This is a great season to review your year in beekeeping, check inventory, order supplies, read your favorite beekeeping literature, plan for Springtime and sip honey-sweetened hot beverages in front of a warm and cozy fireplace!
A colony needs an ample amount of honey in store going into winter in order for them to make it through to spring until flowers begin to appear. We try to be extra careful by leaving as much honey as we believe they need, even if it means leaving a honey super on top of their hive. The honey that they produce is far more healthy for them than any sugar supplement. However, it is common practice for beekeepers to supplement nutrition by feeding syrup and/or patties before the Spring nectar flow begins.
If outside temperatures are below 40 degrees at night, sugar patties are made. A sugar patty will consist of organic sugar (or table sugar if organic is not available) mixed with just enough water to hold it together. We will put this mixture into a one gallon size Ziplock bag with two small 1″ X 1″ X 4″ chunks of wood placed inside and on what will become the bottom side of the bag. This will keep the bees from suffocating underneath. When we place the bag on top of the hive frames, we will cut slits into the bag so the bees have access to the sugar patty. I have also added one drop of peppermint essential oil to this mixture when I believe they need a little help stimulating their appetite. I also believe that it helps ward off mites.
When temperatures are above 40 degrees at night, we may feed sugar syrup. If needed, early in the Spring we feed a 2:1 ratio, sugar to water to give them a bit of a boost. If they are still taking it in as flowers begin to bloom, we will cut it back to a 1:1 ratio. Eventually they will not take any of it and we will remove the feeders.