Sugar Rush

"My kingdom for a cup of Sugar" - King Richard.  Well, that's what he would have said if good ol' Dick had been a beekeeper.  Lately it strikes me just how much of the colony's time is spent getting, keeping, eating, or just surviving the effects of sugar.  For a party of six carbon, six oxygen and twelve hydrogen atoms it sure does cause a lot of trouble.  All beekeepers know that sugar makes the world go round.  In the fall, in the winter, it changes.  It leaves its existence as a compound and becomes a currency by which bees barter for their life.  Sugar for energy.  Energy for heat.  In the summer it's nectar - just what evolution ordered for powering flight muscles.  The problem with nectar is two-fold:  First off, it's like Lite Beer - it takes a lot to get a buzz on.  The other problem with nectar is that it has a shelf life shorter than a Las Vegas marriage.  Yeast are always at hand, ready to consume the sugar and excrete alcohol and carbon dioxide.  While the idea of a micro mead might not be a bad way for a beekeeper to get through the winter, it leaves the bees...cold.  So they change the nectar into honey.  Now they  can store enough of it to survive the winter without the hive being seventy stories high.  All better?  Not exactly.  Now they have a new problem.  Yeast turned sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide.  Honeybees can't do that trick.  They turn it into energy and a very different molecule - H20.  So just by eating the hive is getting wetter.  Around here the hives are dripping as it is, we don't need any more moisture to prevent dry skin.  Far as I'm concerned, sugar got us into this mess, sugar can get us out.  A double layer of newspaper , and empty hive body, and fifteen pounds of raw granulated sugar on top of the colony form my "moisture trap".  The sugar absorbs moisture from the air, making my bees feel a little bit dryer.  Plus the bees can eat it if forced to.  They don't *like* it, but if the winter is cold enough, and dark enough, and the hive begins to resemble a Donner party re-enactment, they'll do what they have to.  They'll eat the sugar.  It's not cheap.  Neither are bees these days.  If my sugar gambit works I won't remember these trips to the hives in the rain.  I won't remember the odd looks when I lug a fifty pound bag of sugar into the min-van.  In the spring, when I see those bees flying - that will be sweet.