Feeding Bees Sugar Water-A Complete Guide
When honey bees are not able to collect enough food through natural sources, beekeepers need to help. The most common way to help a hungry colony is by feeding bees sugar water. While sugar water or sugar syrup is not exactly the same as plant nectar, it will keep a colony alive. However, supplemental feeding is not without its challenges. Failure to do it right may create more problems for your hives than the ones they are already facing.
How to Feed Honey Bees Sugar Water
If you see someone pushing a cart full of sugar through the market, that person might be a beekeeper. We beekeepers do get some funny looks when shopping for so much cane sugar.
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Yet, each year thousands of beekeepers invest the time and money making supplement food for their colonies. It can be expensive and it surely a sticky job.
So why do we beekeepers go to all this effort? There must be a good reason, right? Are beekeepers nuts? Well, yea – sometimes, but not in this case.
Should You Feed Your Bees Sugar Water – The Debate
Yes, most beekeepers do use supplemental feeding at times. However, the beekeeping industry varies on opinions about whether or not feeding bees sugar water is wise.
The topic is debated from one club meeting to the next and from one region to another. You have to decide what is best for your hives. Our supplemental feeding does not take the place of natural foraging.
The absolute best food for our colonies is plant nectar and pollen. Natural nectar has an abundance of nutrients that can not be replaced with plain sugar and water.
But, sometimes a colony is low on food stores through no fault of the bees. This could be due to a new colony just building their home, swarms starting from scratch or even weather conditions.
Faced with the fact of letting a colony starve or feeding them, most beekeepers choose to feed the hives.
However, the concept of feeding honey bees often creates a division among beekeepers. Be prepared to hear some of this discussion.
Some beekeepers feel that you should never feed your hives, period. Other beekeepers accept the need to feed their hives when conditions warrant. No matter what you choose, be prepared to have some well-meaning beekeepers tell you that you are wrong!
What is Sugar Water & How You Make It?
What exactly is sugar water and why should we use that for bee food? The most common recipe for bee feeding involves mixing white granulated cane sugar and water.
Granulated sugar dissolved into water, mimics natural plant nectar. While it is not exactly the same nutritionally, it is very similar in sweetness. And, honey bees are accustomed to collecting liquid food.
When making sugar water for your bees, it is important to only use white sugar. Never use molasses or brown sugar as this will make your colonies sick – or dead.
Many beekeepers use a feeding supplement added to the feeder. This is usually in liquid form and encourages good feeding. It also prevents your syrup from becoming moldy.
Other than the products available commercially, there are homemade recipes for using essential oils to feed bees. This is thought to promote better bee health too. Be cautious, these products are concentrated- add only a small amount.
There are 2 basic recipes for bee sugar water commonly used by beekeepers. We are mixing a percentage of water to a percentage of dry granulated sugar. You can measure by weight or volume it does not matter.
How to Make 1 Gallon of Sugar Water
Mix equal amounts of granulated sugar and water to create 1:1 sugar water. You can measure with cups or use weight as the unit of measure. It does not matter because either method of measuring will result in a 1:1 sugar : water syrup.
1 Gallon of 1:1 Sugar Water
- 10 2/3 cups of granulated sugar
- 10 2/3 cups of warm water
Do not stress over exact measurements. Even in the field, nectar sources vary a bit in sweetness.
2:1 Sugar Water Recipe
A 2:1 ratio contains twice as much sugar as water. For example, 8 cups of sugar to 4 cups of water.
When using this mixture, use very warm water to dissolve the sugar easier. However, do not boil your bee syrup, this is not good and it is not necessary.
Feeding Bees By the Season
Why are these 2 different ratios used in feeding bees? I’m glad you asked. While both bee syrup recipes provide carbohydrates, feeding them has different results on the colony.
Feeding Bee Colonies in Spring or for Buildup
Spring is a time of growth as over-wintered colonies are busy raising brood. New hives that are started from buying packages are struggling to get their colony established.
Feeding honey bees a 1:1 ratio, promotes brood rearing. This thin mixture is closest to the sweetness of most natural nectars.
With “new nectar” being placed in the comb, the bees are not afraid of starvation and are more likely to ramp up brood rearing.
This same method of feeding 1:1 applies to any time throughout the season when you have a colony in need of food. Perhaps a new split hive could benefit from some supplemental feeding.
Feeding Bees in the Fall
It is not uncommon to find colonies that are not quite ready for Winter. These colonies run the risk of starvation without supplemental feeding.
The ratio of 2:1 is fed to honey bees to promote food storage. This mix is not as likely to encourage brood rearing and more likely to end up stored in comb for Winter.
Of course, this will not be real honey but the colony will store it as such. It is much better to feed your colony rather than have them starve in the middle of Winter. Fall feeding should be completed before cold weather arrives.
When Should I Start Feeding Bees Sugar Water?
You should not have to feed every colony all season. If this is happening, something is wrong. There are two situations where a beekeeper may consider providing supplemental food.
