable in years when the honey is scarce, for then the bees store all the honey they gather in the supers. However, there is one thing to consider carefully in this feeding, and that is the relative price of syrup and honey. If the market is glutted and honey is plentiful and cheap, this sort of feeding would better be practised cautiously; but when honey is scarce and dear, it is certainly a safe experiment.
When the sections are not well filled in the late season, it is the practice of some apiarists to feed extracted honey in order to fill them. For this only the best honey is used; it is mixed with water, ten pounds of honey to one of water, and heated so that it is a fluid and then poured in the larger kind of feeders, and is put in at night, as the smell of the heated honey particularly incites bees to robbing. However, the flavour of honey which has been fed back is inferior to that which is only once made, and but a few apiarists practise feeding back successfully.
If there is no fresh water in the immediate vicinity of the hives, special provision should be made to secure it, as it is a highly desirable adjunct to a well- regulated apiary. While there are times during the season when the bees get most of the moisture they need from the nectar, there are other times when they drink water eagerly. This is especially so in the spring when they are gathering much pollen and little water, and the weather is warm. Running water is more desirable, and if the drip from a faucet flow over a board, or on pebbles, it affords a nearly ideal drinking place for the bees, since they can drink freely and are in no danger of drowning. Some bee- keepers invert a Mason jar filled with water, on a board that has a few shallow groves, perhaps one- eighth inch deep; the water flows out slowly owing to atmospheric pressure; if a little salt be added to the water the bees lap it up eagerly.
MAXIMS FOR FEEDING
Keep close watch of the bees during the entire season, so as to know whether they need feeding or not.
Feed only good honey or the best sugar.
Never feed scorched sugar in the winter, as it will surely kill the bees.
Observe the practice of feeding at nightfall to preclude robbing.
Never spill the syrup or honey around the yard lest robbers be led on to black deeds.
Feed small amounts to stimulate a swarm or nu- cleus. Bees are susceptible to small encouragements.
Be careful never to cool off the brood-chamber when feeding in early spring or late fall.
See to it that the bees have water near by, especially early in the season.