I feed for three weeks in the spring, before the honey supers go on, and three weeks in the fall after the honey is harvested.
I feed cane syrup with essential oils
There is no forage from October to April in our area
Although I leave about 70 pounds of honey on each hive, by March there is a good possibility of stores being very low.
This is especially true in a mild winter when the bees do not go into tight cluster and carry on eating their honey (the nerve of ‘um). We just had a mild winter.
It’s the first year in a decade where we could drive to the farm every day. Normally, for one to two weeks each winter, the snow is too deep to get up the hill to the farm even with 4-wheel drive, snow tires, and chains.
Mild winters are easier on me (no ¾ mile walks though the snow with groceries), but harder on the bees because they eat a lot of food and can run out by spring.
I want my bees to be building up by the blooming of the Big Leaf Maples
These are our first major nectar source. The Alders and wild Hazelnut trees have been providing pollen, but the Maples are the bees’ first sweet taste in the year.
Every year I write down when the flowers bloom (and when birds arrive, when green plants emerge, and the weather – good notes going back years are worth their weight in honey).
By my notes, the Maples should go into bloom around the second week in April. Thus I need to start my up-river bee yard feedings in the third week of March. The concept is build up, but no feed when the Maples bloom – so the bees will concentrate on them.
Of course nature does not follow humans’ plans, so I can be off by a week or two.
I had intended to start my down-river hives a week earlier than my up-river hives, but it rained for two weeks straight at that time. I don’t open hives in the rain if it is not critical to do so.
I’m finally getting a chance to post this at the beginning of the second week of April. I just finished the final feed on Friday. That was the same day that I saw my first up river blooms of Big Leaf Maples. So, a week earlier start would have been better (but it had rained for 2 weeks at that time).