Feeding bees in the fall
I started feeding sugar water
to our daughter
hive a week ago
because I figured they just weren't going to sock away enough honey
before weather cools to the point that the bees won't be able to
dehydrate nectar. My philosophy on feeding bees is well summed up
by the quote below, and by the website I snagged
it from, but
sometimes you've just gotta do what you've just gotta do.
best thing is never to feed them, but let them gather their own stores.
But if the season is a failure, as it is some years in most places,
then you must feed. The best time for that is just as soon as you know
they will need feeding for winter; say in August or September. October
does very well, however, and even if you haven't fed until December,
better feed then than to let the bees starve."
--- C.C. Miller, A Thousand
Answers to Beekeeping Questions, 1917
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Since my goal is to get as
much honey into the hive as fast as possible, I've been feeding a
roughly 2:1 sugar to water solution made by dissolving 3.5 cups of
sugar in just shy of 2 cups of water. I heat the mixture gently
on the stove until the sugar dissolves (being careful not to let the
sugar caramelize, which can harm the bees), then pour the syrup into a
quart jar with a special top. Finally, I up-end the jar into a
The feeder is a simple
but elegant design that allows me to see how much syrup the bees have
taken (they tend to use up a quart in 24 hours) and to feed our hive
without putting on a bee suit. Meanwhile, the feeder doesn't
stimulate robbing since it opens directly into the hive and isn't
accessible to neighboring bees.
Two weeks ago, the
daughter hive had 12.25 pounds of capped honey, and after feeding them
around 11 pounds of sugar (plus water), they've gained 15.5
pounds. Since the unfed mother hive gained 8.5 pounds of honey in
that time, I suspect the sugar water turned into about 7 pounds of
honey. (You do tend to get a bit less weight of capped honey than
you put in as sugar.)
With 38.5 pounds and 28
pounds, respectively, of capped honey in the mother and daughter hives,
we've still got a ways to go if we want to meet the bare minimum 50 pounds required for winter
survival in our area. We're currently having a nice fall nectar
flow and there is quite a bit of nectar dehyrating in both hives, but
it still might require another week or two of constant feeding to get
the daughter hive up to weight. I'll do another honey count next
week and might even start feeding the mother hive if she's still low
--- I'm bound and determined to send two healthy hives into the winter.