- a new colony starting from scratch
- established hives with insufficient food stores
If you purchase bees in a package, they arrive on the scene with no resources. They have no drawn beeswax comb, food stores, or brood. Begin feeding a new colony 1:1 immediately and continue until all of their comb is drawn out.
Because they begin with nothing, understanding how to feed a new package is critical to their growth. This can not wait several days.
Problems with your queen honey bee, a late freeze that causes a nectar dearth and other issues can make hive buildup very difficult for new colonies.
Even established colonies may benefit from supplemental feeding at times. Weeks without rain that create a lack of food can cause a temporary decline in any hive.
Offering these colonies a helping hand can be the difference between a strong colony going into Winter or a weak one that is dead before Christmas.
Best Bee Feeders for Sugar Water
There are many different types of honey bee feeders available. Each type of feeding method has advantages and disadvantages. These are the most common feeders.
- boardman feeders
- mason jar feeders
- hive top feeders
- frame feeders
- pail feeders
- open feeding
Boardman Feeder (Entrance Feeder)
The boardman feeder is the most popular type that appears in most beekeeping kits. It is used with a regular glass jar and fits into the front hive entrance. A beekeeper can easily see when to refill. The jars are easy to replace and clean.
But, this type of feeder does have its problems. A hungry colony can drain this in a couple of hours -are you available to refill it several times a day?
An even bigger issue, food hanging on the front of the hive can encourage robbing behavior. If you want to use a boardman feeder, it is best to place it inside the hive – with an extra box to enclose the feeder.
- easy to refill
- clear container shows when its empty
- smell will attract wasps and other insects
- may increase chances or robbing
- does not hold much syrup
Mason Jar Feeder
It is really easy to make a mason jar bee feeder, because almost everyone has an extra glass jar around. This is basically the same as the boardman without the fancy wooden holder.
Some beekeepers use a temporary hive top with a 1″ – 2″ hole in the top. The upside-down jar is placed over the hole. Weigh down the jar with a brick or strap.
We do not want the wind or a raccoon to push the jar over. Of course, you can also use an empty deep box (with a top) to enclose jars inside the hive. You can even order special plastic tops that don’t rust and are dishwasher safe!
One easy way to use jar feeders is to purchase or make 4 jars feeders. Place all 4 inside the hive – sitting on the inner cover and elevated just a bit.
Use an extra deep hive box or brood box to enclose the jars and then put the top back on the hive. This allows the bees to have access to a gallon of food inside the hive.
Hive Top Feeders
Hive top feeders sit on top of the hive under the telescoping top. They may be made of wood or plastic. This feeder will hold around 1-2 gallons of bee syrup and will feed the colony for several days.
- easy to fill without disturbing colony
- holds a lot of food
- they have a tendency to leak over time
- they are heavy when filled
- care must be taken to avoid spilling syrup around the hive
- if the lid does not fit tight – a robbing frenzy may result
A frame feeder takes the place of one frame in the hive body. If the hive normally holds 10 regular frames, you will use 9 regular frames and 1 feeder frame.
Having the same dimensions as a frame of honey comb, this frame has 2 solid walls with an open cavity to hold sugar water.
- holds up to 1 gallon of syrup (or more)
- located inside the hive close to the cluster
- good option in cool weather because bees can access the food easily
- beekeeper has to open the hive to refill
- some bees will drown in the feeders
- they may leak over time
If you choose to use frame feeders, put some type of floating material inside the compartment to reduce drowning. I have used small sticks or wooden Popsicle sticks.
The pail feeder is one of the most popular ways to feed colonies. A small plastic pail with a mesh feeder hole holds 1 gallon of sugar syrup.
To use, fill the bucket with your sugar water and close the lid tightly. When you turn the bucket upside down, some syrup will escape until a vacuum forms. (It’s a good idea to have a bowl or something handy to catch this extra syrup).
Place the upside down bucket directly on top of the frames or over the hold in the inner cover. Bees will feed from the mesh feeder hole in the bucket ( or small holes drilled by the manufacturer).
Like the boardman feeders, pail feeders require extra equipment. An empty hive body around the pail allows the hive to be closed.
If you choose, you can use a temporary hive top with a small hole drilled in the center. Place your upturned pail over the hole. A brick or rock on top of the bucket will prevent wind damage.
- lightweight and easy to handle
- holds at least 1 gallon of food
- can be inside the hive – accessible to bees in all weather
- easy to refill without disturbing colony very much
- requires extra equipment
- mesh hole may be filled with propolis if you let it become empty
- a small amount of liquid is wasted when first inverted
Open Feeding in the Bee Yard
Some beekeepers enjoy providing food in an open container. Commercial beekeepers often use this method because is it easy to feed a lot of colonies at once.
This method for feeding bees has some merits but it is also risky. It is not economical because you end up feeding every bee, wasp and yellow jacket in the area. Some bee death also results from fighting at the feeder or drowning.
If you do plan to try open feeding, ensure that the feeders are well away from your hives. A distance of at least 60-100 feet is best.
