Autumn Feed time. That means making syrup at winter strength to make up for any honey we have removed to ensure food stores for the winter and to encourage winter bee production.
Something that is most bizarre is that supermarkets used to sell or even give spoiled sugar bags (split usually, sometimes with a little dampness) to beekeepers as the volume of syrup the bees will take can be enormous and hence expensive. Supermarkets rely on bees indirectly as they need food production to be as high as possible and they need pollinators to increase yield. Some supermarkets even have bee friendly projects – such as the Coop’s Plan Bee. I was sure they would be happy to let me have sugar but once I had gone through all avenues I was told no – it is that grey being ”health and safety” at work again. I had also asked in Gerrards Cross Tesco but never got a definitive answer. My fellow beekeeper on our Hughenden Manor bee project had success with Tesco in Princes Risborough though he was asked to pay a reduced amount for the supplies but just this week we learnt from him that the manager has now been told by Head Office he cannot do this any longer – the sugar needs to be destroyed! Our friends Health and Safety strike again.
So, I had been trying to build up stocks and today went to Morrison’s to buy. (I had asked them before and they also said they couldn’t give me any – though they said from memory that they used it in the staff canteen).
My favourite syrup feeder is a green one from Maisemore. I don’t need to use a super as the footprint is the full size of a super. It is very easy to take off the hive roof and then the lid of the feeder to top up. Surprisingly sometimes it takes the bees a while to find the syrup and I need to dribble some down the funnel to give them a Very Strong Hint. The capacity is excellent. Many beekeepers find that 2 litres of syrup can be used up in just 2 or 3 days. Having two feeding points ought to improve the bees access to the syrup.
In the early days I did cut some extra holes in the crown board to coincide with the feeder openings but I assume that wasn’t necessary. Surely the design of the feeder acts much like a crown board? Perhaps someone will correct me if I am wrong.
The design is quite clever. The central turrets mean the bees can come up from the hive below but as they are covered they cannot escape into the feeder itself. Ridges on the turrets and on the cover give grip to help the bees climb when necessary. You need to fill the container slowly when there are bees feeding to avoid them drowning or falling in the stampede as they all try and escape the tsunami of syrup. I usually put the syrup in washed out milk cartons and I have often gone down at dusk without bothering to suit up as it can be a quick operation to whip off lids, add more syrup and return the lids.
Managing the volume that needs to be made over the crucial few weeks can make the kitchen look as though it is more like a production line.
So I had better get back to the production line.