Emergency Feeding For Bees

emergency feeding bees

If your colonies enter winter with insufficient food supplies, you will likely need to provide extra feedings. This could range from as simple as adding sugar bricks or offering pollen patties.

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Un effective way of checking your beehives’ food supplies is hefting (lifting without opening). Hefting may reveal any need for emergency feed.


1. Loose Sugar or Fondant

In summer months, when a colony is so short of food that they cannot fly normally due to poor weather, it could starve. When this occurs, check and feed their hive as soon as possible.

beekeepers often opt for fondant or sugar bricks containing proteins to provide their bees with enough nutrition, which they may purchase from bee supplies companies or make themselves at home.

Some methods of producing bee food require specific recipes and procedures; all share one basic principle: place solid food directly above a bee cluster, where it will slowly dissolve from their natural moisture. Emergency winter feeding options include using baggie feeders – simply hang a gallon zip lock bag over the hive with holes punched through with nails or sharp knives – or offering dry sugar on newspaper placed under frames within clusters.

2. Sugar Water

Sugar water solutions containing 1:1 white sugar to water ratio can be an effective means of feeding bee colonies during short-term emergencies, such as spring when food stores run low or weather conditions impede foraging activities. While this feeding method doesn’t replace natural nectar sources entirely, it provides useful additional sustenance.

Alternatively, this syrup can be fed using either a commercial feeder or canning jar with an airtight lid. To create sugar syrup, simply dissolve 1 cup of white sugar in 2 cups of water; you may wish to add additional nutrients such as honeybee pollen and essential oil drops to help combat Varroa and Tracheal mites.

Many beekeepers use a small “frame” or “division board feeder”, which resembles the size and shape of an entire Langstroth frame and inverted on top of their hive to store sugar syrup for their bees to consume. This feeder provides protection from potential robbers while being accessible only by their bees.

3. Pollen Patties

Pollen patties are highly palatable protein supplements available ready-for-use. Many beekeepers opt to feed pollen patties to their bees as supplemental feeding during winter, and to encourage brood build-up early in spring and prepare for honey flow.

These high-protein patty supplements contain proteins, lipids, minerals, carbohydrates and B complex vitamins essential to producing larval food in honey bee colonies. Ideally fed during late Winter and early Spring to increase colony size and prepare for pollinating activities but they can be fed throughout Summer as well.

Honey bees use pollen substitute and sugar syrup mixed into a dough form and pressed between sheets of wax paper as patties, similar to biscuit dough in texture; other beekeepers create more of a peanut butter cookie dough consistency instead. It is strongly advised to include brewer’s yeast into your recipe to aid bee digestion of it more readily.

4. Honey

Honey is an all-natural food source for bees that also offers many health benefits for humans. Each worker bee visits up to 1000 flowers to collect nectar, then returns it back to its hive where house bees store it in hexagon-shaped beeswax cells.

Bees decrease the water content of their honey through evaporation and fermentation, sealing each cell with wax to protect from spoilage and contamination by bacteria. Commercial honey typically goes through filtering or settlement processes to remove extra wax particles or bee residues that remain.

Emergency food can be supplied by placing sugar-rich food directly on the frames holding your bee cluster, where bees will quickly make their way up towards it and begin dissolving it naturally with their moisture. Solid winter feeds like candy boards, fondant and sugar bricks require specific recipes but tend to be accepted more easily by most colonies than granulated sugar.