- easy to do – not filling individual feeders
- no feeders to clean
- no special equipment needed
- provides a lot of bee syrup
- not an economical way to feed
- bees will drown in the container
- bees can’t access food in bad weather
- can cause robbing if used near the hives
Open feeding can be worthwhile in certain situations. I use it as an indicator of natural forage. If the bees are getting a lot of natural nectar, they will ignore the open feeder.
If they attack the feeder in mass, they are not finding a lot of food in the field. Then, I know it may be time to consider feeding internally.
One easy method to practice open feeding is to make a bucket feeder. At least in this case, there is no drowning to worry about.
Does Feeding Bees Make Them Lazy?
Feeding bees does not make them lazy. In fact, honey bees prefer natural nectar when good sources are available. Some bee hives will need to be fed and some may never need it – depending on local conditions.
When to Stop Feeding Bees with Sugar Water
Feed new colonies, or captured swarms, until they are established and have some food stores. Check your hives in mid to late Summer, are the bees filling the box with brood and food?
The biggest mistake made by new beekeepers is failing to feed a new colony long enough. This is why I devote so much energy in my Online Beekeeping Class, outlining the importance of proper feeding of new hives.
Established colonies can usually survive on their own unless you are in a drought. If you know that your hive has enough food stored for Winter-you don’t need to feed.
One of the best secrets to successful Fall feeding. is to get out there and get it done in late summer before the weather cools.
When You Should Not Feed Bees Sugar Water
Yes, there will be times when you should not be feeding bees syrup. These include times of cold weather, when your honey collection supers are on and a few other situations.
Remember, never feed bees when honey collection supers are on the hive. I am referring to boxes of honey that are intended for human consumption. When you add a honey super to your hive for yourself – feeders should come off.
The bees will use any nectar (or nectar-like substance) to make honey. Honey produced from sugar water instead of nectar – that’s a no no. And, its not real honey.
Feeding bees is a lot of work and expense. How much you need to feed will depend on your climate and foraging conditions.
Too little food during Spring build up causes the bees to sacrifice brood or developing young bees. Poor foraging conditions in the Fall prevents storage of food for Winter survival.
Especially when keeping many hives in one location, remember that we can not always rely on natural nectar. This is another example of why it is important to connect with local beekeepers – they will know the key times when you may need to consider feeding your bees.
Thanks very informative always wondered when to stop feeding .. Old hive had swarm queen cells– I split/ two bottom deeps with queen excluder on top added two mediums w/ another queen excluder and another two shallow w/drawn frames.
lower frame had brood and bees and honey from original hive. whats your opinion and what should expect. Thanks Santo used total 6 two/two /two
Why does feeding sugar water to a colony make the honey unsuitable for human consumption?
Its important to match the size of your hive (space inside) to the population of the colony. Unless you have alot of bees that sounds like alot of space for them to protect. After splitting a hive, always check in a couple of weeks to see if you have a laying queen in each part.
Feeding sugar water while your honey collection supers are on will result in bees making sugar water honey. Real honey contains enzymes and all kinds of neat things left over from the harvested plant nectar. Sugar water is as close to honey as we can get for the bees but it is not really honey. Feed bees when you need to but not when the supers are on for your harvest.
We have a new hive (local cut out) that is trying to produce a queen. They are eating a quart of 1:1 sugar water in less than 24 hours. The other two hives (Italian, with queens) are not eating their water that fast. Could the new hive be getting robbed even though there is still clover and they sugar water available to the other bees?
They could be, do you see fight and wrestling at the front? Also, since their hive life has been disrupted by the cut out and move, they may not be taking advantage of the local nectar as well as the others. I would make sure the entrance of the cut out hive is reduced some to help them protect against robbers.
We had our colony collaspe. I am having to give sugar water. The bees are going through a quart jar in two hours, should I be giving more.
Sandra, Usually when we say that a colony has collapsed it means it is dead. So I’m thinking that you have a weak colony or one that is low on food. What do to depends on where you live. It is 27 degrees at 3 PM in my area right now. But in general – when I am feeding bees that need fed, I would need more than a quart. Maybe use 2 or even 3 quarts at a time.
I’m getting my very first package this weekend. I plan on using 1 gallon baggie feeders. My only concern is not being able to open the hive for the first 5-7 days. I’m not sure if 1-2 bags will last until I can open and check on the hive.
I used to use gallon baggies and liked them quite well. But you are right, they are a pain if you need to do inspections. You must be using a shim? If you lay the bags on the top bars you need a shim to hold the inner cover off the bag. IF you are putting them on the inner cover, you need a shim to hold the top off the bag. A bag or two would be fine for 5 days and if you put them on the inner cover you might be able to carefully move it (and them) in a few days if you need to.
I am a newbie with a tbh and my bees are a new package (1 mo). I live in N TX and they are still going through a quart every 2 days. I’m told when they lose interest to stop, but they are not losing interest even though they are drawing comb like gang busters! I don’t know if I should drop down, stop and see or continue. I’m not concerned with human consumption, just keeping them fat and happy until something changes. They are great foragers and there is a lot of pollen comb. Should I continue for now?
I would continue. A tbh is a bit different – I dont know how much you need for Winter in your area. But since this is a new package of bees, I would not be quick to remove the feeder, especially since everything seems to be going so well.
