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Reasons For Feeding Bees

Winter apiary.jfif

In a year of good nectar flow, feeding bees may be unnecessary.  In a poor nectar year, such as 2020, feeding will be essential to ensure that a colony survives. Feeding sugar syrup in early September supplements the bees' store of honey over the autumn and winter periods.  In addition, some beekeepers feed fondant in the winter, as well as protein and pollen patty supplements for nutrition.  Leaving the bees with a Super of their own honey where possible is considered the best option.

Spring feeding in March or early April can stimulate the queen to lay faster, improving the workers' performance on early flowers such as oil seed rape.

Emergency feeding may be necessary from time to time e.g. in the June Gap and prolonged bad weather. Nucs and Swarms will require feeding umtil built up.

Honey vs Sugar Syrup.png

Excellent article below:

Making sugar syrup.jfif

Sugar Syrup Recipes (white granulated)

Autumn: 2:1 strength, 2kg of sugar to 1kg of hot water

Spring: 1:1 strength, 2kg of sugar to 2 kg of hot water

Mix the sugar and hot water in a large pot on the hob, stirring well until the sugar is dissolved. The water does not need to boil. Allow to cool before use, although the mixture can used when still warm. For convenience pour syrup into a 3 litre, clean milk bottle or use a large lidded bucket for bulk mixture.

Pouring syrup.jpg


Fondant bag.jpg

Foundant  can be placed directly on the top bars or over the crown-board hole for easy access by the bees and is used in December in the U.K.

Fondant Recipe

4 parts white granulated sugar to 1 part water + 1 teaspoon white vinegar.

  • Bring to a gentle boil with lid on for 5 minutes

  • Check temperature, continue to heat until reaching 112 C

  • Remove from heat and cool to 93 C

  • Whip with a mixer until misture turns white and creamy

  • Poor into a shallow setting pan to cool

Fondant on top bars.webp

Protein and Pollen Patties

Protein patty.jfif
  • Patty: pollen-rich feed intended for autumn to create strong winter bees

  • Power: a liquid nutritional supplement packed with essential amino acids for use in spring to promote colony growth and when producing splits and Nucs

  • Nutri: Protein-rich feed that can be used at any time of the year to create strong winter bees

  • Gold: For colonies weakened by dysentry or similar conditions

Pollen patty.jfif

Bees in Winter

It is not recommended that a hive is opened during the winter, unless the weather is sunny and mild and the air is still.

Insulating a hive with cork frame shins, a quilt box, a roof blanket and roof insulation or a home-made 'hive-cosy can all contribute to keeping the cluster a little warmer.  The workers need to be able to reach fondant or patties in order to feed if needed or have enough energy to reach there own stores.

Hefting the hive before and after autumn feeding and at times through the winter will give a sense of the weight of stores.

Quilt box.jfif


25lb of sugar.webp
  • Feed in the evening to reduce robbing

  • Do not feed syrup with supers on, else bees will store syrup instead

  • Make sure a lid is on the feeder to avoid drowning bees

  • About 18kg of honey or sugar syrup are needed for the winter. 1kg sugar creates 1.25kg of stores.

  • Reduce hive entrance when feeding

  • Aim to complete winter-feeding by mid September so that is is warm enough for the bees to take the feed down

  • Wipe mold out or wash between re-fills

Mold in feeder.jfif

Types Of Feeder

Rapid Feeder

These feeders comprise of a tray which is placed over the hive to which bees have access from below by means of a hole or slot arranged to stop them drowning. Versions known as Miller or Ashforth are made to the same dimensions of the hive and are placed directly on top of the brood frames. They can feed up to about 10L at a time. Rapid feeders are ideal for feeding bees in Spring till Autumn but are of no use in cold conditions. When filling rapid feeders trickle a small quantity of the syrup down the side of the hole or slot to create a trail for bees to follow. Holds about 2 litres. Place inside an empty super, above the feed hole in the crown board. Make sure the cup and lid are fitted correctly, or bees may climb in and drown. Difficult to clean by hand, best cleaned in a dishwasher.


Contact Feeders

This is a plastic bucket with a lid fitted with a gauze centre section. The bucket is filled with sugar syrup and then inverted over an empty container to catch the small amount of syrup that will pass through the gauze before atmospheric pressure in the bucket drops thus holding the syrup in the feeder. It is then placed on the hive with the gauze patch over the crown board feeder hole. An empty brood box or super will be needed to support the hive roof. Contact feeders are generally more accessible to bees in cool weather conditions so are more effective for emergency feeding and Spring feeding. Various sizes from 1 litre to 5 litres. Useful for slow feeding in spring to stimulate the colony. Turn the full feeder over the bucket of syrup and let syrup drip through the mesh in the lid into the bucket, until vacuum stops the syrup dripping. Place the inverted feeder over the feed hole in the crown board, inside an empty super or brood box. The bees collect the syrup through the mesh. Contact feeders can also be made from plastic ice cream containers, with small holes drilled in the lid. I used these for many years. Well recommended.

Frame Feeder

Holds 2 to 2 ½ litres of syrup.
Useful for building up nucs and swarms. They can double up as a dummy board. Nuc hives can be moved to another site with a frame feeder in place.
Shake the feeder before you fill it, to make sure the wooden float is not stuck down with propolis. Check that the float rises to the top of the syrup. Some plastic frame feeders have smooth inside surfaces, which the bees may not be able to climb, causing them to die inside the feeder. Roughen the surfaces with sandpaper before using. Fill carefully to avoid spilling syrup.

Miller Tray Feeder

Holds 10 to 12 litres. Ideal for September feeding. Expensive. Two feeders full should be plenty for the winter. The hive must be on a level hive stand (Check with a spirit level when setting up the stands) or bees may drown in a pool of syrup. If in doubt, put a handful of grass in the feeder, to act as a life raft. Make sure the feeder has no leaking joints, before using.

Remove crown board. Shake any bees into the hive. Place feeder on top of the brood box. Fill with syrup and fit crown board, with feed holes sealed, to prevent bees entering the feeder from under the roof. Remove feeder when feeding is completed. Clean thoroughly and check joints are OK, before storing for winter.

Ashforth Tray Feeder

Similar to Miller feeder, but easier to make. See picture. The mesh cover must not have any gaps, or bees will climb into the syrup and drown. A Miller or Ashforth feeder can also be used for cleaning out wet cappings after honey extracting.

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