We have had a very mild winter this year. A couple of weeks ago I checked on my hives in Ada to see how they were doing. My smallest top bar hive had been killed after the bottom had been opened up by some animal. The other two top bar hives were light, but still had bees in them. The only way to check my top bars is to tap on the hive and listen for the bees to buzz.
The two langstroth hives consist of 3 medium boxes each. One hive I left a frame feeder in and the other I did not. Both hives entered winter with the top 2 medium boxes filled with honey (minus to frames for the one with the frame feeder still installed). At the time, it was too cold to open the hives to check and I just did a tap on the boxes. A couple of bees flew out and I could hear the hives well. So far, so good here.
The weather had been warm for this time of the year for a few weeks. We have had temperatures as high as 58°F this winter. I was worried that I was going to have some bees starve out.
I made up some sugar cakes to add to each hive. Each sugar cake was 1lb. I planned on adding one to each hive if they needed it. I really should have made up more than 5lb worth, but this is all the sugar I had on hand.
It was about 37°F on Feb. 18, 2012 at approximately 3:30PM. It was mostly sunny with a slight breeze. No snow on the ground. I am not sure I should have done so or not, but I did smoke the hives. I thought that if they bees had been in the upper box when I opened them up, I would have been greeted with some not so happy bees.
On opening each hive, I was happy to see that the top box on each hive had not even been touched yet by the bees. This means one hive has a full 10 frame medium box of honey. The other, with the frame feeder, still had 8 medium frames of honey. Since the second hive only had 8 frames (the other 2 taken up by the frame feeder), I decided to add 5lb of sugar to the frame feeder.
The sugar cakes ended up going into my top bar hives. I was not able to get them located very close to the clusters. I hope this warmer weather will allow the bees to find the cakes and utilize them. I did add a bit of Honey B Healthy (HBH) to the water I used to make the sugar cakes. I hope the addition of the HBH will help them find the sugar.
I did remove the board from the bottom of one of my top bar hives. I do not believe this hive is doing well. There was a pile of dead bees and some white pupae on the board. This very well could be an indication that the hive is starving. I could still hear bees in the hive. 2lbs of sugar cakes were added to help out. One thing I have found out about top bar hives in the winter is that they are very difficult to emergency feed. I will be slowly moving away from them over the next couple of years.