Hi charlotte and hi to all beekeepers.
I am a new beekeeper. From algeria (north africa).
I bought seven hives last year ( 2017) and i want to get good honey this year(2018) for human consomption.
This year ,the winter is long,it means , we are in june and still have rain and cold days.
The problem is that bees started Storting honey from nature, and the weather changes to cold,
So please, can i give them some sugar water just to est it not to store it? If yes, how much the ratio of sugar In water that must not be exceed juste to eat it. Know that i stopped feeding them.
Thkx so much.
Local conditions are important. You can feed the bees anytime that you do NOT have boxes on for human consumption.
i have 30 colonies apis cerana nd after several months it was turned to 40 by dividing but now only 29 volonies left what causes the bees to get awau from colonie
Many factors can cause problems. Lack of forage, problems with your queens, mites or other pests.
This is my first year for keeping bees. I live in rural North MO and discovered a colony in a tree not too far away from my home. I decided to set a swarm trap in the trees behind my house and attempt to catch a swarm instead of buying a nuc or package. I started feeding sugar water in my back yard with the idea that it would promote a rapid spring built-up in the bee tree and they would need to swarm out. They were taking 2 qts of 1:1 a day! It must have worked or they did so naturally, who knows, I caught a swarm in the trap on my first try and now I have a new hive. I successfully transferred them to a hive on the 18th of June. A local bee keeper told me I should now stop feeding and let them do their own thing. He believes that sugar water will sit in the cells and go bad unless it is treated. Because it was very cold through mid May and we have had very hot and dry conditions here for early summer I am still feeding them and added a protein patty to boot. I fear that since they have gotten a late start in the season they are at a disadvantage and might not be able to sufficiently build-up their numbers and stores before winter. I will feed them this way all summer if that’s what it takes for them to survive. Is it factually true that sugar water stored in the cells will go bad if it is not treated before feeding?
After I transferred them I put a qt jar of sugar water with punched lid upside down over the hole of the inner cover protected by a deep box and lid and left it there for about 4 days. I thought that maybe that was too long for it to be used without it going bad, so I change it out with a fresh jar. This afternoon when I checked on them I noticed crawlers in front of the hive. I counted a couple dozen of them. Have I made them sick from the sugar water or could the colony they came from have been sick in some way? They seem to be very lively, even a bit defensive. As a result of my own stupidity I have been stung by them twice already.
You can rest easy as your sugar water would not have caused any problems with your bees. In fact, once the bees take the sugar water in and begin the conversion process to honey, you have no worries about it spoiling. While honey made from sugar water will not contain all the essences and micronutrients of honey made from plant nectar, it will not spoil in the comb more than any other kind. If they were mine, I would continue to feed as much as they will take it because they have a lot of work to do before winter.
The crawlers you are seeing as most likely a result of mites (viruses) etc unless a few happened to get into a pesticide.
I think you are on the right track, listen to your gut. Good Luck
I have several bee hives in South Texas where it has been very hot and dry this summer. I have put the supers on but am concerned that they will still need to be fed. What is the concern with feeding with supers on. I don’t want them to die or leave. I do have a water source close to the hives
There is no reason to feed with honey supers on for you. It would not be real honey. Bees make honey from plant nectar. They will convert sugar water into a honey-like substance but it wont be real honey.
im a newbee being mentored by a local beekeeper and my hived swarmed up above the hive in a tree about 40ft in the air and came back to hive i was thinking of stop feeding them sugar water cuz i was going to add the super to it
is that going to upset them
Pete from Maine
Do they have enough comb built and honey filled for the Winter? Here in SC, I tell my students to feed their bees until that goal is accomplished. Your local forage will factor in of course but in my area, a swarm that is not fed doesnt have a good chance of being ready for Winter by October.
I just took some honey out of my hive, only 4 frames and left the rest to the bees. I hve heard that a strong hive sucvh as mone you can harvest in September. Can I feed my bees now and then harvest in September? I hae one small honey super on now…
How much honey you took is not as important as how much you left. In my area, I have no Summer/Fall flow. Local conditions where you live will determine 1)How much honey your bees need for Winter and 2) Will there be enough forage out there for them to get what they need. I dont take any honey until my bees have one full shallow for themselves. How much you need to leave will depend greatly on your location.
Hello, I live in Georgia and we have had a very wet summer. Can a lot of rain affect honey production? I have checked my hive and there are lots of bees, but no honey.
I am in a neighboring state, Ft. Bragg, Nc area. I enjoy reading your posts on bees. Very informative. Haven’t read all but working on it. I am a second yr bee keeper. My 1st year didnt work out so well. 3 packages and a swarm. They either died or absconded. Also the fact that my job was keeping me on the road 99 percent of the time didnt help either. Along with someone who was also a new bee keeper taking honey from them, the winter stores I’m guessing. But I was not discouraged,. I started over with 1 package and 2 nucs. And so far so good. As I was told when I got my nucs, be nice and give them a Christmas gift, a sugar patty also a valentines gift….lol. The winter stores will be left alone this time, being I am here permanently now. I am still feeding sugar water, 1 to 1 mix, in half gallon jars on boardman feeders. So my question is, should i stop feeding during winter mths, since the colony will downsize by kicking out the drones, and just keep an eye on their stores and feed them as needed or keep feeding as long as they are taking it.
