Caring for new packages in cold weather
Learn how to care for your new package of bees when the weather is cold
Installing package bees in cold weather can be a nerve-wracking experience for a new beekeeper. Unlike nucleus colonies, package bees have no drawn comb or honey stores with them when you install them. They are utterly dependent on whatever they can gather immediately following their rehoming. If the weather is too cold for them to fly, they need us to provide food so they can survive. Fortunately, this is not a challenging thing to do.
The most critical part of feeding bees in cold weather is that the food source must be in contact with the bees. For this reason, Boardman (front-door) feeders are not a good choice. When the weather is cold enough that the bees have to cluster, they may be unable to travel down to the front of the hive to get food.
You can feed sugar syrup (two parts sugar to one part water is a good choice for this type of feeding) from a mason jar using a perforated lid, placing the feeder either over the hole in the inner cover or directly on the frames of the hive, putting an empty box around the fed jar and your lid on top of that. Winter patty directly on top of the cluster, below the inner cover, is also a good choice.
Using a product like the queen-cage holder can help protect your queen by positioning her cage lower in the hive, allowing the bees to cluster around her. When feeding, place your queen with the screen facing down to prevent dripping syrup or winter patty from damaging her.
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