Sugar is sweet...and cheap, it appears
The commercial beekeeper who had put 30 hives next to mine (and I found 45 more just a mile and a half away, by the way the bee flies), FINALLY removed the hives on November 13th. I had done a little walk-about and tipped my vertical hives and found them to be disturbingly light. I really don't want to lose my hives just because they got robbed by those other hives. Fortunately, the weather today was nearly 70 degrees! Unbelievable. I drove to Wal-Mart and bought 185 pounds of sugar. Yes, two people asked me if I had a bakery. I learned two things - sugar is really cheap - around 50 cents a pound, and people really think you are strange buying almost 200 pounds of sugar. I understand now why commercial beekeepers take all the honey and just feed sugar. If they can sell honey at even $2.00 a pound, they are making a nice profit. Anyway, this was not my ideal situation, but it was necessary. I feel as though I have some decent genetics worth saving and also several people hoping to get splits from me in the spring. So, this is how I figured it: I wanted to leave 30 pounds of honey besides what was in the brood box on each hive. I have six hives left now (two died, the queens died after 2 1/2 years and they were completely empty). So, 30 pounds of honey/sugar X six hives = 180 pounds of sugar. In the fall we mix it 2 parts sugar to 1 part water. Water weighs eight pounds per gallon. So, I used some big pots I use for cheese. I put two gallons of water in first (16 pounds of water), then put 32 pounds of sugar in. Of course that had to be heated to get the sugar to dissolve. That came out to four gallons of syrup, don't ask me how, it just did. I had some little lard buckets that hold a little more than half a gallon each. I filled six of those and put one or two on each of the vertical hives. For the horizontal hives, I had to get a little creative. I bought two new plastic one gallon chicken waterers. I filled them with the sugar syrup and put pine needles in the tray so they wouldn't drown themselves. Then I removed the frames from the back 1/3 of the hive and put the waterer in there. I have never fed a horizontal hive before, so I honestly don't know if it will work. We will see. I can check and fill without disturbing the hives too much. Desperate times require desperate measures. Hopefully it will be enough. I couldn't feed earlier because the other hives would have just robbed what I put on. For now all six hives were light, but active. Stay tuned for the rest of the story.