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I've been keeping this blog for all of my beekeeping years and I am beginning my 16th year of beekeeping in April 2021. Now there are more than 1300 posts on this blog. Please use the search bar below to search the blog for other posts on a subject in which you are interested. You can also click on the "label" at the end of a post and all posts with that label will show up. At the very bottom of this page is a list of all the labels I've used.

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I began this blog to chronicle my beekeeping experiences. I have read lots of beekeeping books, but nothing takes the place of either hands-on experience with an experienced beekeeper or good pictures of the process. I want people to have a clearer picture of what to expect in their beekeeping so I post pictures and write about my beekeeping saga here. Along the way, I've passed a number of certification levels and am now a
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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Feeding the bees in Winter

It's a dilemma - to feed or not to feed. I definitely need to keep food on my small nuc hive. Persephone went into winter short on stores as well. I checked a week ago and all was fine. It's been way too cold to open the hives (didn't get above 45 today) so I haven't checked the stores this week. I will feed tomorrow, however, so I mixed up some sugar syrup today.

It's hard to mix up 2 parts sugar to one part water and have the syrup be liquid. Instead I mixed 6 cups sugar to 4 cups water. Hopefully that will not be thin enough to encourage brood rearing but will be thick enough for me to manage as I transfer it to the hives.

At first it's mostly sugar, solid in the liquid as in the first picture. With heat under the pot, the dissolving begins.

In the picture below the syrup is just below boiling and will be clear soon. When it is clear I'll turn off the heat.

Here's the finished syrup, clear and because it's a thick syrup, you can see some sugar crystals at the edge of the liquid. I'll put this in Ziploc sandwich bags to put in the nuc. I may also feed Persephone.

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  1. is this something that can be used for hummingbirds in winter as well?

  2. The hummingbirds here go south for the winter. I believe you feed hummingbirds a 1:1 ratio of sugar to water.

  3. A physics professor once told me to feed hummingbirds 3/4 c. sugar to 1 c. water. The little guys love it ... in spring and summer, though ... they take off in winter!

    Small Footprints

  4. Linda, thanks again for keeping us up to date. Quick question. You typically feed with a bag rather than a jar at the entrance. Any reason you prefer the bag over a jar?

  5. During the winter, the bees can't leave the cluster to go very far - they certainly will not go to the hive entrance to eat from a Boardman. I have had 2 Boardmen feeders inside the nuc but exchanged them for Ziplocs because it is also hard for the bees to get to the jar feeder in the winter even if it is inside. The baggie has the advantage of being located right over the cluster and the heat that the bees generate keeps the syrup warmer (unlike in a jar) so that it is much easier for them to utilize. Hope that makes sense. LT

  6. Anonymous4:01 PM

    We're in New York State, near Albany. I've seen 4 or 5 honeybees flying around, but w/ no flowers yet, can I give them honey, or would that sugar syrup be better. Too many bees have been lost, & if something comes on our property, I feel it needs to be fed..
    Thank you. LR

  7. Anonymous3:00 PM

    I use sugar syrup to feed as well but have always wondered about nutritive value. I have heard that some folks add other ingredients, sea salt being one. I'd like to know if there are any other suggestions and also at what concentrations.
    Axel, Vancouver, Canada

  8. I'm curious about the nutritive value of sugar syrup too....In a book I recently read, Toward Saving The Honeybee by Gunther Hauk, he states that feeding sugar syrup is not suitable....."The strain of converting mineralized sugar into a simulation of honey is an exhausting, depleting and nutritionally depriving activity for the bees." He suggests mixing sugar with honey and a mild herb tea made with chamomile, sage & a pinch of salt to reduce the strain on their metabolism.

  9. It's always better to feed honey to the bees if you have it, but if you don't sugar syrup is better than not feeding them.

  10. Anonymous2:04 PM

    I read where you need to make sure the sugar is cane sugar and not synthetic sugar. Also you can mix corn syrup in with the solution.

  11. Because of the way corn is treated in the US with pesticide applied to every aspect of the corn - the seeds, the plant, the ground around it - I would never use corn syrup to feed the bees.

  12. Anonymous9:44 AM

    Do you think cane is any different than corn? If it wasn't for the pesticides many of the readers would have died from starvation. If it was a problem for bees they would all be long gone. There are some chemicals the bees can't handle but commercial beekeepers almost all feed corn syrup. The problem seems to be systemic pesticides that the bees pick up off the plants, not from syrup made from the grains.

  13. Anonymous8:45 PM

    I've read that you shouldn't feed syrup in the winter, but, rather use bee candy. Is there any truth to that, and does it matter?


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