Absolutely, my bees dont fly very much in the rain. Also, sometimes the rain will wash nectar out of the bloom. Do you subscribe to my newsletter? Would love to have you.
We want our bees to have enough honey stored for winter well before Winter arrives. Feeding in winter should only be an emergency or extra precaution plan. So, I suggest – decide how much honey (how many boxes etc) bees need in your area. Feed the bees until you have that amount of stores. Dont forget to manage mites.
I was wondering when you need the ventilation bottoms for your hives
I leave ventilated bottom on all year. If we have a really cold front in Winter. I slide the grid boards inside.
Is it OK to open feed 1/1 mix this time of year? With the Hurricane last week I am starting to notice some robbing . Most of the goldenrod that was blooming has been affected and bees are feeding very aggressively on my 5 gallon bucket feeders I started yesterday.
Sure its okay, and you may consider setting up several 2 gal (or 1 gal buckets) instead of just 1 . Spread the population around.
Hi. I started bee keeping this past April. I fed sugar water and all seems to be going great. I added a second deep body when they appeared to require it. I did not add a honey super as I wanted the bees to have enough honey for winter. I stopped feeding sugar water in late August. My question is when should I start feeding again. The bees and I live in North Central Texas.
Buddy, it is VERY climate dependent. Ideally, you would not have to feed an over-wintered hive that still has plenty of honey stored. If your bees have enough food to last until your “flow” starts – you dont have to feed unless you want to encourage them to build up brood. Of course, don’t feed once you add a box for you.
I have a robust hive of Carnolian bees entering its third Spring. They made it through a colder than normal Kansas City winter. This Spring I am going to be starting a 2nd hive right next to this first hive. I will be getting a 5 frame nuc of Minnesota hygienic Italians at the end of April or early May. With a new hive placed right next to a robust established hive any suggestions to minimize the chance of robbing?
Sure thing, start off with the entrance greatly reduced and keep it small until the smaller one builds up. Consider sharing brood and giving the nuc a few frames of capped brood from the other hive – that will equalize their strength.
Thank you for all the great information. I have only been on your e-mail list for a few weeks but have learned a lot. My bees for two hives arrive this Saturday. I think I have everything ready. I am so excited.
Thanks so much David! It is going to be a very exciting day! Make a plan, have the stuff you need gathered and have fun.
Hi Charlotte, Great website, thanks for sharing all your experience, especially with us newbees. Question: you mention to stop feeding sugar water when we put our supers on. We don’t plan on harvesting any honey this season since this is their first year, and we want to make sure they have enough to carry them through our cold montana winter. That being the case, is it still okay to keep feeding them after the supers are on? Thanks!
Yes, as long as you can in some way be sure to remember that they will not be REAL honey.
I use a top feed and installed my bees yesterday. I put around 1 Gallon into the feeder. Will that be enough for the first week. I don’t want to interrupt the collony.
I’m located in upstate SC
With a top feeder, refilling wont disturb the bees. They make drink it really fast or not if they are finding natural nectar. If they don’t take it or as slow to…. give them half as much next time and check every couple of days. When the natural nectar flow stops, they will be glad of it.
O I have soooo many questions. (Can you tell I’m a desperate newbie, LOL).
I just acquired my two packages of bees three weeks ago. One package of Italians and one package of Carniolans. I am having a few questions or maybe they’re problems. I am using frame feeders and have been feeding both hives sugar water. So far, they seem to be doing very good.
My Italians have made comb on 7 1/2 frames out of 10. I’ve not seen my queen as of yet but there are lots of larva. It looks to be about 3 1/2 to 4 frames of larva. I even saw a baby bee hatch out today. JOY! JOY! She was just sooo cute! Anyway my concern is that they seem to be building what I call “wonky comb”. Some of the comb is flush with the frame and in other areas they have attached the comb to the next frame connecting the two frames. In the last two weeks I have even found where comb was built on the screen of the baseboard and even a long one in the feeder. Is this normal? I have checked, rechecked, and triple checked that the hive is level and perpendicular on the top, bottom, and on all four sides.I have two frames that are completely “glued” together and can not remove one without tearing the comb all apart. I have removed the weird little shaped combs off the baseboards and anywhere else I might see them some place other than on the frames. I call them weird shaped because they look more like a paper wasp nest instead of honey comb and are very deep, some cells are up to an inch deep. I know they’re bee comb because they have had “sugar water honey” in them. I am getting ready to put another deep box on top but before I do that I am wondering if there is something that needs to be done to correct this behavior.
