Sugar water (often known as “sugar syrup”) is often given to their colonies when honey stores run low; when nectar and pollen supplies are limited during early spring or extreme weather events.
Beekeepers can make sugar syrup quickly by heating water and mixing in sugar. Once mixed, beekeepers can feed it to their hives via a “frame feeder”, which looks similar to an entire Langstroth frame but sits inside their hive instead.
If you have extra honey stored up (ideally from clean comb or sugar syrup), use it as food for your bees instead of commercial honey since the latter carries greater risk for disease and contamination in hives.
In spring, you can offer pollen patties as a high-protein feed substitute to encourage brood rearing and help your colony put on weight for winter.
Fall and winter beekeeping requires feeding bees a 1:1 mixture of sugar and water to mimic natural nectar’s sweet taste, helping maintain their hive when there are few flowers around. Some beekeepers add food additives like Honey B Healthy or Pro Health which contain spearmint and lemongrass essential oils thought to stimulate feeding and boost brood production.
Many people mistakenly believe that providing some sugar water will benefit bees. Unfortunately, however, even small amounts of artificial food sources like sugar water will actually harm bees by replacing natural sources with which they could have stored energy reserves for themselves.
Granulated white sugar dissolved in water can act as a suitable replacement to natural plant nectar in terms of nutritional content, making an appropriate option when natural food sources are unavailable.
At all times, use an equal ratio of sugar and water in your syrup mixture, and heat just enough to dissolve any crystallized sugar crystals. Do not bring it up to a boil as doing so could vaporise some of the water out and alter its ratio.
The most effective method for feeding bees with syrup is in an upside down jar or pail with a perforated lid (think index card on glass of water). Punch 6-8 small holes through this lid using nail or any sharp object so bees can access their nectar through their proboscisses and drink.
Bees depend on pollen for protein and, without enough of it, can become disoriented, less efficient and less successful than before. As a beekeeper, it is your duty to monitor your hive’s status and, if necessary, provide extra food sources as needed.
Sugar syrup can provide an easy solution when the weather doesn’t cooperate and flowers are scarce. When used this way, bees can access it without leaving their hive – via an entrance feeder, otherwise known as division board feeder or frame feeder, that sits over their lower entrance with a container designed for bees to feed from and containing jars filled with sugar syrup – without having to exit their home hive to access their nourishment source.
Use dry pollen substitute or create your own pollen patties as an early spring protein source, providing colonies with essential protein for brood season and bulk stores for winter.
Honey bees can only consume so much honey before switching over to sugar water, with the ratio usually being one part sugar to one part water. You can make your own by either boiling sugar and water together or heating until crystals dissolve – but beware overheating as this may caramelise and become partially indigestible!
Some beekeepers add essential oils like spearmint and lemongrass for an additional stimulant effect, available online stores such as Honey B Healthy which contains essential oils designed to stimulate feeding while also soothing bees.
Note, though, that an exhausted bee clinging to a flower may not require your intervention – they could just be resting or even dead – but always pick such bees up carefully with caution; shaking her may only serve to disturb their flight path further or worsen its condition – better to pick them up with care rather than trying to revive them by shaking or rubbing her wings!