Is Feeding My Bees Ever a Good Idea?

Beekeeping often feels like a never ending task that is often filled with copious amounts of trial and error. Beekeeping, like gardening and various forms of animal husbandry, often involves the receipt of conflicting information from both local and online “experts.”

Some of the best intended bits of advice and tips will be useful and shared by many seasoned keepers, especially when it comes to keeping your beehive alive during the winter.

marshmallows outside beehive entrance

Is feeding bees a good idea? Feeding bees can be good ONLY during the late fall through the very early spring, and only to prevent starvation (if they don’t have enough food stockpiled). While there are still plants growing and crops needing pollination, bee feeding should never occur.

Supplementing beehives with food during the winter is especially important during the first year of beekeeping.

Depending upon the time of year you purchased the bees and whether or not it was a “nuc” (an established colony), a new beehive will likely not have been able to generate and stockpile enough of their own honey to keep them alive during the winter.

Feeding honey to bees that is not from their own hive is a horrible and potentially deadly idea – that is something all beekeepers can agree upon when it comes to the practice of feeding bees.

American foulbrood disease sports from honey created in a different and unhealthy hive can afflict your healthy hive and kill all of the bees in a short matter of time.

Honey from a grocery store or even real raw honey from a local keeper can still contain compounds or spores that can negatively impact your honeybee colony.

When & How to Feed Your Bees

How Much Honey Does A Beehive Need To Survive The Winter?

Typically, a honey bee colony will require between 50 to 60 pounds of honey to prevent them from starving during the cold weather months. Checking the amount of honey in the hive to prepare to make a decision about feeding should occur during the early fall.

How Much Should I Feed My Bees?

Drones and worker bees should have 11 milligrams of dry sugar daily. One teaspoon of a bee syrup solution should offer enough nourishment for up to 225 honey bees for a single day.

On average, honey bees need to consume about 700 pounds of food per year. This means the beehive should have one deep honey super in addition to about four deep frames filled with honey in a first box level to be able to feed themselves during times of year when they cannot gather it outdoors on their own.

Can You Feed Bees Too Much?

Yes, definitely. If honey bees are fed either too much food, or have it offered to them too quickly, the colony members can get a false sense about how much nectar is readily available, and swarm.

Using an entrance reducer on the hive during times of year when you choose to feed the bees will help deter this behavior, as well as guard against unwanted little pests like mice and ants, from getting inside of the hive to steal the food and drop harmful bacteria.

Bees Love Sugar And Pollen

Like all other animals on the planet, honey bees require carbohydrates as a source of energy. The carbs are then converted to either fructose or glucose to generate energy. Glucose also becomes converted to body fat that is stored and used to sustain the bees when food sources are dwindling.

In the honey bee world, nectar is the primary source of carbs. The necart contains concentrated sugar. The total amount of nectar any particular bee colony requires depends on the number of members living inside the hive.

Bees garner lipids, protein, vitamins and minerals from pollen. Pollen also contains amino acids – which every animal on the planet also needs, as well.

Because honeybees use pollen as their only source of protein, having access to it year round in some form is also vital to their survival. An average-sized bee colony consumes 10 to 25 kilograms of pollen annually.

Beekeepers often combine nectar and pollen to make “bee bread” as a supplemental feed. You can also make a bee syrup or bee patty to use as a food source for the colony during the coldest months of the year. Yet another treat would be to simply place some marshmallows on top of the beehive or near the entrance.

If you are not crafty in the kitchen, commercially manufactured versions of these gourmet dishes for pollinators can also be purchased for a nominal price from apiary or agricultural supply stores.

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