How, When and Why to Feed Your Bees;

Wondering if your honey bees are going to starve or whether they have enough stores to make it through the winter? and you may want to encourage your colony to build up properly in the spring for optimal health. So, when and how do you feed your bees?

When Do You Feed Bees?

The easier way to feed your new Package, Nuc, or mature bee hives is with a frame feeder. This typically comes in 1 Gallon Size and we recommend the one we sell. This is made by Motherlode or Mann Lake. I’ve also seen 2 gallon frame feeders but for the sake of keeping it easy I would stick to the 1 gallon size. The ladders that extend into the middle of the feeder reduce the drowning effect but “keepers beware” you will see dozens of drowning bees at some point with this style of feeder. Entrance or top feeders work but I like the convenience of the frame feeder close to the bees. If you have a chance of Raccoons or Skunks entrance feeders or mason jars on top of your hive are prone to feed the wild life. Again a frame feeder would be a bit more safe and reduce risk. Once you attract wildlife it’s hard to get rid of them.

In an ideal world, you’d leave the bees plenty of honey and you would not need to feed your honeybees. However, sometimes there is a poor nectar flow and the bees might not have enough honey stored, especially if you have a new colony that was just started in the spring.
If you can pick up your hive easily, it might be light on honey. Each colony needs at least 50-60 pounds of stored honey to keep them from starvation in the winter. If you know early enough in the season, like in the fall, you can begin feeding then. You might want to use granulated sugar or fondant during cold winter days.
We recommend feeding in times of need. Good reason to feed would be to establish a new hive. Making wax requires a lot of energy for you new hive. Providing this extra resource at the beginning will jump-start your hive and help your young bees draw out more comb. This is needed at such a critical time for the success of your hive.

Why Should You Feed Bees?

It’s simple. A balanced diet of carbs and protein.The pollen being brought in will likely provide the proteins needed to raise healthy baby bees. Let’s get real, you wouldn’t just eat carbs only to have a healthy balanced diet so why would you expect your bees to live on say all the pollen or just carbs? The concept is easy, your bees need more than they have. You can feed your bees honey stores from themselves but bee keeper beware feeding extracted honey to your bees has some problems plus if your new at this you might not have access to honey from last year.

How to Feed Bees

You can use a variety of types of feeders to feed your bees, just make sure that the type you choose is appropriate to the climate and the needs of your bees. Some feeders work better than others. A hive-top feeder made of an inverted pail with some small holes punched in the center of the lid works well. Mason jars can also be inverted this way.

One consideration when feeding bees is whether you want to stimulate brood production. Some forms of feed stimulate brood production more than others: for example, granulated sugar does not because of its lower water content. Only feed as much as necessary. Overfeeding can stimulate bees to swarm or overproduced brood.

If you have honey stored, you can feed this back to your bees. Honey is the best bee food. But never used purchased honey, because it can introduce diseases and contamination to your hive!

Bees need protein, so you can also feed them pollen patties if necessary. You can purchase them or make them from a dry powder. Place the pollen patty on the top bars. Pollen is essential for brood rearing.

Fondant and sugar candy can be fed in winter if it is too cold for sugar syrup and if it is an emergency.

Sugar Candy: Add 12 pounds of sugar to a quart of boiling water, stirring well. Simmer for 15 minutes, then add 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon cream of tartar. Let cool somewhat, then stir vigorously and pour into dishes. Once fully cooled, invert the dish over the frames holding the cluster. Be sure to also check out the hard candy recipe.

Fondant: Bring one quart of water to boil in a large pot. Turn off heat, add 5 lb granulated sugar and stir constantly. Once sugar is dissolved, bring water to boil again and keep stirring. Bring mixture to hard ball candy stage, 260-270 degrees F on a candy thermometer. Pour into molds or onto cookie sheets lined with wax paper. Once cooled, break into smaller pieces and store in wax paper in the freezer.

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