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Supplemental Feeding During the Fall and Winter

From Blythewood Bee Company Newsletter

Can also be found in our December 2020 Newsletter

In this article we’re going to talk about what you can do if your colony is short on stored honey supplies. What you do to remedy this issue can mean the difference between life or death for your colony. If your colony is short on supplies you may want to immediately implement a winter feeding program.


Supplemental Feeding During the Winter

Nectar dearths often occur in the fall; therefore, feeding 2:1 (2 parts sugar to 1 part water) sugar water inside the hive is often beneficial. Feeding colonies sugar water once temperatures drop below the 50s is not beneficial. Excess moisture in the hive during the winter can cause problems, and the bees have to expend a lot of energy to convert the sugar water into nectar.


Although you might be tempted to do so and think it safe, do not feed your bees honey from an unknown source. This may cause an infection in your colony. Instead, the following can be used:

• Sugar syrup/water

• Granulated sugar

• Fondant

• Pollen patties


Of these choices, pollen patties, which are high in carbohydrates and protein, are one of the best choices for winter feeding. They can be placed inside a top feeder or a frame feeder, or laid across the top of the bars or queen excluder where the bees can easily access it. Fondant can also be laid across the top of the bars; however, it can become sticky, at which point the bees can become trapped in it.


Feeding granulated sugar can be tricky and messy, although, the use of a top feeder or a frame feeder can make it much easier.


When it gets extremely cold, bees can starve even when food is available in a super on top of your brood box. This is because the bees cluster together to keep the queen and brood warm and will not venture up to the super to retrieve food. For this reason, food sources that are convenient and close – such as with the use of a top feeder or a frame feeder – may work best of all. Then the bees don’t have to go far to obtain the food.


Remember, DO NOT open the hive unless absolutely necessary when temperatures fall into the below 50.


Editorial note: dry sugar, no-cook candy, fondant, or drivert supply only carbohydrates which may be the only boost your hive needs. Protein/pollen patties supply protein and sugar which is eaten by your bees and not stored or fed to larvae. They need protein for a host of biological functions. Supplementing with Mann Lake Ultra bee Patties just might work for you. Bill

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