Beekeepers often struggle to meet their hive feeding responsibilities during late winter/early spring when colonies have no stored honey and begin building brood for spring brood production.
Emergency winter feed should include hard sugar sources like candy boards, fondant, sugar bricks or granulated sugar on newspapers laid just above the cluster. Liquid feed may not be ideal as bees in their winter cluster are unlikely to break out and collect it.
1. Sugar Blocks or Fondant
If your bees have begun to lose honey stores in cold climates, consider feeding them emergency winter bee food such as sugar blocks or fondant. These solid foods made from heated sugar mixed into molds or cookie sheets provide immediate sources of instant sugar calories which your bees can quickly and efficiently absorb.
Bees require protein from pollen for survival; feeding pollen patties during fall feedings may cause brood rearing and swarming, placing further stress on their colonies during late winter months.
Another alternative is to create a simple syrup with 2:1 sugar-to-water ratio or plain granulated sugar, starting the feeding before winter hits. Since thick sugar syrup requires more energy to process than thin solutions, be sure to provide your bees with what they require before winter sets in.
2. Sugar Cakes
Though honey frames provide the optimal winter feed solution, sometimes they’re unavailable. When this occurs, sugar cakes may provide enough sustenance.
Combine granulated sugar and water to form a paste, then mold into cake-shaped form before placing on top of your hive. Bees will consume these treats without breaking out of their winter cluster to access them!
Winter patties are another commercial product available to beekeepers to supplement their bees’ nutrition with carbohydrates and proteins. Made of high-carbohydrate granulated sugar and supplemented with Dadant & Sons pollen substitute AP23 pollen replacement and feeding stimulant Honey-B-Healthy (Honey-B-Healthy), winter patties provide bees with quick energy sources during cold days of winter – providing quick food support in an easy to handle package that beekeepers can place atop their hive in late fall for fast survival during late fall to help get through winter’s harshest days; you can purchase winter patties at local bee supplies stores or make your own winter patties at home using common ingredients available on grocery store shelves or made yourself.
3. Entrance Feeders
Entrance feeders are an easy and quick solution that does not require any opening of your hive. They consist of an upturned jar filled with syrup or sugar water that bees can access through their entrance. Entrance feeders can be constructed yourself using simple DIY techniques or you can purchase high-quality designs at your local beekeeping supply store.
Frame feeders can also be easily integrated directly into a hive. Resembling regular frames, these dispensers can hold anything from one small quart up to an entire gallon of syrup without spilling or leaking when filled – this helps protect treatments and avoid bees visiting it regularly for food!
Use an entrance bottle feeder, made from large pop bottles, to slip into the bottom hive entrance. These are an ideal way to feed during winter as they require no opening of the hive and are less likely to be damaged by wasps – perfect for fast feeding in an emergency!
4. Liquid Feed
Most beekeepers prefer feeding liquid sugar syrup during late winter instead of granulated food sources, typically using two parts sugar to one part water and adding mold inhibitor, lemon juice or citric acid as necessary to ensure it doesn’t go rancid quickly. The syrup can then be poured directly over clustering colonies in candy boards, Mountain Camp rims or an empty shallow super.
Early spring bees need protein-rich food sources such as pollen patties to rear their brood successfully, yet colonies that start rearing brood prematurely could quickly run out. If too many bees begin consuming pollen patties in large numbers before natural pollen arrives naturally in spring, they could quickly run out of protein-rich food resources to rear their young.
Be in contact with other beekeepers in your region who share similar climates is critical in order to accurately gauge how much supplemental feeding your colony requires during Winter. While light stores is never ideal, colonies in Maine will require more stored honey than one in Alabama.