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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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Friday, October 02, 2009

Bees Eating Sugar Syrup

These days I am feeding my bees sugar syrup in order to help them prepare for winter. I didn't do this last year, but this year my hives, despite my harvesting very little honey, are too light to go into winter.

The bees in the picture below have just discovered the sugar syrup floating by the slits in the baggie feeder.

The hive from which I took these pictures yielded me no harvest this year and they are very light on stores for the winter. This is the hive that I combined with the nuc from Blue Heron back in August.

In these two pictures (above and below) you can see the bees' tongues out to slurp up the honey.

Below is a frontal view of a syrup slurping bee.

I closed up the hive with one last glance through the hole in the inner cover to see them feeding away!

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  1. Linda,

    I know you feed your bees quite a bit and understand the logic to get them ready for winter. But do you ever worry that you are taking away their natural instinct to go out and find a food source? I know that with wild mammals such as deer, elk, and bear if they are feed they start to lose their natural instincts to obtain food and eventual come to rely on being fed to survive. What are you thoughts on this happening to bees? If we "baby" them too much do they get "soft"?

  2. First of all, the bee workers only live six weeks. By the time next spring comes and foraging is again possible, the bees I'm feeding now won't exist.

    Secondly, we only have a six week nectar flow in Atlanta and this year while there was plenty of nectar, we had torrential rains throughout the flow and the bees couldn't collect what was available to them. If I don't feed them, my hives will starve over the winter. Even the hives that I took no honey from do not have stores for the winter.

  3. Honey bees are beautiful creatures and these exquisite photographs show them in all thier glory!
    I hope your bees do well over the coming winter.

  4. Hey Linda,

    I'm new to reading your blog but I've found it so helpful with my own hive, as my first year keeping bees already! It's really sad to hear about all the hives and bees lost in the flooding at Blue Heron.

    I have two questions for you though: do you feed all of your hives the 2:1 syrup mix until they stop accepting it, or do you do it up until it gets too cold for the bees and the mix? And secondly why do you use the baggie method of sugar syrup delivery instead of the hive-top feeder method? I was just wondering.

    Thanks for the good reads, and I'm sure to be following this blog for awhile!


  5. This is the first year I've really done fall feeding because all of my hives were very light going into September. I plan to feed until they quit taking it or it gets too cold - whichever comes first.

    I use baggies because Jennifer Berry does (and I think she is a wise and scientifically based beekeeper) and because there are a number of advantages - as it gets cooler, the syrup in the baggie is right on top of the bees in the hive and the syrup therefore stays warmer. It's quick and fast and doesn't take up so much room in the hive. The only disadvantage I see is the environmental one of throwing away plastic bags all the time.

  6. Nice, I learned something new. I wonder, can you reuse the bags or is that just not feasible?
    Thanks for letting me in on the reasons behind the baggie method.
    I'm really excited to read more of your past posts and learn more to help my own beekeeping out!
    Congrats on the birth of your beautiful granddaughter!

  7. You cut slits in the baggies to allow the bees access to the syrup - pretty much ruins the bag going forward! LOL

  8. Anonymous6:29 PM

    Hi I live in WNC foothills and have my first hive since June 09. I was feeding sugar water during the fall in a qt jar on front of hive. Is it to late to put in a baggy feeder? It's been very cold and I'm afraid to open the hive up. I can hear them faintly if I put my ear to the back of the hive.

  9. When it is below 60 degrees you put the bees at risk to open the hive. So I would wait for a warmish day and then add a baggie feeder if you think they are low on stores. If you didn't take too much honey and the hive feels heavy enough to you, then you don't need to open the hive at all. Where are you in WNC? I have a house in Rabun Gap near Franklin.

  10. Hi Linda,
    I am a homeschooling mom and we made a bird feeder out of a 2-liter coke bottle. We apparently did not wash it out well enough because the other day there were bees all over our bird feeder. I was going to take it down and empty it out to start all over but decided to wait. I know bees use their sense of smell to find their way from flower to flower, why would they be seeking sugar during the winter? Is it because of the ideas you mentioned in your article above? Any info you could give me would be great because I would love to make a lesson out of this. I have pictures and a post about the bees and the feeder at my blog. You could contact me at the blog below.
    Thank you!


  11. I have a box of Asian bees (Apis cerana)in Kolkata, India. There aren't enough trees and plants around, for bees to find all their own food. I give them syrup in a tub with a small sponge floating to keep the bees from drowning. It works well and though about 50 bees drink together none have yet drowned.They finish the syrup in about an hour. Would it be better if the feeding area was reduced so that a smaller number fed at a time and the bees took longer to finish the syrup?
    Thank you. Debashis Ray

  12. I was told to take the bottom box and put it on top. I left two boxes for the winter. I was told to also check for the queen. As I did that the bottom box was full of mold. It also had about 3 inches of dead bees. I noticed a little moisture inside. I cleaned out the moldy bees was that right or not.
    I love your blog thanks Debbie


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