☯ Beekeeping Tip #10


There are times, like it or not, when we must feed our bees. If nothing else than to beat back starvation. It happens.
When the hive is supplied for winter by their own stores they do well. If they eat all of their own stores, they can starve if nothing is blooming yet. So in comes you, the beekeeper.

What to Feed

Cane sugar is used to make syrups, candy fondants and used dry. I prefer syrups or dry. It should be said that there are alot of recipes on the internet and not all should be used. Which ones? The ones that advise you to boil. Do not boil your sugar!
Cane sugar will dissolve in hot tap water, no need to boil.When you boil sugar, you change it. You can burn it and both can harm or poison your bees. That's not what you wanted, right?
Heating sugar can produce hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF)***, a substance that is poisonous to bees!
So most fondant or candy board recipes need boiling. Burned it can make the sugar indigestible. Not only that, they are messy and require a lot of time in the kitchen. I choose to feed dry sugar or sugar cakes.

Sugar Cakes
Bowl of dry sugar
pie tin or pan to form cakes in

Stir in a small amount of water to your sugar. 
Do not get it to syrup stage. 
As you add the water you can stir to wet or dampen to sugar.
Put the sugar in any size containers or form a cake on wax paper that will make a  size to fit into the feeder top of your hive.
The cakes will harden over night enough to handle gently.

To feed dry sugar you may want to use a piece of newspaper across the frames to prevent the sugar from going to the bottom. Especially if you have screen bottoms, you don't want to attract  unwanted guests.

Cane sugar is non-GMO at this point in time. Beet sugar is GMO. While most folks probably are already buying cane it is worth taking note of what you are getting.Typically, if the label of a commercial sugar does not identify if it is from cane or beet (as in most store brands), the product is from beet or a blend. And since I hate Monsanto and their work to kill nature I won't use their developed GMOs.

Brands that are Cane Sugar

C&H, Domino, Florida Crystals, Tate & Lyle, Lyle's

Brands of Beet Sugar

Pioneer and GW brands
There are also brands like Shur Fine and Market Pantry that sell a mix of both.

Can you use beet sugar? Yes, it is up to you if you have no objection to GMO foods.
Also, be aware that unrefined or brown sugars and molasses carry too many solids that the bees can't use, so stick to refined.

Sugar Syrup

Whether 2:1 or 1:1 syrup should be fed when the bees are about 50 degrees or higher. They won't eat it cold. Don't fret about exact amounts. They will take it.
Feeders are whole other article but if you are this far I'm sure you have something in place for now!

Just a note, you can wait on pollen. Pollen is for brood building and this tip is about feeding a colony not building it.

***LeBlanc, B. W.; Eggleston, G; Sammataro, D; Cornett, C; Dufault, R; Deeby, T; St. Cyr, E (2009) Formation of Hydroxymethylfurfural in Domestic High-Fructose Corn Syrup and Its Toxicity to the Honey Bee (Apis mellifera). Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 57: 7369-7376