Feeding Your Bees.
It is great when there is plenty of food and the bees are busily gathering in their supplies, and happily looking after their own needs. But it is not always like this, and there are times when we, as beekeepers, must provide for our bees to ensure their wellbeing.
It is good practice to leave some frames of honey on each hive at the end of the season, to provide a food source for the winter months. There should be at least 8 full frames of honey per hive.
Even when you have left honey on, it is good to check as winter progresses, to make sure they are not running short. Pick a warm day to open the hive, and be as quick as you can to conserve the heat of the hive. A feeder should be added before closing up for winter, and a top feeder does mean that you can open it to check feed levels without opening up the whole hive. However some beekeepers prefer frame feeders, and it is your choice.
Sugar syrup is the next best feed to honey.
You can buy sugar syrup ready made up, in Dunedin, from West’s in Bayview Road, South Dunedin.
You can also make your own syrup if you prefer. Large bags of sugar can be purchased from:
Bee Supplies, Main Road Allanton
Beeline Supplies, Gladstone Road, Mosgiel
To make sugar syrup, place sugar in a bucket, (For amounts, see below.) and add boiling water. Stir until dissolved. Use only raw sugar or white sugar.
Sugar syrup will ferment over time and this will cause dysentry in the bees. Add a few drops of fermenting inhibitor, available from a brewing shop (there is one in Hillside Rd near the round-a-bout)
To feed bees during winter use a 2:1 ratio – 2 parts sugar : 1 part water
As Spring begins, syrup can be lighter, 1 part sugar :1 part water, as this will stimulate the queen to lay.
Some people like to feed their bees granulated sugar. If you do this, use only raw sugar, as white sugar absorbs moisture and becomes very hard. Also be aware that bees physiology is not designed to handle solid granules, and the bees will need to mix the sugar with water, to use it. This means more work is required by the bees.
Some beekeepers gather pollen during times of abunance, using a pollen trap, and feed back to the bees later. Another option is to purchase or make a pollen substitute.
Bees use water to mix with honey or sugar syrup, and to cool the hive. A water supply should be available at all times, but especially during hot dry weather. A dish with some gravel and water makes an easy access for the bees.