The first time I heard about feeding bees I was dumbfounded. Why would we need to feed bees? I thought that they wouldn’t need to eat or that they’d make their own food, honey. Well was I wrong! After attending a couple of classes over keeping honeybees I found that it is important to feed the honeybees this way they are able to work in the most efficient way possible. Don’t get me wrong, there are many ways to feed bees but the most common is through sugar syrup.
You can determine if you need to feed your bees first by seeing how heavy the hive is. I make sure to feed the hive at least two or three times in the early spring to stimulate the queen and workers to start laying eggs and drawing out comb and in the late fall and early winter to help them stock up for winter. I will feed them during the winter depending on their weight of the hive. I personally don’t feed my bees during the summer months because they tend to have a strong honey and nectar flow so I don’t worry about them too much.
You can feed your bees any way that you would like but I feed mine with a one gallon frame feeder. This is simple and easy to know and remember measurements and recipes. The only drawback is drowning bees. I would recommend using the ladders that extend into the middle of the feeder or if you don’t have one of those, use pieces of bark. They work just as well. Before I get too excited and forget to tell you, the most important part of feeding the bees is how to make their food. Depending on the time of the year and how your hive is doing you can feed them a variety of different concentrations of the sugar syrup. When you are making the sugar syrup, you will only use water and sugar. I recommend that you use white granulated cane sugar if possible. Avoid honey, powdered sugar, brown sugar, and beet sugar. In the spring, I would recommend mixing up a 1:2 syrup. This is considered a light syrup and is used normally during the months of March, April, and May. You will use one cup sugar to two cups of water. This syrup stimulates the queen to lay eggs and helps the bees draw out more comb. This is not the only type of syrup though. The second type of syrup is used during the months of June, July, and August. This is a 1:1 syrup, which is considered the medium syrup. You will use one cup of sugar to one cup of water. This syrup is used as artificial nectar to feed brood larvae and to get the bees to draw out more combs. Make sure that you stop feeding them when you add the honey supers during this time or any other time you decide to add the honey supers. The last kind of syrup that you can make is a 2:1 syrup. This syrup is used during the months of September, October, and November and is considered a heavy syrup. You will use two cups of sugar to one cup of water. This is used as a honey substitute for the bees during the winter to get them to store more food for the winter so that you won’t have to make a candy board or fondant for the bees during the winter. When you are feeding make sure that you feed only until your brood chambers are full. You want to feed them from their weak point to the point of where they look healthy and strong. If you determine that your hives are not heavy enough you can feed the bees candy boards and fondant during the winter months. For the most part, I believe that these other times will be the few times that you will have to feed them. I definitely would watch to see if you will need to mix up food for the winter though.
When you are making the syrups, you will first want to make sure that you bring the water to a proper boil and then reduce the heat to low. From there you will add the proper amount of sugar to the water and stir it until it dissolves. Do not burn or cook the sugar. As long as you get all the sugar to dissolve from the bottom, you will be golden. Make sure you let the sugar syrup cool before you feed it to the bees.
Once you have let the syrups cool and transport the food out to your hives, I would open up you hives and take out a frame to insert your feeder. There are many different kinds of feeders but in this case, it is a gallon frame feeder. After you place the feeder into the hive, I would take the food that you have mixed up and slowly pour it into the feeder, careful not to slop it all over the place. The more you slop it around the more work the bees have to clean up. After you have filled the feeder you can close up the hive and let the little workers get back to their normal, busy lives.