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Feeding

All things being equal, I prefer to leave the beehives alone. If a beehive is having problems collecting enough nectar and/or pollen to survive on, it is possible that you have a genetics situation where these bees will simply not thrive except under the best of conditions. Mother Nature would weed these bees out and I am not in favor of working against Mother Nature.

Regardless, I do believe that a beekeeper should feed his bees under certain circumstances. A big reason to feed the bees is when you are dealing with a young hive. In this situation, I have effectively forced a ‘small swarm’ into a location of my choosing. To help them get started, I will often feed them until they either stop taking the feed (it will eventually go bad, so might as well toss it) or they have finished drawing out the top Deep with comb.

If we have a tough Spring and a hot and dry July to September (the latter seems to be the norm these days), I will definitely feed until my top deep is full of capped honey. I prefer this to be nectar-based honey, as I believe this is better food then sugar syrup-based honey (for the bees.) In my limited experience, hives that have nectar-based honey over the Winter do much better then those who have a top Deep full of sugar-based honey (they seem to build up better.)

Below are some syrup mixtures that work during different times of the year.

1:2    this formula is a very light syrup, it is made using one part of sugar to two parts of water.  For example, 1 cup sugar to 2 cups of water.  It is used in late winter and early spring to stimulate the queen to lay eggs.

1:1    this formula is a medium weight syrup, it is made using one part of sugar to one part of water.  For example, 1 cup of sugar to 1 cup of water.  It is used as an artificial nectar to feed brood larvae in spring and summer or to get the bees to draw comb. My typical mix here is to put 10 lbs of sugar into 1 gallon of hot water.

2:1     this formula is a very heavy syrup, it is made using two parts of sugar to one part of water.  For example, 2 cups of sugar to 1 cup of water.  It is used in fall or early winter as a honey substitute to feed your bees.

A good rule of thumb is to use the old saying that ‘a pint is a pound the world around’. So, 5 pints of water mixed with 5 lbs. of sugar gives you a 1:1 mixture.

Mixing is fairly easy, except in possibly the thickest (2:1) mixtures. You just have to turn the kitchen faucet ‘Hot’ on and let it get really hot. Measure and pour the hot water into your bowl/pan. Add the sugar and stir well. Let it sit for at least 6 hours (I let it sit overnight). Everything will dissolve and you’ll be good to go. There is absolutely no need to heat the syrup or otherwise risk caramelizing it.

Fondant

Fondant is a sugar mixture that many folks recommend for Winter feeding. Although there are lots of recipes out there, this is the one that beekeepers seem to  use:

15 lbs of granulated cane sugar
3 lbs white corn syrup or glucose (do NOT use Karo syrup)
4 cups of water

heat to 242 degrees
remove from heat and stir until the temperature is 181 degrees

Pollen

Pollen supplement should be fed during pollen dearths.  Appropriate times are prior to honey flows and in fall while the last rounds of brood are being raised.. The absolute best time is towards the end of Summer, to get the bees in a mode of prepping for Winter. The second best time is just prior to the Spring flow, to get them up and going for the coming nectar. Pollen equals brood rearing.

Sugar syrup can be made in three different formulas, each has its own special purpose and
is used at a specific time of the year. 

1:2    this formula is a very light syrup, it is made using one part of sugar to two parts of
water.  For example, 1 cup sugar to 2 cups of water.  It is used in late winter and early
spring to stimulate the queen to lay eggs.

1:1    this formula is a medium weight syrup, it is made using one part of sugar to one part
of water.  For example, 1 cup of sugar to 1 cup of water.  It is used as an artificial nectar
to feed brood larvae in spring and summer or to get the bees to draw comb.

2:1     this formula is a very heavy syrup, it is made using two parts of sugar to one part of
water.  For example, 2 cups of sugar to 1 cup of water.  It is used in fall or early winter as
a honey substitute to feed your bees.

 

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