About a week and a half ago, we had a nice sunny day in the mid 50's, so I figured it was a good time to check up on the bees. All three hives were flying; Hive #1 was very
active as usual. All this activity is actually a bad thing this time of year. The bees spend all this energy flying around, foraging for something that isn't there, and using up their winter stores.
Sometime back in November, I had placed some "emergency feed" in the form of dry sugar in the hives. Unfortunately I had to feed all three hives a lot
of sugar syrup this fall, but I still didn't feel convinced they were in great shape. For "insurance", I placed a sheet of newspaper on the frames at the top of the hive and poured 5 lbs. of granulated sugar on top of that. Then I placed a wooden spacer around that and closed the hives up as usual.
When I checked on them recently, there was not a shred of evidence that there was every any sugar placed in the hive. We did have a very mild fall, and the bees were active much later that I'd usually expect. It's very possible (and maybe likely) that they just carried the sugar out the front door, like the unwanted debris it was, and dumped it on the ground. It's also possible that they consumed it all. I'm hoping it was the former, because if they hit the emergency back-up food already they've got a long, lean winter ahead.
At any rate, I went back and repeated the whole procedure, leaving each hive with a fresh 5 lbs. of sugar. If they are already depending on this emergency feeding, I'm sure they will go through it quickly. So my plan is to return whenever the weather permits this winter, and top them off as needed. I'll keep you posted.