What Can You Feed Bees?

what can you feed bees

Sugar syrup is the go-to food source when nectar levels fall low, made up of white granulated sugar dissolved in water and measured using cups or weight for optimal results.

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Some beekeepers prefer using a thicker syrup of 2:1 sugar:water during winter when their hives have low stores of honey.


Dry Sugar

Dry sugar may be given to your bees if there’s an emergency situation requiring it, though this only provides half their nutrition needs and should only be used as an emergency measure when honey supplies are running low.

To create dry sugar, heat water just until it begins to boil before adding sugar crystals. Make sure not to boil this mixture after adding the crystals or it may caramelize and become indigestible to bees.

Place the food source near the entrance of your hive so it will be readily accessible to bees, or place it on a candy board (a one-by-three box with a lid and candy). Some beekeepers prefer these boards while others like fortifying them by mixing in pollen to help their colonies remain healthy – this should ideally happen either spring or autumn when bees can collect fresh pollen easily from blooming flowers. You could also offer pollen patties made of syrup or honey and compressed between sheets of waxed paper!

Sugar Syrup

Sugar syrup provides bees with more nutrients than dry sugar, similar to natural nectar. It is simple and cost-effective to create, with cane sugar being the safest sweetener option as it has less processing. When adding the cane sugar it should be heated until near boiling before stirring regularly to help it dissolve and avoid burning out during this process. Once it has cooled off it can be placed in feeders like division boards/frame feeders/hive entrance reducers for feeding purposes.

Sugar water for bees should have a 1:1 ratio of sugar to water, measured either by volume or weight. Many beekeepers add feeding stimulants when placing their bee sugar water in feeders to prevent Varroa mites and encourage bee health. Others add essential oils like lemongrass or spearmint which act as mold inhibitors as well as acting as pheromone enhancers.

Liquid Feed

Sugar water (commonly referred to as syrup) is often used as an emergency dietary aid when honey reserves are running low, in order to sustain weak colonies or help struggling colonies make it through winter. Sugar water provides additional food sources while additional honey collection efforts take place and is sometimes even used as part of new package feeding plans or in emergencies when honey can’t be collected fast enough.

A 1:1 mixture of granulated sugar and water is the most popular solution, whether mixed in a pail or placed into a frame feeder. Frame feeders are containers made in the shape and size of full depth Langstroth frames that sit inside supers with access holes on their top for bees to access their nectar sources; however, bees need to be treated carefully when feeding from these as too much syrup can drown them.

Feed bees using shallow tray feeders or even half-filled plastic bags of syrup – when using bags be sure to use flotation material so as to not drown your bees! Pollen substitute is another way of feeding bees during winter as it contains pollen, sugar, amino acids, vitamins and minerals – something natural pollen can’t provide! Especially important during this season of lower flower harvest is providing natural pollen sources like pollinators flowers for harvest.


Bees depend on natural sources of food to thrive and survive. Honey begins as flower nectar that bees collect and store in special organs in their hives; over time this nectar combines with other ingredients in the hive until dehydration reduces it to 18 percent water content. Bees also rely on pollen consumption during Spring for raising brood and building colony population growth; unfortunately sometimes their population growth exceeds their capacity to collect or store nectar or pollen naturally.

If a beehive lacks sufficient food stores by Fall, feeding with sugar syrup may be necessary. When making syrup from white granulated sugar instead of brown (containing molasses which will make bees sick). Open feeders will likely result in robbing and eventually dead colonies; an alternative would be frame feeders that sit inside of the hive and can be accessed without opening its door.