After a honey harvest it may be necessary to supply bees with an artificial honey replacement,
or a source of artificial nectar to prevent them from starving.
At other times, artificial nectar can be used to encourage the drawing of comb or to aid in the rearing of brood when real nectar may be
in minimal supply or even totally unavailable.
It should also be noted that honey contains materials that bees can not easily digest and therefore sugar syrup actually makes for a better source of bee feed.
This does not mean that it is ok to take all of the bees' honey, after all your bees have worked rather hard for it! Bees should always have at least some excess honey in storage.
It is suggested that only white cane sugar should be used in these mixtures, do not use raw sugar or brown sugar as they can contain impurities that could harm the bees.
Also be cautious of powdered sugar because it can contain anti-caking elements that could be harmful to your bees.
Some of the following mixtures refer to ingredients by weight, but volume can also be used and is a close-enough approximation - exact measurements are not necessary.
Feeding Honey to Bees
Never feed bees honey unless it is from their own colony. Honey can carry harmful spores, which are perfectly safe for us humans but can be most deadly for bees.
Imported honey can transfer foreign diseases, which then could kill off native or indigenous colonies.
Bees eating fondant. They are coming up from the brood into the crown board area.
Making and feeding "Sugar Candy"
Take equal amounts in weight of sugar and water and mix the two together. Heat this until it reaches the thickness of fudge (similar to a soft ball). Pour the mix onto a non-stick surface and allow it to harden.
Once hardened and cooled you can feed the candy direct to the bees on top of the brood frames or near the cluster of bees in the brood.
Beekeepers keep bees to harvest the bee's honey. So at certain times of the year good keepers feed their bees to replace their natural supplies.
Sugar syrup is artificial nectar and is fed to the bees to prevent them from starving. Different mixes are required for times of the year depending on the progress of the colony.
You should always leave some honey for the bees, after all it is theres and they have worked extremely hard for it!
Sugar syrup or artificial nectar is used to promote and encourage the drawing of the wax comb and assist in the rearing of brood, especially when there is a shortage of real nectar. The other reason is to let the bees simply store it as food for the winter.
Spring Feed Syrup Mix:
Use this one to one mix for Spring Feeding, this encourages the drawing of the wax comb.
Mix 1 part sugar (by weight) with 1 part water (by weight).
Use hot but not boiling water to dissolve the sugar and stir until the mixture is clear. Allow to cool before feeding it to the bees.
Late Autumn Feed Syrup Mix:
This is a two to one mix for supplementing the loss of the bee's honey after harvesting it. It also helps replenish their stores for the winter to reduce the risk of them starving.
Mix 2 parts sugar (by weight) with 1 part water (by weight).
Use hot but not boiling water to dissolve the sugar, stirring until the mixture is clear. Always allow for the mixture to cool before giving it to the bees.
A mixture to stimulate Brood Rearing:
This mix is a one to two syrup mixture, used to help stimulate brood rearing and nectar flow.
Mix 1 part sugar (by weight) with 2 parts water (by weight).
Use hot but not boiling water to dissolve the sugar stirring until the mixture is clear. Again, always allow for the mixture to cool before giving it to the bees.
Fondant for the Winter
Fondant is ideal for winter-feeding the bees, this can be fed directly to the bees. It is also used for blocking the entrance to Queen cages during Queen introduction.
4 parts white sugar (by volume) + 4 parts 2:1 syrup mix (by volume) +
3 parts water (by volume).
In this case, boil the water and slowly add the sugar and syrup, stirring until all is dissolved. Keep heating until the temperature reaches 114°C (238°F). Let the mixture cool, without mixing, and when just warm to the touch begin to mix again and allow the mixture to air, it should lighten in colour. Pour into shallow dishes and save for later use.
We recommend storing the fondant in small plastic containers (old takeaway containers work very well) with lids and when ready to feed the bees, remove the lid and place the container upside down directly over the hole in the crown/clearing board. This is providing that the fondant is firm enough and not likely to fall down through the hole. This method reduces the risk of disturbing the bees in any way.
Some beekeepers leave fondant on the crown board all winter, so that if the bees need a feed it is available to them. Others like to check regularly and feed as and when required. Itís all personal preference, but whatever your way of feeding just ensure the bees do not starve.
See the video above to watch the bees enjoying a fondant feast...
Preventing the Sugar Fermenting
If sugar syrup is left for a while, the syrup can start to ferment and go mouldy. To prevent this you can add small amounts of Thymol and surgical spirit.
Add a teaspoon of Thymol and Surgical Spirit to every gallon of syrup mix, these are such small amounts that they have absolutely no effect on the bees - in fact, it is the healthiest option, and protects the bees from mould and bacteria that could potentially wipe out an entire hive.