My Carniolans, on the other hand, has a completely different hazard. I think my queen is gone. After 7 days I checked to make sure she was out and going. I found her right off the bat on the middle frame and it looked like she had laid a few eggs. But last week when I popped the top to check my brood I found two queen cells already capped and one cell formed but no larva yet. I couldn’t find my queen so I think she’s gone. These cells are are located in the middle of the frame and not on the bottom. I am told that if cells are in the middle. the colony is replacing a queen and if on the bottom of frames, on the underside of the cover, or on the inner cover then they are wanting to swarm. I hope this is true. I have a swarm box close at hand just in case they decide to swarm. I have heard that Carniolans have the propensity to swarm and I have been keeping a close eye on them. Today when I checked to see how they were doing there were 4 cells. I pulled one cell and opened it up to see what was inside. I’m not an expert by no means, but it looked like a queen to me. The larva (pupa) was a lot bigger than the worker bees around it. My conundrum is this. Do I pull another queen cell out then let the other two queens fight it out when they emerge? Or do I need to pull them all and scurry around trying to find a queen? I can get a local queen but all they have around here are Italians and ferals. ( Apparently the locals are afraid to try anything else.) I have an Italian hive next to them so I figure sooner or later they will mix any way.
I’ve been just pushing the inner and outer covers over just enough to put feed in the frame feeders every three days and only actually taking the covers off once a week to see how the bees are doing. I,m trying not to bother them any more than I have to so they can work in somewhat peace. Since it takes 16 days for a queen to emerge, I am figuring these queens will be hatching in about 5 days or so. I do hope they’re queens and not laying workers.
As to feeding, I’ve got questions on that, too. I live in southeast Kansas and it has been raining almost daily for about six weeks so I know I’m going to have to feed for quite some time.We’ve been lucky that it has been raining mostly at night and during the day the temps have been between 7 and 85, so I know and have seen the bees out gathering nectar. Since I am about ready to add another super to the Italian brood box, do I still need to check the bottom box? If so won’t I lose some bees in the grass or heaven forbid my queen. (It’s much easier to see a queen in a still photo than it is when she’s scurrying around with the other bees,LOL)
Since this is my first year I am not planning on any harvest whatsoever. My plan is to hopefully have two deep and if possible a medium box going into winter so they will have enough storage that I won’t need to feed through the cold months. My luck I’ll freeze them if I have to feed this winter. I am planning on feeding lots of sugar water this year! If I need to check all boxes each week then this will change my whole set up that I have in mind. I thought initially I would only have to check all the boxes in the fall and next spring. I need help, suggestions,comments,mentoring, anything and everything.
I have a bushel basket of questions but I’ll not overwhelm you today with all of them. I am loving your site for all the info. I belong to a Bee Club but am finding that most of the members are like me … newbies. There are three members who have had bees for 2-3 years, two that have had bees for 10+ years, and the other 25+ members are like me – first timers. Therefore when I ask questions I get blank stares, answers that make no sense, or sighs of irritation that I’m asking questions again. I’ve asked the two most versed members if they would mentor me but they are so overwhelm with all the other newbies and taking care of their own hives that I have not gotten very much help there either. Of course I am trying new things that aren’t standard here – Carniolan bees, a flow hive, and a jar super.
Thanks for taking the time for me to bend your ear.
Oh my goodness, no way I can answer all of that here but I admire your enthusiasm. You are doing well to feed them. I remove any wacky comb before it gets too big. Colonies sometimes replace their queen after being moved – I’ve found it best to let them work it out for a few weeks before I bother them. Beetles can be a summer long problem here. Nothing works perfect – just keep on top of it. If you havent already, consider my beginners class – it will answer alot of newbie questions and help make sense of things. Best of Luck – have fun. https://carolinahoneybees.com/beekeeping-class-combo-deal/
As you live in a somewhat similar area as I, central NC, what is your opinion of the dearth period and will I be able to rely on my girls finding food in the fall as opposed to feeding them throughout?
Totally weather dependent. If my girls have a full honey super for themselves when I pull the Sourwood. I will monitor them and feed if needed in September (or before). Can depend on a Fall flow here.
I’ve got a couple of really strong hives. In hopes of not killing two hives with one stone, I’m going to take a stab at splitting one of them. Short of relocating the queen and a few frames of brood, is there anything else you recommend? Thanks for your assistance.
You will need to feed very well. Try to take a bit from each hive and watch to make sure everyone is about to adjust.
I enjoyed reading about bees. I have a lemon mint garden that comes back every year for a out 3 years. I was concerned about people not seeing honey bees so I made a point of leaving the garden undisturbed. It is outside my home office windows and I really enjoying watching as I work. They are busy ALL DAY. Lots of them. Don’t know where the hive is. I live in a wooded neighborhood with lots of natural area so probably an old tree. I put out a hummingbird feeder on my deck beside the garden. The the bees and hummers (only two every year) share the sugar water like good neighbors should. I have lots of deer w/babies, lots of birds, possum, raccoons, an occasional fox. Nature is so wonderful. My husband has health issues. Filling the feeders, and looking forward seeing them waiting for him to come everyday has helped his health.
That’s awesome. Sounds like a little oasis of life!
