During the months of August, September and October when there are fewer flowers in bloom it may be necessary to feed the bees sugar syrup. It's a method used by beekeepers to help the bees in their preparation for winter. Because Maine summers are so short and, more recently, hotter, and its duration extending into October when there are no flowers blooming at all, the sugar syrup helps the bees produce and store a sufficient type of "honey" they can safely consume during the winter months while in their dormant state. FYI: Because this is not a real form of honey it is not considered a finished product that beekeepers extract and sell as honey.
A beekeeper can choose to feed the bees directly inside the hive or feed them in an "open" method. Not as effective as feeding directly inside the hive, the open method does invite bees from nearby hives as well as yellow jackets and other nectar-seeking insects. Because of time constraints I chose to open feed. This past weekend I went through 10 pounds of sugar feeding the bees. (It gets expensive!)
Normally bees collect the sweet nectar from blooming flowers the entire season. However, when we have dry weather and little rain, the flowers will be unable to create significant amounts of nectar, which leaves bees unable to collect the necessary nectar that they require to turn nectar into honey. Drought, hotter temps throughout summer and beyond and into late fall in Maine has created challenges for bees and beekeepers as well, and the feeding becomes a necessity, or risk colony failure before winter even arrives.
With jars full of this sugar syrup, I place them upside down between two pieces of wood, allowing enough room for the bees to access the lid which is loaded with holes that I punched through for them to drink from. Turning the jars upside down will create a vacuum within the jar preventing the liquid from dripping out. With their proboscis, or tongue, the bees will drink up the sugar syrup. Within minutes of setting the jars in place there's a mad scrum of writhing, buzzing bees that forms under the inverted jars in competition for the syrup.
Or, if I have an empty bucket of honey that I can't scrape one more drop from, I'll set it out with some sticks and leaves along the inside for the bees to land on so they don't fall onto the film of honey and drown or get stuck while they drink up the honey. They will simply take this back to the hive and reprocess it in their bodies and store it once again as honey. When they are finished with the bucket it's as clean as if I had thoroughly washed out the honey. I can run my hand through the bucket and there isn't one spot of stickiness to be found.
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