Saying this year has been a little different might be an understatement. It has been different in the bee world as well. Typically I wait until February to supplementally feed my bees. However, I recently decided that now is the time for my hives to be fed. As you may recall, we had a beautiful November. The bees were flying daily for about two weeks. Although it was so great to see them out and about, they were burning precious calories foraging in a complete desert. So, food stores were utilized much more rapidly and intensely than usual. I found that the bees in several of my hives have already come to the top of their hive boxes which were packed with honey in the fall.
Last week I utilized the "Mountain Camp" method as a way to supplementally feed a hive I was concerned about. Then today, I began putting winter feed patties on my colonies. All 40 of them will get a patty. Plus, I am going to put some granulated sugar on as well. (Mountain Camp Method). The sugar is not so much for feed as it is for a little added metabolic moisture management.
I was thrilled to see how strong my colonies looked and my biggest fear at this point is starvation. If your bees are alive right now, pat yourself on the back! That is a strong indicator that you helped manage your hive's varroa counts effectively. Most colonies that succumb to varroa will do so by mid-December.
Being mid-January, your queens have begun laying again. Although their egg laying rate is nowhere near what it is in spring and summer, she is already building up the colony's late winter/early spring work force. More and more nurse bees will be needed as well as heater bees as the winter slowly turns to spring.