The time to feed your hives with liquids in preparation for winter is essentially at an end. There are several reasons for this.
1) With temperatures below 57F for much of the day the bees will be in cluster in order to maintain temperature. They typically won’t go far from the cluster to feed. Each day there is only a short window when the hive temperature is warm enough for the bees to be active. It’s not like midsummer when the bees are working 24 hours per day.
2) The internal hive temperature essentially matches the air temperature outside of the hive. At these cooler temperatures the bees will not be able to evaporate the water from the liquid feed (usually sugar water) to keep it from spoiling.
3) The temperature of the liquid feed also cools to the outside air temperature. The bees typically will not feed from cold liquids.
4) With the bees in cluster, an external Boardman type feeder essentially becomes useless since the bees won’t break cluster to feed from it. Also you chance breakage of the feeder if ice forms inside.
5) It can be dangerous to use an internal plastic feeder because if the liquid freezes the feeder may split and drench the bees with cold liquid. This is a death sentence for the wet bees.
The next best thing you can do now is to provide your bees with some type of winter emergency feed, which should be added later. When the cluster eats its way to the top of the hive the cluster will warm and eat food provided at the top, but only for a very short distance away from the cluster where the cluster heat still warms the bees and food. Alternate methods of winter feeding will be discussed in a future article.