Feeding my bees

When we made the decision to requeen our swarm hive, we decided that it wouldn’t hurt to feed them a little sugar-water at the same time. Basically, feeding never hurts and just might help in pretty much any bee situation. This hive does have honey stores robbed from one of our other hives, but apparently bees are reluctant to eat capped honey, saving that for emergencies, which means nectar (or sugar-water) is needed to stimulate them into a growth spurt.

So, 6 days after requeening (that’s how long it took us to borrow a feeder after we discovered the shop was out of stock) we got our hands on the equipment. I’m guessing this is actually a home-made feeder and looks dead-easy to make.

Empty bee feeder

Empty bee feeder

First step, boil up the water and sugar mix (50-50), let it cool and put it in a jar with holes in the lid.

Jar of sugar water with holes so the bees can feed easily

Jar of sugar-water with holes so the bees can feed easily

Turn that jar upside down in the feeder, making sure there is plenty of space (larger than the standard bee-space) for the bees to get in and have a good feed. And be certain the sugar-water doesn’t drip, they’re supposed to suck it out, not bathe in it.

Bee feeder loaded with sugar water

Bee feeder loaded with sugar-water

Then slide the feeder into the hive entrance. With this type of feeder there is no need to remove the hive lid. We did because a) we wanted to make sure the feeder was inside the hive divider since this hive isn’t a full box (yet) and b) because we installed a hive mat to keep the small hive a little warmer as the nights cool down.

Bee feeder in place in the hive entrance

Bee feeder in place in the hive entrance

All this “nectar” should help the bees draw comb, feed brood and, importantly, should encourage our new queen to lay because there is an amazing flow on.

Let the feasting begin!

And begin it did. Here’s the feeder after 24 hours. Lord only know how fast it would have vanished if the hive was full of bees instead of this tiny little colony.

Bee feeder 24 hours after installation

Bee feeder 24 hours after installation

The good news is they are still bringing in pollen. You can see the pollen on the back legs of the bee just to the left of the feeder as she vanishes with her treasure into the hive.

Bee with pollen next to feeder

Bee with pollen next to feeder

I think this free feed is making our bees very happy. Within 2 hours of taking this photo, the feeder was empty. We refilled it and fed them another jar of sugar-water at dusk. We may give them another partial jar (the remaining syrup from our 2 cup sugar/2 cup water mix) but then that will be it. That should have stimulated the queen into laying and the colony into building out comb. Or that’s what we hope.

The final step, as always, patience… wait and see what actually happens in the hive. I really hate waiting!

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About Laura Rittenhouse

I'm an American-Australian author, gardener and traveller. Go to my writing website: www.laurarittenhouse.com for more. If you're trying to find my gardening blog, it's here.
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13 Responses to Feeding my bees

  1. I am very interested in having a hive next year so your experiences and solutions to the problems you face are all very informative. Thank you so much for sharing this.

    • I’m glad you are learning about these amazing little critters. When you get yours, I can’t wait to hear about your successes (and even the failure – or at least trials). It really does help being part of this virtual community of beekeepers.

  2. I just happened upon your blog as I was looking at another one. As I started reading through it, I saw recent photos of sunflowers, then sweetcorn… what’s going on, I thought? Duh! Southern Hemisphere. Think I’ll follow you now just so I can see some lovely sunshine 🙂

    • 🙂 Yes, it is sometimes surprising to find people growing things “out of season”. What is funny though is how often I find someone in the northern hemisphere harvesting a crop at the same time I do Down Under. We grow our peas in winter here – they should be going in the ground now, just like you Northern Hemisphere types.

  3. Oh, noes! The dread Boardman feeder! 8) It is accused of encouraging robbing. Hope your bees are not led astray.

    • I have heard it encourages robbing but we watched and ours seem fine. I think robbing is more common when there isn’t anything around to eat and the bees are hungry. None of our hives are hungry. We also left the entrance intentionally small to allow the bees to defend their cache. Anyway, it all looks good and 2 jars of nectar are gone so I think we made it.

  4. vuchickens says:

    Fascinating! What a clever feeder. And amazing that sugar water is enough to sustain them.

    • Many beekeepers, especially in colder climates, have to feed their bees sugar water through winter. Here you only need to do it if you steal too much honey, if your bees are struggling with illness or if (our situation) you’re trying to stimulate hive growth. Sugar water seems a bit like junk food but I guess humans can live on fast food for a few days just like bees can live on sugar water for a few days.

  5. It is amazing to see that sugar water disappear when you think of the tiny quantity each bee takes. Another thing about bees that is difficult to get my head round.

  6. Pingback: Queens, Princesses, Assassinations, Coronation, Abdication and Other Royal Chaos | Laura Rittenhouse's Gardening Journal

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