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Feeding Your Bees with sugar syrup &/0r pollen substitute

Feeding Your Bees with sugar syrup &/0r pollen substitute

At Whirrakee, we have various solutions to help keep your bees strong and healthy throughout winter and during low yield cycles.  We stock Bee build pollen substitute in powder form and also Bee Build Protein Pattie supplements, which contain Bee Build powder, pollen and sugar syrup.  The pattie comes in plastic tubs of 1kg, 3kg & 6kg sizes & is a protein supplement for internal feeding on top of or between Brood frames.  We also carry the original formula with added Spirulina. in the same size containers. In addition, we also stock numerous sugar syrup delivery systems, which are all available for viewing on our products page.

Feeding your bees with sugar syrup

Honey bees store honey in the hive to provide food for winter and for other times when there are few or no nectar secreting flowers available.  When nectar is in short supply or unavailable, bees draw on their honey stores in the hive.  During these times, it is important to frequently monitor the amount of honey in the hive because when it has all gone, the colony will starve.

It is extremely important not to feed honey to bees unless it is from your own disease free hives.  Spores of American foulbrood disease can be present in honey.  Feeding honey from an unknown source, for example, a supermarket or even another beekeeper, may cause infection in your hives.

If sugar syrup is fed in the open, bees from nearby managed and feral colonies will be attracted.  You will end up feeding other bees as well as your own.  Besides being a waste of money, feeding in the open may cause robber bee activity in the apiary and possible interchange of bee disease pathogens.  Placement of sugar syrup or dry sugar in hives is best done towards evening to minimise any tendency for bees to rob the hives that are fed.

There are differing views about the correct amount of sugar in syrup.  Some beekeepers prefer a ratio of one part of sugar to one part of water, measured by weight (known as 1:1). Others prefer a dense syrup of two parts of sugar to one part of water (known as 2:1).  Generally, 1:1 syrup is used to supplement honey stores, stimulate colonies to rear brood and encourage drawing of comb foundation particularly in spring.  The stronger syrup is used to provide food when honey stores in the hive are low.  Measuring the sugar and water by weight or volume is alright because there is no need to be 100% exact about the sugar concentration.

Heat the water in a container large enough to hold both the water and sugar.  As soon as the water has begun to boil gently, remove the container from the heat source.  Pour in the sugar and stir the mixture until the sugar crystals are dissolved.  Never boil the mixture as the sugars may caramelise and may be partially indigestible and toxic to bees.

Always let the syrup cool to room temperature before feeding it to bees.  The cooled syrup can be given to hives using one of the following methods.

Place sugar syrup in a ‘frame or bottle feeding system’.  This is a container, the size of a full-depth Langstroth frame, that has an open top and which sits in the super as a normal frame does.  The feeder requires a flotation material or other means to allow bees to access the syrup without drowning.

How Often To Feed

It is normal for bees to remove syrup from a feeder, reduce the water content and store it in the combs as if it were honey.  Whatever feeder is used, a medium to strong colony will usually empty it in a matter of days.

For colonies with virtually no stored honey and no incoming nectar, the initial feed will be largely determined by the amount of brood, the size of the colony and to some degree, the size of the container used to hold the syrup.  It is safer to over-feed a colony than to skimp and possibly cause the death of the colony.  Some beginners have tried tablespoons of syrup, but this amount is much too small.  An initial feed of around 1-3 litres could be tried.  It is then important to frequently check the combs to see how much syrup has been stored.  This will give a guide as to how often and how much syrup should be given.  Feeding can be stopped when nectar becomes available.

Feeding with pollen

The thing to understand about pollen or pollen substitute is that it is used to feed larvae.  Eggs don’t eat, pupae don’t eat, and adults eat honey, but the larvae are dependent on a supply of nutritious, high-protein food that is provided by pollen.  The feeding system is indirect: nurse bees actually consume the pollen, usually in the form of bee bread.  This rich diet allows them to secret the royal jelly that is fed to the youngest larvae.  As the larvae mature, they are switched over to a diet of bee bread and honey.

The availability of pollen or pollen substitute to the colony increases the production of brood.  Because of an enriched diet, the nurses are able to secret lots of royal jelly.  So they prepare cells for eggs and the queen deposits them.  Suddenly, brood production is in full swing.

There are 4 tried and tested ways to feed pollen to your bees:

  • directly poured onto the hive mat inside the lid – approx. 1/2 polystyrene cup for a single box, and up to 1 polystyrene cup for a strong double hive every 2-3 weeks until conditions improve
  • Rubbed directly onto the hive frames
  • made into patties: Make a thick sugar syrup with 2kg sugar and some water.

                                            Add 5gk pollen powder

                                            Make into thick small patties

                                            Place between grease proof paper and then place directly onto of frames in the top most hive box (under lid)

                                            1 pattie per hive every 2-3 weeks until conditions improve.

  • You can also place on a dish in a receptacle that only bees can access.  i.e brood box set up or feeding drum with mesh covering entrance

 Feeding recommendations for Bee Build Protein Pattie Supplement

  • For a single hive – 200-250 grams every 2-3 weeks until conditions improve
  • For a strong double hive – 500 grams every 2-3 weeks until conditions improve