So I mentioned (in my Honey post, about our extraction party) how we noticed that our bees were being robbed. Bees from surrounding hives were taking advantage of weakness in our hive and robbing them blind, leaving them honeyless for the winter. It didn't help that we took seven pounds from them - but better us get some than those nasty thieves! We assumed this was most certainly a death sentence for our colony. It still might be, they might be done for, but we are trying to take a stand against those bees. So how can you help a colony that is under attack???
Lessons we've learned:
1) Entrance Reducer: we did not have an entrance reducer on our hive - we had left the entire width of the hive open, leaving roughly 18 inches of space that the guard bees have to defend. It's just too hard for a hive that is already in jeopardy. Our hive kit came with a wooden entrance reducer that allows us to select various sizes of entrance - we chose the smallest size, approximately an inch, thus giving the guard bees a significantly smaller space to defend.
2) FEED!: we need to replace that honey that they've lost. It's not as simple as giving them back their honey (plus, we want to enjoy the fruits of their labor)...so we need to give them a replacement food source. The easiest way to give them instant food is making a 2:1 sugar/water mix. We put 4 cups of sugar in a saucepan with 2 cups of water and dissolved the sugar. Once the mixture cooled a bit, we poured it into a ziplock bag and took it to the hive. We added a super on top of the hive and placed the baggie of sugar water on top of the frames below. We jabbed a few holes into the bag, so the bees can access that food and hopefully calm them down a bit.
3) Continued Feeding: Since we don't have an actual "feeder" we ordered a hive component that is specifically for feeding (to replace the baggie, a more permanent/reusable option) - hopefully that will arrive shortly. Additionally, we need to find a food source that isn't just sugar/water. Bees need a well balanced diet too, while they may survive on carbs (like we would with bread and water), they won't be as healthy as they could be. We've found a couple of recipes - I'm not sure what the best option would be.
We are thinking of doing something like this for the water:
:: 5 cups water
:: 2 1/2 pounds of sugar
:: 1/8 teaspoon lecithin granules (used as an emulsifier)
:: 15 drops spearmint oil
:: 15 drops lemongrass oil
Additionally, they need a protein source. I've been looking online and I think we are going to try something like this:
Makes 6 (1 lb) patties:
3/4 C. pollen
2 1/2 C. hot water
5 1/2 C. sugar
6 1/3 C. brewer's yeast
Perhaps add some Vitamin C to the mix? I'm not sure. But we should be able to mix this into a thick substance and roll it into patties. We can put one on the hive and save the rest in the freezer, until we need it.
We want strong, survival of the fittest bees - we want to help them come along, but they should be able survive without medication etc.
We'll let you know how things go and if they survive the winter then we'll be looking for a strong hive for next year. If they don't make it, we'll know that we gave them a fighting chance and will start again with a new colony (or three!).