We look like we have starving bees but have had a top feeder with 1-1 syrup on top of the hive for 2 weeks now. It is a jumbo feeder with “two cups” for the bees to get access. The bees do not appear to have tried to drink this, it’s on a crown board above the brood chamber. We have other colonies with slightly different feeders who seem to have no issue accessing their supplies and are happily drinking the same homemade syrup. How can we coax the bees into the feeder?
Once in a great while, I run across a colony that just will not use the top feeder. Have you tried dribbling a little bit of sugar water down through the holes that the bees would enter? Sometimes that helps bees figure it out faster.
I have a Spring swarm hive that is failing. I decided it was queenless so i purchased a new one but I think they killed her. My neighbor had a small swarm on his fence in 100 degree heat so I captured them in a small nuc. I combined it with the failing nuc and a newspaper layer a few days ago. Is it safe to assume the swarm had a queen? I am giving them a few days to adjust before I tidy everything up and get rid of extra frames and check for a queen. This hive also had wax moths and we are fighting them too.
Wax Moths are a symptom of a problem. They cant take over a strong colony. With bees anything is possible. Most likely the swarm has a queen with them. You will have to check in a while and see how things worked out. Also, be sure to read my article on wax moths so you can understand why they become a problem.
Thank You I was thinking of starting up a colony in the spring.
That’s awesome. Now is a good time to start learning. Consider my online beekeeping class – on one of some kind – it will be a big help.
My name is kat and I have a question that needs some help if you don’t mind. I have a honey bee that comes on my back porch doesn’t go to my flowers but comes to my rug. The bee comes and goes but I have no clue what’s going on with the bee. I don’t know if it’s getting stuff from the rug far as water goes. I do have planets and yes when I water them the rug gets wet. If the bee does go to the flowers I never see it. But last year I was having the same issue but last year I didn’t have a rug. I want to help the bee but clueless on what to do. Some people have said get more flowers some say it might be tired some have said it might be getting neutrals or minerals from the rug and some say get a cap from a bottle and put water with rocks in it. The bee is welcome it doesn’t seem like it wants to harm me but I know not to make it mad or scared. As I write this I have a cap of water sitting on the rug but it hasn’t gone to it I m making sure everything is ok not gonna leave the cap out. I just want to help but I don’t know how or where to begin. Or don’t know if the bee needs help or not. Can you please help me to understand what to do? Cause I m so lost on everything far as helping the bee out. Thank you so much for reading this and taking the time out to help me
Hi Kat, I agree with others that their is something in that rug that is attracting her. She must like “rug scented” water. No, she is not likely to sting you as long as you don’t step on her. However, you dont want her to come back with 20 friends! 🙂 If it were me I would probably wash the rug well well and let it dry completely, find a way to water the plants without getting it wet. And, if you really want to… create another water source for the bee girls. They need a shallow safe drinking place.
Hi Charlotte, What is your opinion on Fructose 55? And where would you recommend buying large quantities of Sucrose syrup?
Large apiaries have to do things differently. I have no idea where you could buy sucrose syrup. I make my sugar water a few gallons at a time.
Hi i am getting 2 nucs. Should i start with two brood boxes?. I am in sw va. If so when to put the super on for their food for winter? July? An mite treatment?
No. Only use 1 brood box in the beginning until you have 7-8 frames out of 10 pulled out and in use.
Whens the best time to start feeding 2.1,im feeding them 1.1 at the moment and have just placed my second deep,i got the bees at the end of july,there doing well at the moment but want to ensure they make it through the winter 👍
When the colony has pulled most of the comb needed and the population is good – 2:1 promotes honey storage more so than growth.
Thanks for all the precious advice! I keep reading non stop all your articles.
I have a question about the sugar water : can I infuse the water with herbs such as sage and thyme before mixing it with the sugar? Wouldn’t that be better than using HE?
I have mixed feelings… most of the time I had rather only feed bees things that are as close to what they would collect as possible. The HBH has been tested by so many beekeepers that I feel comfortable with it when used in small amounts.
What are your thoughts on Hive Alive vs. Honey B Healthy? Is one “better” than the other? I am a first-year beekeeper. I caught two swarms at the end of May and have been feeding them since they started with bare frames. I have debated on adding a supplement to the sugar syrup (1:1) that I am currently feeding them and would appreciate your thoughts.
I have used it and think it is very good too.
Hi beekeeper Charlotte. Thank you for all this wonderful information. I have a question about how much to feed my bees during the day. It is late summer approaching fall and they definitely did not have enough flowers to draw from. I filled up a gallon feeder and they emptied it a little later than mid day from 6 o’clock in the morning. Should I fill it up again or is that enough for the day? It is about 500 feet away from their hive which is a top bar.
If they are not ready for Winter with lots of stored food, keep that feeder full. A strong colony has thousands of workers – you can’t feed them too much in a day. Also, with an outdoor feeder we are feeding other insects too but if you have them – you might put out more than one feeder and you did a good job keeping your bee feeder well away from the hive entrance!
I live on a tropical island – Guam. I have no bee hive on my property; however, I have placed a sugar water feeder outside for the bees that are in the area. I live in a typical housing area and not on a range and the property is not large.
