What To Feed Bees In Winter {Dos & Don’ts}

A thriving bee colony stores up plenty of honey to meet its winter needs, so in the best case scenario, your bees will not need extra food provided during the wintertime. Unfortunately, for the last few years weather conditions have been unpredictable and less than ideal around the globe. This situation often leaves bee colonies without sufficient stored food to get them through the winter. In this article, we provide sound advice on what to feed bees in winter. Read on to learn more.

How Much Food Do Bees Need In Winter?

how much food do bees need in winter

It’s important to understand that bees can starve during the winter even if they have enough food because food in the hive can become inaccessible to them. It’s essential that you inspect your hives regularly in winter to be sure that your bees can get to the food they have in storage throughout the wintertime.

The amount of stored honey a colony of bees needs during the wintertime depends a great deal on local weather conditions and the climate.

The type of bee and the number of bees in the hive also affects the amount of stored food that is needed.

It’s important to continue giving your bees supplemental food in the early spring time because sometimes bees can make it through the winter eating their stored honey and additional food provided by you and then die in the springtime, nonetheless.

When this happens, it’s because they’ve eaten most of their stored or provided food during the very coldest months and then starve during the in-between time when the stored food runs out but flowers have not yet started to produce nectar.

What Should You Feed Bees In The Wintertime?

what should you feed bees in the wintertime

Your bees will do best with their own honey provided as additional food during the autumn and in the wintertime. If you don’t have extra honey to give them, make them a simple sugar syrup using plain white table sugar. The syrup should be one part water and two parts sugar.

Of course, if your area experiences extremely low temperatures this syrup will freeze. In this case, you should use dry, granulated sugar, candy boards, sugar cake or fondant.

Remember that white sugar doesn’t contain any micronutrients, so you’ll need to include a feeding stimulant made with essential oils. This will give your bees some extra nutrients. Pro Health and Honey-B-Healthy are examples of commercial products that can be used for this purpose.

What Should You Avoid Feeding Bees In The Wintertime?

If your bees are to eat honey in the winter, it should be their own honey or honey from a close by and trusted source. Honey that comes from an unknown source may carry disease spores that could sicken or kill your bees.

You can feed your bees sugar, but it must not have any additives. For example, brown sugar is made with molasses, and some types of commercial sugar may include coloring or flavoring. None of these are acceptable for bee feeding and could cause honeybee dysentery.

Some beekeepers say that high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is an acceptable food for bees, but you should be aware that it can contain an ingredient called hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF). This toxic ingredient may be present in syrup that has been stored at a temperature that is too high. It also develops in old syrup.

Furthermore, HFCS is a dreadful, artificially made product that is very detrimental to human health. It is hard to imagine that it would be beneficial to bees.

Read also: When Should I Treat My Bees For Mites?

Will HFCS Negatively Impact The Quality Of Honey?

Keep in mind that feeding HFCS or sugar syrup is intended as a stopgap measure to prevent bees from starving during the wintertime. These products are not typically fed to bees in active honey production. For this reason, feeding HFCS should not negatively impact honey quality.

How Do You Provide Bees With Wintertime Food?

how do you provide bees with wintertime food

If you live in an area where the winters are very cold, you have several choices:

  1. Feed using a candy board.
  2. Feed using a mount camp rim.
  3. Fill a shallow super with sugar cakes.

In areas where the wintertime temperature inside the hive is higher than 50°F, you can use an internal liquid feeder. This will enable your bees to eat inside. Note that you may need to add mold inhibitor to the mix.

When Should You Provide Wintertime Feed For Bees?

If your hive seems hungry and feels light in the autumn, begin feeding sugar syrup as described above very early in the autumn. When the weather gets very cold and drops below 50°F, change to a cold-weather method.

It’s better to feed your bees a little bit in advance of winter than to let them get hungry. Proactive feeding can help prevent a number of problems.

Even if your bees have a good store of their own honey, it’s smart to also give them sugar cakes as insurance. This will allow them to eat sugar cakes and honey through the entire winter to stretch their supply of honey. Giving them access to both honey and sugar helps ensure that they get the nutrients they need.

How Do You Know Your Bees Are Getting Enough To Eat?

Wellness checks must continue throughout the winter. Whenever you have a sunny, dry day, you should check on your bees and make sure that they’re doing all right.

Be certain that clusters of bees have not become isolated from frames of honey. If you see that this the case, make adjustments to be certain that they can get to the food that they have.

Which Is Better, Beet Sugar Or Cane Sugar?

Either beet or cane sugar is perfectly acceptable for feeding bees. One caveat, though, is that sugar beets may have been genetically modified so as to be “Round-Up Ready.” If you want to stay away from GMOs, you may wish to seek out cane sugar.

How To Feed Bees In Winter & Fall

Nicky Ellis
Nicky has been an editor at Farm & Animals since 2019. Farm animals have been in her life from her earliest memories, and she learned to ride a horse when she was 5. She is a mom of three who spends all her free time with her family and friends, her mare Joy, or just sipping her favorite cup of tea.

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