How to feed Bees

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Bee Feeding Recommendations

Bees need certain nutrients for survival and development. They cover those needs from nectar and pollen of plants. But since in autumn and especially in winter bees cannot cover naturally those needs from plants, they have to adapt their life cycle: They grow in the spring (when there is long flowering), they collect during the summer, they reduce their population in autumn and they overwinter with small populations and heavy winter supplies, ensuring their survival until next spring.

Under optimum conditions, the average beehive collects about 150 pounds (70 kg) of honey in a year and consumes 130 pounds (60 kg). There is a surplus of 20 pounds (10 kg) which may be collected by beekeepers. However, nowadays, the beekeeper has to supply the colonies with other foods, because the pollen and nectar of plants are limited and the bees may not be fed enough by nature.

Bee feeding is the intervention of the beekeeper in the nutritional function of colonies, either by providing natural products (honey) or processed (sugar). The intervention is mainly to offset the supply of colonies (what we deduct) during the winter, and to increase and maintain the spawning of the queen. We also add food when we introduce a new queen in the hive. Finally, we add food in months when we do not have enough flowering (such as August or May).

The most popular bee food is the sugar syrup. Never use brown sugar or sugar with additives, as they may cause dysentery. The thin sugar syrup in the ratio of 1/1 (1 part granulated sugar and 1 part water) is best for stimulating brood, and as a rule of thumb is recommended for 10 days of daily doses of 7-9 oz. (200-250g). This dosage scheme is initial and the apiarist shall closely monitor and make constant refinements. There is no need to boil the water when preparing the syrup, you can heat it at a temperature of 120-140oF (50-60oC). The thick sugar syrup contains 2 parts sugar and 1 part water. There should be no feeding of colonies with syrups during collection and honey savings. Generally, thin sugar syrups are recommended during spring and summer, while thick summer sugar is recommended for late fall, as a winter beehive preparation. Many beekeepers also use mixes of 2 parts sugar and 1 part water, in which thyme essential oils are also added (ask local experts). Other apiarists use special fondants.

Pollen is also popular as a bee feed. Although natural pollen is the best, you can find pollen substitutes at a good price in specialized shops. They are often made of soy flour, brewer’s yeast, dry milk and vitamin C. 

You can enrich this article by leaving a comment or photo of your beehive feeding methods.

1. Beekeeping Basics

2. Understanding Bee Society

3. How Honey is made by Bees

4. Beehive and Equipment Supply

5. Beehive Location

6. Honey Bee Swarming

7. Beehive Wintering

8. How to feed Bees

9. Honey Harvest

10. Bee Diseases

11. Q&As Bees

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