Feeding Bees

The means of supplementing or stimulating a hive at various times of the year, to improve its viability. After the honey crop has been removed it is vital that the bees have sufficient stores to carry them through winter into early spring, otherwise, they will starve, one of the biggest failures of a wintered hive. In our area, we find the hives need approximately 100 lbs of stores. Translated into easy math’s, each frame (standard deep) will hold approximately 7 lbs, so a hive examined in late fall should have at least 14 plus frames of sealed stores. If not then they should be fed, quickly.

For winter feed
A 2-1 sugar syrup in a hive top feeder should be fed early enough for the bees to convert and seal off ready for winter. It should be remembered that bees need warmth to work and a reasonable daytime temperature is essential to allow them time to convert. With fall feeding it should be a lot in a short time If it should be dragged out by only supplying small amounts the danger of stimulating new brood is very possible, quite the reverse of what is needed. By feeding large amounts quickly any cells becoming empty in the upper super from late emerging brood will be filled, forcing the queen into the bottom box. The perfect position to start the winter.

An interesting question?
Is sugar better than honey for feed? The simple answer, yes, sugar is better. It seems there are less solids in sugar, therefore the bees have less feces to vent during cleansing flights. It is possible to feed honey drippings etc. from the fall extracting, but it should be stressed not to use heated honey in any form, otherwise dysentery is almost guaranteed. The alternative thinking to using sugar, it has little nutritional value, so honey is really the better winter feed.

Spring Feeding.
A misnomer in fact. If fall feeding was carried out correctly then spring feeding should not be necessary. The term should really be ‘spring stimulation’ because that is what is being attempted. Incoming nectar is the trigger to most hive functions, without it the queen will stop laying, brood production goes into a decline, hive activity slows down. Now add a slow drip of nectar, (sugar syrup), and suddenly activity increases.

We add on top of the inner cover a jar, about a quart size, approximately 6 holes, 1/16th in diameter drilled through the lid. Fill with 1-1 sugar syrup and invert over the inner cover hole. The vacuum created holds the liquid in place and allowing the bees access to take it down will stimulate the hive into believing a flow has started.Working backwards from when the real first flow starts, we stimulate to produce bees for this flow by adding syrup 6 weeks ahead.

Do not overfeed in the spring. The danger being a honey bound brood area, nowhere for the queen to lay, leading to early swarming.
Nucs and Splits.
We make a good number of splits or nucs (nucleus hives) every year, and the one thing that gets them off to a good start is feeding. On making up a split there are a few points worth repeating.

First, a split, after a couple of days will have lost most if not all of its foraging bees, so therefore there is no nectar coming in. In these circumstances the queen will lay, only if there is open stores. On making up the split, crack open sealed stores with a hive tool, then feed using the spring stimulation method.

Finally, remember!
Bees will only draw foundation during a flow, so feed heavily if adding foundation even more so if you intend to use plastic foundation.