Feeding Bees During the Winter

Bees Entrance Foxhound.jpg

Winter Feeding

During winter, honey bees will eat honey they stored earlier in the year. Typically, bees can make much more honey than they will need to eat during the winter. But, under certain circumstances, bees can run out of honey to eat during the winter. Most commonly, it is the beekeeper who over harvested the honey the bees made, either on purpose or by accident. Another possibility is the weather was so poor during the nectar flow, bees were unable to make extra honey. 

Either way, it is sometimes necessary to feed your bees during the winter. The rest of the year while it's warm, you can feed bees sugar syrup, but during the cold winter, feeding sugar syrup isn't a good idea.

5 reasons why you don't want to feed bee syrup during the winter

  1. The change in temperatures between night and day can cause syrup containers to drip cold syrup onto the bees.

  2. Syrup has more water in it than honey and bees will burn excess energy trying to remove the additional water.

  3. Sugar syrup will be very cold during the winter, and if the syrup is too cold, the bees will be unable to drink it.

  4. Syrup can mold easily if the bees do not consume it quickly, rendering the syrup undrinkable for the bees.

  5. Cold weather may keep the bees from getting to the syrup, leaving an open window for other insects to eat the syrup.

A small cluster of bees, gathering besides partially consumed dry sugar.

If it is necessary to feed your bees during the winter, a better alternative is to feed them some type of thick sugar. This can either be in the form of granulated sugar, poured over the top of the inner cover or frames using the "Mountain Camp" method. This is the method we use for our bees as it requires very little hands-on time to prepare. 

Another method that requires more preparation and time, for not much benefit, is to feed the bees fondant. Fondant is a cooked sugar that becomes thick and solid when a mixture of sugar and water is cooked to 248°F.

We find it is much easier to place the sugar on top of the frames instead of over the inner cover. If you don’t have a spacer for the sugar, you will have to put a thin layer of sugar. Either way, putting the sugar on a heavy duty paper towel helps keep the sugar from falling through the frames.

Happy Beekeeping!

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