Early spring can be a dangerous time for colonies. By providing sugar syrup in an adequate proportion, additional energy may be provided to new colonies or during periods when weather prevents foraging activities from taking place.
The ratio of water to sugar will differ depending on the season, but here are a few popular sugar syrup for bees recipes and their results.
1. Feeding for Brood Rearing
Sugar syrup provides bees with an ideal food source to encourage brood rearing and increase population growth, as well as replenish supplies lost over winter.
Recipe and ratio for bee syrup will differ throughout the year, but all use plain white granulated sugar (sucrose) dissolved in water. Do not include ingredients like molasses, sorghum, fruit juice or other liquids which could potentially cause dysentery in bees.
Feeders are used to distribute sugar syrup near beehives. There are various types available on the market, such as rapid feeders that fit over queen excluders or contact feeders with an access hole for bees – although these tend to require regular refilling, division board feeders and double jar feeders are popular as they sit inside hives, thus minimizing robbing and creating less of an unruly mess.
Monitor the weather closely in early spring, as poor conditions could prevent bees from going out to forage at times when necessary and could ultimately starve colonies out if this occurs.
2. Feeding for Honey Production
Weather conditions during early spring can prevent beehives from accessing enough natural forage to support them, forcing colonies into starvation until conditions permit natural forage to resume. At such times, supplementing colonies with sugar syrup could save them from starvation until weather allows natural forage to return naturally.
Spring syrup can also be an effective means of replenishing beehives that have stored little honey reserves; one gallon (2:1) will increase them by 7 pounds.
Sugar syrup can be easily prepared by mixing equal parts white sugar and water. Clean tap water is ideal, although some beekeepers may opt for using bottled or filtered water instead.
Once the sugar syrup is ready, it can be placed near a hive using a feeder. Feeder options range from simple pails with holes on their lid that sit atop an inner cover of a hive to more elaborate frame feeders that feature slots shaped like frames within the hive to allow bees access.
3. Feeding for Disease Prevention
Sugar syrup is an artificial nectar source bees can use during dry periods, such as winter. Sugar syrup can also help encourage brood rearing or jumpstart an underperforming colony in spring – reducing disease in a new package or existing colony that needs extra help getting going.
Create sugar syrup using equal parts granulated sugar and water at the appropriate proportions, either measured by cups or weight. It’s best to mix with warm water in order to dissolve sugar easier, though boiling this solution could result in harm to bees or cause dysentery disease.
Pour the sugar syrup into a clean plastic freezer bag and punch or drill 6 to 8 small holes on its upper surface. Place this bag atop a shallow super to protect from robbers and cover the hive; if your hive is on a slope, a riser may be required so bees can easily access it.
4. Feeding for Stress Reduction
Sugar syrup can be an essential tool in helping beekeepers reduce robber losses during the early days of hive establishment. But it is crucial that beekeepers stop feeding once their colonies have enough natural forage available without them.
Sugar water should be prepared by mixing equal parts of white sugar and hot water (weighed or measured volumetrically) in a large container, without boiling as this can alter its chemical makeup and make it indigestible to bees.
Feed the bees with syrup using a “frame feeder”, which is a container in the shape and size of a full Langstroth frame and placed inside the hive. Boardman feeders or entrance feeders may be used, however these often require bees to break from their cluster to access syrup which could increase robbing activity. Alternatively, a “division board feeder” sits atop of the hive without necessitating breakages before feeding can take place – another good option would be sitting atop of hive option.