Bee colonies and how to prevent starvation

In an ideal scenario, beehives can be moved to an area where plants are yielding nectar. If you are a backyard beekeeper and have a job from 9-5, moving your hive is probably not an option. In this case, you need to feed your bees with white sugar or syrup sugar.

But, the good part of the story is that you do not need to feed your beehive most of the time during the year. This applies especially in the local areas or suburbia with many plants and flowers and well-watered gardens.

There are exceptions and then you need to feed your bees

Honey bees store honey in the beehive for food. However, some circumstances prevent bees from collecting nectar and pollen. This occurs:

  • during the winter
  • anytime when nectar-secreting flowers are scarce.

When nectar is in short supply or unavailable, bees draw on the honey stores in their hive. If there is no food left in the hive, the whole bee colony will die. So, for this reason, a beekeeper needs to monitor the number of honey stores during these critical times.

From my experience in the past, I feed the hives only if the amount of stored honey drops to one frame of honey left in a single box. This example applies to a single 8 or 10-frame box without a super box.

To prevent starvation in my beehives, I monitor my hives, usually every 3-4 weeks in winter. Once I complete the monitoring, I can decide which hive needs additional food stores. So, once I understand how much food is left and how strong the bee colony needs feeding, I can feed the bees and prevent starvation.

Most of the time, feeding is required only in winter, and starvation can be prevented by:

  • feeding bees with white table sugar
  • feeding them syrup made with white sugar

To prepare sugar syrup, I use a 1:1 or even 1:2 (water: sugar) ratio. Mix water with sugar, then heat it to make it boil. Then, pour the syrup into a container or a pan that prevents bees from drowning and place it inside the hive.

I like to use a frame feeder because of the size, but also, an alternative could be a shallow tray feeder.

If you are interested in keeping your bees in good shape and protecting them from starvation you can read further about custom bee feeding at www.custombeefeed.com.au.

From a correspondence to the Custom Bee Feed website, you can mix Custom Bee Feed with sugar water to feed them. The only downside would be that you would need to refrigerate any unused product. It contains pollen so the bees are already attracted to it without having to mix it with sugar water but the choice is totally up to you.

Here are how to feed Custom Bee Feed:
There are a couple of different ways to feed Custom Bee Feed to your bees. How you feed them will very much depend on the size of your operation and what is practical for you.


1. Open feeding:
Open feeding is when you put the bag or bucket of feed out near your hives and the bees can collect it as and when they need it. An easy way to do this is by hanging buckets or bags in a tree nearby your hives, and poking holes at the bottom of the bag or bucket so the bees can access the feed. Bees will only take from the feed what they need and what they don’t have naturally in their current environment. It is not uncommon for them to leave some feed behind if it contains something they don’t require. With the 20 kg bags, you can hang them up in a tree and cut small triangles about 1cm big on the bottom of the bag next to the stitching. If you have particularly wet conditions when feeding, we recommend pouring Custom Bee Feed into a 20 L or 10 L bucket and cutting circular holes around the bottom rim of the bucket.


2. In hive dry feeding:
Custom Bee Feed can also be dry fed in a hive, which is a popular way of feeding amongst hobbyists. This can be done by pouring it onto the frames on the top bars, along the back of the hive. Feeding needs to occur under the excluder. Pile it up so it sits on the top bars and doesn’t fall through.


3. In hive patty feeding:
Custom Bee Feed can be mixed with sugar water to make patties that can be placed inside the hive. This is especially popular with hobbyist beekeepers.

Do not feed bees honey unless it is from your disease-free hives

Moreover, feeding honey from an unknown source, such as a supermarket or even another beekeeper, can cause infection. Spores from American foul-brood disease can be present in the honey. Be careful.

Protein supplement pollen patties

In addition to sugar syrup, I also feed bees with protein supplement pollen patties for bees. This can be purchased online or in beekeeping supply stores.

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