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Cold Weather Feeding

I’m a newbee and I only have one hive (double stack). I’ve been trying to feed my bees honey that I saved from the summer and having mixed results. First I used an inverted quart jar with the honey flowing out some punched holes in the lid and that worked pretty well but because I had to take the jar out to replace it I decided on a different tactic. I used an old plastic juice container, punched holes in the bottom and the idea was I could just add more liquid honey as needed. However, I live in an area that gets pretty cold in the winter (-23 C last night) and the honey solidified even though it was housed in an insulated super. I diluted the honey and heated it so that it would flow but the bees just didn’t seem to be taking it and it solidified again after a couple of days. Because of the very cold daytime temps (-10 C) there is no real option to open the hive and add a candy frame or anything so I guess I’ll just have to forget about trying to feed them.
But then I came across this article that seems to suggest that feeding bees is not necessarily a good thing. Would very much appreciate comments, thanks!

First, feeding bees in cold weather (below 50 F) simply does not work. Bees cannot take syrup that is below 50 F. Even if the days are warming up to 60 F, if the nights were 40 F or so, the syrup will never warm up enough.

As far as feeding increasing mortality, I would say that study does not prove that. It merely shows a statistical correlation between mortality and hives that were fed. There is no causality shown. It may be that weak hives are the ones that get fed and weak hives are the ones that are more likely to die. But I try not to feed hives. I try to leave them enough honey to overwinter.


"Q. When is the best time to feed the bees?
“A. The best thing is never to feed them, but let them gather their own stores. But if the season is a failure, as it is some years in most places, then you must feed. The best time for that is just as soon as you know they will need feeding for winter; say in August or September. October does very well, however, and even if you haven’t fed until December, better feed then than to let the bees starve.”
–C.C. Miller, A Thousand Answers to Beekeeping Questions, 1917


Thanks for your comments Michael, very helpful. While I understand your comments about no causality shown and I haven’t looked closely at the study, at first glance it seems like over a period of two to three years with thousands of hives that the results would be significant and hopefully the study would take into account weaker hives. But I guess it’s bad to assume anything.
The quote from C.C. Miller says it all and so I guess I’d better get more proficient at knowing how much honey the bees have stored in August.


The article is about survey results. There really was no study, just a collection of data with very little to distinguish it other than what the article mentions. The surveys are very simple. They don’t ask why you fed, just whether you did and what you fed. The article attempts to draw some conclusion, but I think it’s really just a good reason to try to collect more detailed data…

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