What Do Beekeepers Feed Their Bees?

Bees require a varied and complex diet. This can be provided through honey and pollen that they collect, or through a sugar syrup, which can also include protein supplements, to encourage brood rearing.

Some beekeepers will feed their bees when their hive is short of honey or to assist in specific situations. These are often emergency reasons, but they may also be a necessary way to help a new colony get established.

1. Honey

Honey is a sweet, viscous liquid food that’s made by bees from the nectar of flowers. It is also the source of a number of vitamins, minerals, plant polysterols, enzymes and chemicals unique to flowers.

Bees collect and produce honey from the nectar of flowers during the spring and summer, storing it for later consumption. It is also the food for their larvae.

Some beekeepers feed their colonies sugar syrup when they have trouble getting enough nectar and pollen to sustain them through the winter. A 1:1 ratio of sugar to water is often used, but some beekeepers choose a 2:1 ratio for feeding.

It’s also common to feed bees sugar when they’re recovering from a disease, or to help them out when they’ve been forced to relocate due to a storm or other reason. Some beekeepers also offer sugar when they’ve just taken a swarm from another colony, or when they’re working with a nuc, which comes with a few frames of honey.

2. Syrup

Many beekeepers make a sweet syrup for their bees to supplement the honey in their hives. This is especially beneficial during winter when a colony is low on honey and may be starving for protein.

Most beekeepers use a 1:1 sugar water ratio when making this mixture. It’s easier for the bees to process sugar syrup with a higher concentration of sugar, and it can also help prevent the sugar from getting moldy.

Some beekeepers use a 2:1 ratio of sugar to water for a thicker syrup. This is typically used when food is scarce or if the weather is particularly cold and snowy.

Bees will drink the syrup by sucking it through tiny holes in the lid of a canning jar or other airtight container. For this reason, it’s important to punch 6-8 very small holes in the top of the jar or container. This allows the bees to easily access the syrup without falling into it and drowning.

3. Nuts

Beekeepers are always trying to come up with new ways to ensure their bees have a healthy diet. Often times, the answer is to feed them something they can’t find naturally.

Nuts are a great source of protein for bees, and they can provide nutrition for young larvae as well. However, it’s important to remember that they are not the sole source of protein for bees and that you can’t rely on them alone to fuel colony growth.

For this reason, many beekeepers use sugar water to keep their bees fed during the spring and summer. This liquid food is made by dissolving sugar in a small amount of water and feeding it to bees at a ratio of one part sugar to two parts water.

It is best to feed this mix in the early spring, before the nectar flow has started fully. This way, your bees will have adequate food to raise new brood and grow the hive after a long winter.

4. Other Solid Feeds

During the winter, beekeepers often use a sugar syrup to supplement their bees. The syrup is made by adding granulated sugar to lukewarm water in a ratio dependent on the season and shaking vigorously to dissolve.

There are several other solid feeds that beekeepers use, too. For example, they may use a candy board, fondant or sugar brick to attract and sustain their bees during the cold weather months.

The best part of these methods is that they require little or no preparation. Some of them can be as simple as placing a sheet of newspaper on top of the bees and pouring a few pounds of dry granulated sugar over it.

One of the more complicated ways to feed bees is by using a special entrance feeder. These come in many forms, but typically consist of a mason jar with holes punched into the lid that slides into the entrance of a bee hive.

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