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Starvation Risk - Important Message

posted 20 Jun 2012, 01:17 by Pete Steadman

Important Message About Bee Colony Food Levels:

With the continued spell of poor weather in many areas of the UK, reports are coming in from Regional and Seasonal Bee Inspectors of starving bee colonies, where the beekeeper is not aware that the bees are severely short of food, or the colony(s) have already starved to death.

Indications are that this current spell of unsettled weather will continue until the 19th June 2012 at the earliest.

Particularly at Risk:

Areas of special risk are:

  • Bee Colonies where supers of honey have been removed this season.
  • Splits / Artificial Swarms and Nucleus colonies made up this year.
  • Newly collected and hived swarms which have not been fed following 24 hours after hiving.
  • Populous stocks of bees which haven’t swarmed this year and weather has precluded them gathering sufficient food.

What should Beekeepers do Right Now?

  • Firstly - Check all colonies feed levels by ‘hefting the hive’ – lifting the hive from below the floor sufficiently to see how much it weighs (Photograph attached - Hefting a Hive) where the hive is light liquid feed should be applied, directly above the bees – so if there are empty supers above the brood box with few or no bees in them, then remove them to feed, otherwise the empty super will act as a barrier in some cases to the bees getting the food quickly.
  • Feed can be sugar and water mixed at 2:1 ratio or one of the proprietary ready mixed syrups available from Beekeeping Equipment Suppliers.
  • Fondant can be used in an emergency if nothing else is available – but liquid feed will be more appropriate at this time of the season.
  • Large starving colonies of bees will take 1 gallon (Approx 5 Litres) of syrup very quickly – smaller colonies ½ gallon (Approx 2.5 Litres) may be sufficient to keep them going, but after feeding heft hives again and check the weight – if in doubt feed some more in a few days time.

Further information and Guidance:

Further information on supplementary feeding can be found on Beebase – Best Practice Guideline Number 7 – ‘Emergency Feeding’.

Andy Wattam
National Bee Inspector.
Head of Bee Health Field Inspection Service for England & Wales.