Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Koan of Ones: A Small Batch Way of Feeding Bees

What does feeding bees have to do with the formula: 
1 + 1 + 1 + 1 equals 1 to 1.

The late, great Certified Master Beekeeper George Imirie had over 70 years of beekeeping experience when he died in 2007. In his writings he often pointed out that having drawn comb was the best asset a beekeeper could have. He also wrote that bees will not draw out frames of foundation into comb without the presence of a nectar flow. In the absence of a natural nectar flow it is necessary to create an artificial nectar flow by feeding bees a mixture of one part sugar and one part water.

Most of what you read on making sugar water for bees deals with mixing large amounts at one time. As a beginning beekeeper, raising bees in an urban environment, I find it inconvenient to buy and mix large amounts of sugar water in one batch. I travel by bike or mass transit or foot so I tend to buy sugar in five pound bags. I have a fair size pot to mix the solution in, but if I mix more then 5 pounds of sugar at a time it tends to get messy. In addition, since I transport the sugar water from the kitchen to the hive in 2-liter bottles, it is awkward to carry more then two 2-liter bottles at a time.

How do you turn a five-pound bag of sugar into a 1 to 1 mixture of sugar and water?  If you remember the rule of thumb “A pint’s a pound the world around” you can calculate that you need 5 pints of water to mix with 5 pounds of sugar. However, measuring out 5 pints of water can be a tedious process involving pouring measuring cup after measuring cup of water into the pot. And what if you get distracted and have to start over?  Sigh.

After mixing up the sugar water you have to store it somewhere until you can get it out to the bee hive. As mentioned above, I find two liter bottles convenient for this purpose. Since the mixture has to go into two liter bottles anyway, why not use the same bottles to measure out the water?

I went to the Google search engine and typed in the “5 pints in liters”.  Good old Google came back with the answer: "5 US pints = 2. 36588237 liters.”

This told me I needed to pour ONE FULL TWO LITER BOTTLE OF WATER into an empty pot.

I went back to the Google search box and typed in “cups in .36588237 liters”. Google answered with “.36588237 liters = 1.54649435 US cups”.

This told me I needed to add ONE FULL CUP OF WATER to the pot.

After that I had to add ONE HALF CUP OF WATER to the pot.

At that point I was “close enough for government work” to being finished measuring out the required amount of water. 

I heated the water to boiling and then waited half an hour for the water to cool. This is very important because if you pour sugar into boiling water the sugar may caramelize and be bad for the bees.

After the water had cooled enough so that I could touch the side of the pot without burning myself, I added the five pound bag of sugar to pot and stirred it until it was completely dissolved.

The sugar water was then poured into two 2-liter bottles, almost filling them.

If you follow this procedure you will end up with a convenient amount of sugar water to feed your bees the 1 to 1 mix of sugar water required to get bees to draw comb from foundation. Let the water cool to room temperature then pour it into the feeder tank on your hive.


ONE 2-liter bottle of water     plus
ONE cup of water                  plus       
ONE half cup of water            plus
ONE 5-pound bag of sugar   
ONE to ONE sugar water that will almost fill two empty 2-liter bottles.

Thus the Koan of Ones:
A Small Batch Way of Feeding Bees
1 + 1 + 1 + 1 equals 1 to 1.

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