Bee Feeding Part 1: When, Why and What To Feed Bees

​When, Why and What To Feed Bees

Are you wondering whether your bees have enough stores or are they getting enough nutrients to make it through the season? In certain situations, bees may need food to help the colony survive. If you are looking for ways on how to better take care of your bee’s health, here are some tips—when, why, what—for feeding bees.

We all know that bees need three things to survive. They need water, carbohydrates, and pollen. Carbohydrates come from honey, nectar, and pollen and will provide protein diet for the bees to feed the young larvae and to keep them nice and healthy.

When do you feed bees?

Ideally, bees should have plenty of honey stored and you would not need to feed them. However, there are times where there is a poor nectar flow and the bees might not be able to store enough honey or you have a newly installed hive which can take bees a few days or weeks to draw out comb and begin filling it with nectar and pollen. This can occur at any time of the year. But in general, honey bees benefit from feeding when:

When there’s a need for emergency feed -Beekeepers may need to aid their bees in feeding especially when there’s a limited supply of nectar. This will avoid the chances of the bees dying because of starvation.

When preparing for winter -Beekeepers should leave some honey in store for the bees to survive during the winter season. This will help the bees thrive in colder months when they cannot leave the hive or there’s no available nectar source.

When the bees are  coming out of winter -As nectar sources become abundant post-winter, bees will naturally grow their population. Beekeepers should aim to have their hives at peak capacity, just when the bees start to collect nectar. Beekeepers can simulate nectar flow through the use of sugar syrup, making the bees believe that it’s now time to build their numbers.

What do you feed the bees?

In feeding bees, generally, you have to feed one part sugar and one part water anytime you want to stimulate growth in a beehive. If you want a queen to lay eggs and grow and stimulate her to build a bigger beehive and to build more bees, then you're going to feed 1:1, one part sugar, one part water. If you want to feed bees to give them stores for winter, if they're a bit short on honey and they don't have enough stored in the frames to last them through the winter period, you may then want to feed them two parts sugar to one part of water to give them something that they can store away as nectar supplement, as a supplement for nectar. And then further down the track they can eat that up and use those stores over winter so your bees are still alive come spring.

But honey bees don’t live by nectar and honey alone. Another important supplement is pollen supplement. So when there's not enough pollen in the area for the bees to forage or it might be too cold, you can supplement the bees by using pollen patties. Just remove the top lid of your beehive box, place your pollen patty, lay it down on top of the frames and then place your lid on top. The whole idea is the bees can come up and get the supplement that they need, keep them going. And then this also is a like a protein powder supplement.

This will stimulate brood rearing as long as the queen and the bees have some nectar coming in. So you might want to use both a powder supplement feed and sugar syrup just to stimulate the beehive to build numbers prior to a honey flow.

If you want to learn more about the wonderful world of beekeeping, be sure to check out ourbeekeeping resources here.