Supplemental feeding provides support to bees and their hives when their natural food sources (pollen, nectar or honey) become scarce, helping prevent starvation or loss of the hive.
Supplemental feeding also assists with brood rearing and nutrition during spring, and fortifies supplies during winter months. Unfortunately, however, supplemental feeding may attract unwanted robber bees or other undesirable creatures that could pose threats.
Winter months can make it challenging for colonies to remain healthy with only stored honey alone, so additional feed is often necessary to sustain colony health. Sugar syrup is often recommended during this season – two parts sugar to one part water by weight or volume should suffice. It can be fed using either a standard boardman feeder or via internal feeders such as frame feeders (also referred to as division boards).
Solid winter feeds such as candy boards and fondant are easier for bees to process than granulated sugar and aren’t susceptible to moldiness, yet require specific recipes and time for preparation. Betterbee offers pre-formulated winter patties you can open and place into the hive; these contain carbohydrates as well as some protein to ensure their survival over winter. When feeding winter patties directly from betterbee, place them directly above any clustering bees in order for best results.
If honey stores are inadequate to support brood rearing and colony development in springtime, supplementary feeding may become necessary due to low honey harvests or other factors that reduce natural pollen availability.
Sugar sirup or bricks provide bees with nutritious food sources that they find more palatable and lasting than granulated sugar, providing essential support for bee health and productivity.
Feeding sugar water to bees can be accomplished using different feeder options such as the Boardman entrance feeder, hive top feeder or division board. Jim and Jeff (sitting in for Kim in this episode) discuss these different approaches as well as their advantages and disadvantages. In addition, this episode covers when to supplement feed bees in late winter/early spring for optimal colony development and nectar flow/pollination services.
Summer feeding of colonies should consist of providing them with dry sugar on hive mats or in trays placed beneath their covers, along with water to liquefy sugar crystals and dissolve them. Bees require this water in order to process sugar effectively.
As protein supplement food sources, many brewer’s yeast products, wheat bran or soya flour products may be fed individually or combined together as diet supplements to increase colony viability, support brood rearing or increase honey production.
Late summer is an optimal time for beekeepers to use a 15 kg package of ambrosia bee feed fondant (available from your beekeeping supply store), in order to prepare bees for winter all at once. Studies indicate that bees consume this supplement food at similar rates as natural pollen while simultaneously improving foraging and breeding activities.
Even hives that had an outstanding spring and summer honey flow may need additional supplies in the fall due to sudden nectar dearths; it is crucial that colonies have enough stored honey for winter – 60-90 pounds is recommended depending on climate conditions.
Supplemental feeding should consist of placing sugar syrup directly inside the hive itself. You can do this using either a hive top feeder, or by placing a ziplock bag containing sugar water directly onto your hive and punching holes into it so bees can suck up its nectar through these holes.
Feed dry sugar to medium to strong bee colonies that don’t require assistance in melting down their stores during hot, dry summers by placing it on a mat outside or inside a super with wood underneath, such as placing dry sugar directly on a mat outside or inside an extra. This method works well for medium- to strong-sized colonies without limited supplies that need help dissolving crystals into liquid form in summer heat and humidity.