I’ve been feeding the bees hundreds if not thousands for months, about a year or so. They would arrive a sunrise and leave a sunset. Everyday like clockwork.
Then we started attracting the Greater Banded Hornets. Wife and I were killing about 20 of these beasts every day. No idea where their nest is – no nests of any kind around my house.
This was going on for about 4 months and suddenly for the last 3 days no hornets – my guess is that someone must have eliminated the hornet nest, where ever it was.
That’s wonderful for us; but, suddenly I’ve noticed no bees at all at sunrise. They come by the hundreds in the early afternoon and they don’t stay until sunset but leave a few hours before. This has been going on for 2 days now.
Question: We don’t have seasons here (just rain or dry) – But, do bees have schedules? Do bees in the tropics follow some sort of seasonal patterns? Or do you think the hornets are playing a part some how? Perhaps the bees moved to a new home and are setting up house? I’m very curious.
My guess would be that although you don’t have hot/cold seasons – you do have foraging seasons. Sometimes there is more natural nectar around and the bees don’t need the extra food as bad. I know for myself, I see this happen here. If I place a feeder outside when other natural food is available – it is mostly ignored! Aren’t bees fascinating!
How often do you change the water for a frame feeder? I received a package of bees Thurs, today is Monday. Very small amount of sugar water gone. Small amount of bees built 2 frames of 1/3% of frame in that time. I’m in middle Georgia.
I don’t usually change it out unless its been in there 3 weeks or so. They may be getting enough nectar in the field right now. But I would continue to offer them some along because the field nectar will go away eventually and then the bees will be thankful for the syrup.
Hello Miss Charlotte I have two new hives (packages). My question is how long do I feed them sugar syrup? Is this something that you do all summer long? I want to make sure they are prepared for this coming winter. The hives are doing very well. I have added a second brood boxes and they are starting to fill up. I am not anticipating any honey supers this year? Thankyou for all of your help!
Check out my post on Feeding Package Bees Successfully.
I do have a question. I keep hummingbird feeders in my backyard and have for years. Recently in the afternoon I find the feeders are surrounded by bees. I’ve never had this happen before. A neighbor several streets over keeps beehives and I’m wondering if these belong to her hives. Is this sugar water which is a ratio of 4:1 Is ok for the bees? Also since the bees are around, the hummingbirds don’t seem to be interested in this feeder.
What should I do if anything? I want to help the bees but I’d like the hummingbirds to come back! Thanks.
Hi Mary, those bees are hungry. There must not be natural nectar sources in the area right now. If you know your neighbor, you might ask her if she is feeding her bees. Put in a nice way – she may not know they are that hungry. Unfortunately, beekeepers can not control where bees fly – but we do have a responsibility to try to maintain them. Likely, in a few weeks something will begin to bloom again and the bees will refocus.
I live in N. Central Arkansas. We have had 2/10 in of rain since May. Everything is dying if it is not watered. I try to water some plants, but I did not get much garden planted this year. I have some bees coming to my hummingbird feeders, and oriole feeder. Last night I found your web page. I am wondering how much and which strength I should feed theses bees. One of my neighbors said they try not to start feeding theirs till later in the fall, however they have a large garden. The quart hummingbird feeder I have has an open trough like a chicken waterer. I filled it 2/3 full last night with 2:1 nectar. This morning there is a mass of bees on the tray as well as on the jar and all over the ground below the feeder. My neighbor said they feed theirs in a shallow pan with corn cobs in it to reduce drowning. I have pulled a couple supplement tub lids and picked some gum balls to use instead of corn cobs. I have a batch of 1:1 nectar cooling.
Hi Mary, It has been dry here to and of so hot. Thankfully, I have not seen my bees on the hummingbird feeder – yet. One to one sugar water, just plain granular sugar is the best liquid. I am assuming you are just wanting to help the hungry bees and these are not your own beehives. If so, providing a little sugar water in a drown-free environment is okay. Just know that you may have a veritable “bee tornado” out there. What you are doing sounds okay – just place it well away from your home and feeder. Bucket feeders are another option but unless you are feeding bees from your hives – that can get expensive. https://carolinahoneybees.com/bucket-feeder-for-bees/
Why feed bees sugar water when there is no nutritional value to it?
Wouldn’t a patty be better? Or honey?
In my opinion, cane sugar water is closest to natural nectar. It does not take the place of real nectar but it is a carb source and will keep the bees alive. Honey (of their own) would be great but most beekeepers don’t have that and feeding honey from unknown sources is risky for disease. Also, the smell of honey in the bee yard being feed tends to make robbing worse. Patties can be very beneficial but carbs in that form do not encourage brood rearing as much as liquid feed. Natural nectar and real honey is always best. But, there are time when I feel like sugar water can be a boost. Each beekeeper must weigh the pros and cons and make a choice for his/her apiary.
Hi, I have left over bee syrup [sugar water] left from last year it was frozen in my shed all winter it has a few specs of mold on it ,can I reheat it an use it or use as is or throw it away and start with fresh
I would err on the side of caution and make fresh.