What Do Honey Bees Eat in the Winter?

what do honey bees eat in the winter

Bees will want to convert syrup into honey during the winter and will have to work a lot harder during this time. Thick sugar syrup is 33% water. Bees will try to reduce it to about 18% water and fan their wings to remove the excess water. The more water they find in the syrup, the more energy they’ll use processing it. This extra activity can be very stressful on the bees.

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In the fall, beekeepers should feed their hives sugar water syrup as a substitute for nectar. This thick syrup contains 33% water, so feeding sugar syrup to bees in the winter will cause them to work harder than usual. Sugar can upset their stomachs, so you should use beet sugar or refined white cane sugar instead. In addition, it is better to use honey that has been stored in stronger hives instead of sugar.

A healthy colony has a higher chance of surviving the winter, as it does not suffer from viruses, mite overload, or high nosema spore levels. A colony must be very densely populated, however, to generate the heat needed in cold weather. Larger colonies can generate more heat per pound of body weight with fewer food intake, while smaller colonies must consume more honey to keep warm.

Capped honey

If you’re a first-time beekeeper, you’re probably lucky to have harvested a few frames by late summer. It will take the new colony a full season to build their population and gather honey. In the meantime, make sure to check on your new bees every two weeks. You can see if they’ve gathered enough honey for winter and if you can see capped honey on the frames.

Sugar is a great winter supplement. You can also make your own syrups. Use white table sugar. Don’t use brown or molasses, as they contain substances bees cannot digest. You can also use organic raw cane sugar. These types of sugars are not as healthy as pure sucrose. Bees can’t digest the darker sugars, so you need to use a sugar substitute that’s close to the nectar of flowers.


While it is true that bees need pollen to survive the long, cold winter months, feeding them during the winter can be ineffective. Fortunately, there are ways to supplement their diets and avoid starvation. The best way to do this is by feeding your bees pollen from nearby flowers until they reach their winter dietary needs. The Betterbee website has helpful information on winter feeding.

In the winter, natural pollen supplies become very low and brood production slows. During this time, many commercial beekeepers feed their colonies with pollen supplements to kick-start their brood production. This can be particularly useful for commercial operations as it ensures high numbers of bees. This is an easy way to boost production. However, it is important to remember that pollen supplements have their own risks and pitfalls.


Honey bees travel long distances to collect nectar and turn it into raw honey. The honey is stored for the winter. A single colony can produce over 300 pounds of honey in a year. However, during the winter months, the bees will leave the nectar and leave the honey for the winter. The reason why bees leave the honey is for their own survival. The winter months are critical to the survival of a colony.

During the winter, sugar syrups must be kept refrigerated, because the bees need the moisture to convert the syrup to honey. If the syrup contains too much water, it is too thick and causes the bees to work harder. Honey is approximately 18% water, so the syrup must be reduced to less than 18% water. Bees also must fan their wings to remove excess water.

Pollen-rich nectar

The sweet, sticky substance honey bees eat is pollen. Pollen is a combination of natural sugars and protein that honey bees collect from flowers. These nectars are then combined with pollen from other plants to make beebread. Workers then distribute pollen to many different plants. Some of the most important sources of pollen include squash, sunflowers, almonds, clover, and a variety of other plants.

Beekeepers who do not have access to pollen-rich nectar should consider providing a pre-formulated winter patties. This is not the same as pollen, which is rich in carbohydrates. The winter patties also contain small amounts of protein and fat. Initially, it’s recommended to place two winter patties above clustered bees and gradually add more as needed.

Nutrient-rich nectar

Honey bees generally eat a diet of sugar-rich nectar. Nectar varies in sugar content from 5% to 75%, with most varieties being between 25 and 40% sugar. Bees use their proboscis to drink nectar from flowers. In winter, they substitute nectar with honeydew, a sticky sugary substance secreted by scale insects and aphids that feed on plant sap. Though the honeydew is a tasty substitute for nectar, it does not have the same nutritional value.

Honey bees eat three sources of food: nectar, pollen, and water. Their primary food source is nectar, which supplies them with carbohydrate for flight and warmth in the colony. Pollen contains essential micronutrients, such as trace elements, vitamins, and minerals. Pollen also provides honey bees with energy to perform their daily activities.