Feeding Bees in Fall and Winter

If conditions are favorable, many colonies should have enough honey stores to last the winter without needing additional supplement feedings. Otherwise, additional feed may be required.

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Liquid feed can present bees with difficulty when trying to forage, since their winter cluster cannot break apart to collect it. But solid winter feeds such as candy boards, fondant or sugar bricks can provide relief.


1. Liquid Sugar Syrup

Sugar syrup is usually the better choice when feeding bees during fall or winter months, since they already have all of the honey they can hold stored away in their honey stomachs. Syrup is far cheaper than honey and easily made using white table sugar in a ratio of two parts sugar to one part water; its composition more closely mimics flower nectar than honey does and so will best support brood rearing by bees than store-front honeys which encourage storage rather than brood rearing.

For an easy syrup, heat water until just below boiling, combine with sugar and stir. Allow the mixture to cool at room temperature before placing on risers in your Beepod or hive top box for feeding. Plastic buckets work great, while mason jars with lids that allow for 6 to 8 small holes can also serve well as feeders. Once your feeder has been prepared, place it on risers!

2. Dry Sugar

Many articles and recipes recommend feeding dry sugar to bees in fall and winter to supplement their stores, or to help a new hive build out its frames and build up their comb. This strategy works especially well to bolster stores of weak colonies or encourage an established one to draw out frames more rapidly and build up more comb.

Sugar alone does not provide much nutrition for bees – it is simply empty calories. A more effective approach would be feeding bees high energy food such as 2:1 syrup in spring feedings or using specially designed products like Dadant’s Winter Patties.

These patties, composed of sugar and pollen substitute AP23 as well as Honey-B-Healthy, will give the bees an abundant supply of carbohydrates for winter storage. You can place these patties either directly on top of hive cluster or place trays beneath it; any moisture needed should come either from inside their own breath or external sources like damp air at entrance.

3. Sugar Bricks

Sugar bricks can help your colony stockpile for the winter by mixing plain white sugar, water, citric acid and electrolytes into a brick shape before being compressed in an oven or food dehydrator and dried for optimal bee access. When placed directly above a cluster or used with one by three shims to form an opening in their top hive tops for easy feeding openings – sugar bricks provide bees with denser sugar they can access without moving as much.

Pollen patties provide both carbohydrates and protein for winter diet. Once formed, these patties should be placed with the hive as described above and monitored every two weeks to make sure that they don’t run out of food before spring arrives – keeping up with these feedings prevents bees from using up stored honey early and starving themselves out before winter has even ended. It is an especially helpful method if experiencing late summer dearth without spring build-up but don’t want to encourage brood production too soon.

4. Sugar Cakes

Sugar cakes can be an ideal way to feed medium or strong colonies as winter approaches, as they dry more slowly than syrup and don’t leak or drip, an essential characteristic for closed up hives that will remain closed up throughout winter.

Make honeycomb bars using 1:1 ratio of sugar to pollen substitute (Bee Pro) or just granulated sugar, depending on your preference. Mixing in some vinegar will ensure an even distribution throughout the sugar mix, before pressing it into an appropriate mold such as a loaf pan or baking sheet and leaving to dry for several days before pressing into use.

Beekeepers use various techniques for their beehives. Some place sugar cakes on a candy board or mountain camp rim. Others add a screened box over the candy board to vent moisture and provide an upper entrance in case snow blocks the lower entrance. No matter your choice of hive design or location, no newspaper should ever touch its exterior as its moisture could seep into it and lead to catastrophic colony losses.