One of the more proactive steps you can take as a beekeeper is to feed your hives in the springtime. By feeding them, you essentially extend their brooding and production cycles; you are helping them build the hive, produce wax, and overcome stress. All of this contributes to your honey crop at the end of the season. There are a variety of foods and products out there, so in this blog article, we’ll teach you how to feed a beehive.
Also note that, if you are starting new hives with bees you just purchased this season, Murdoch’s can’t stress enough how important it is for you to provide food for them. Your bees just made a long trip. You dumped them into a brand new home in a foreign place. Feeding them is one of the easiest things you can do to reduce stress.
Liquid Bee Feed
Use a syrupy liquid bee feed to help bees produce wax and lay eggs. Harvest Lane Honey Bee Feed is one option that is known to produce great results; longtime beekeepers sometimes whip up their own recipes. The bees will use this feed as their “nectar” source.
With it, the bees will feed their queen, which will help stimulate egg laying. They will also draw comb from this feed. (These are the comb cells that the bees build using the foundation in your frames.) You will want to continue feeding the bees until they stop taking the syrup, which is usually in May or June. Every hive is different.
To use a liquid feed, you need an in-hive feeder or a plastic entrance feeder:
- In-hive feeders are inserted into the actual hive in place of one of the frames. They are easy to fill and will not freeze in cold weather because the bees will keep the temperature of the hive around 98 degrees. You will need to check to make sure this does not go empty. If it does, the bees will build comb inside of it or propolize it. In this type of feeder bees also have a greater chance of drowning in the feed. It is difficult to estimate know how many days a full in-hive feeder will last because it all depends on the hive.
- Entrance feeders are set at the entrance of the hive. Connect a mason jar full of bee feed. These feeders don’t do well in cold weather because the feed could freeze, but it makes it very easy for the beekeeper to tell how much feed the bees have used and see when to refill. Again, it is difficult to estimate know how many days a full entrance feeder will last because it all depends on the hive.
- Pour the liquid feed into one of the feeders. The bees will take it from there.
For a more complete food source you can also feed your bees with a pollen patty. Nurse bees consume pollen and, in turn, secrete food that they feed to larvae. In a roundabout way, pollen is responsible for the size of your hive.
Timing is important here. Pollen patties can help strengthen the colony’s numbers before naturally occurring pollen is readily available to bees. It can be helpful in areas with shorter growing seasons. But remember: beekeeping is an art, not a science. If you build up a hive with great numbers of bees, they need more space (so add supers), and those bees need more honey to survive over the winter. Finding a balance will be a learning experience.
Pick a patty that is appropriate for your purpose. For example, a brood patty contains 15% pollen and is used in the springtime. This higher concentration of pollen allows for brood buildup. Goal: increase the population.
- Other pollen patties might contain closer to 4% pollen and are used during times of dearth. The idea with these is that you would be able to maintain healthy populations of bees if the weather or seasons were abnormal and affected the availability of naturally occurring pollen. Goal: keep the baby larvae fed.
- Put a flattened pollen patty on wax paper and place it under the inner cover. The bees will consume the entire package. It is up to the beekeeper’s discretion to determine (based on the individual hive, timing, weather, seasons, etc.) if s/he will give more than one patty.
- You will want to make sure the pollen patty is moist; it works best this way. To moisten, spritz it with water in a spray bottle.