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Don't feed back honey


Yes I am back from NZ had a fantastic time and refreshed ready to tackle anything.
First day back job was to remove the Flow super and inspect the hive going into winter. I extracted the honey that was left in the flow frames with the idea of feeding it back over Winter as we had plenty to see us through to next year.
Well that was ok , so I thought so I did a bit of research into the best way to feed it back. The first article I read turned me on my head(and thats not a pretty sight) https://beeinformed.org/2014/06/27/feeding-honeybees-honey-may-increase-mortality/ Please read it in full.
I have copied the first paragraph .

Bottom Line at the Top
After reviewing the details of the BIP survey results for two years where feeding honeybees carbohydrates is concerned, some very surprising suggestions come to light. These results are statistically significant and come from sample sizes including thousands of beekeepers from all over the USA and tens of thousands of colonies. First, it doesn’t matter what carbohydrates you choose to feed your honeybees, you are either not improving their chances of survival or you are damaging their chances of survival. Those who do not feed are achieving as good or better survival rates.
There is one important exception. In every case, feeding honeybees frames of honey increases their chance of death. Talk about the unexpected! Let me repeat: if you feed your honeybees that which they would feed themselves, frames of honey, then you are increasing their chance of death. We don’t know the cause. But we have strong survey data speaking and we should listen.

So the honey will have to be consumed by humans (I am happy about that) and I will be feeding my bees the method recommended in the article “White sugar biscuit”.

An another article www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0018/.../Feeding-sugar-to-honey-bees.pdf is also a good article.

There are many many references out there on feeding bees but I am confident the first reference above is the best. But that’s just me.

PS will take me months to go through the posts since I went away. :relaxed:


I have seen that survey before, pretty interesting. Wished they used a few more years. Seems the only help comes from dry sugar or candy.



Welcome back @busso, my buddy! You have been sorely missed. Lots of plants need identifying!!! :heart_eyes:

I looked at the survey, and it is worrying, but I have some skepticism. Have you ever done one of their surveys? While they are extensive (takes about 30 minutes), they are not very detailed on many questions. For example, I would be surprised if the the honey re-feeding question had a followup question about the source of the honey. There are clear risks (infection, pest transfer, insecticides etc) with feeding honey back from a different hive. Even bigger risks if you use bought honey. So if we can’t separate that out, it is a confounding factor.

Added to that, most people who re-feed honey are probably hobby beekeepers, and we lose more colonies than the commercial guys anyway. Even people on this forum have thought it a good idea to feed store-bought honey to bees. Well-intentioned, but not experienced.

I totally understand the syrup issues. I think @Michael_Bush has a very good point about syrup not having an acidic pH, to the extent that he adds Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) to bring the pH closer to that of nectar (around 4). Even in human infants, if you upset the acidity of the stomach, you can make the baby prone to wide range of infections that would otherwise not happen. I am sure that the same process happens in bees.

Anyhow, great discussion, and once again, welcome back! :blush:


Yes I’ve seen the study before. Bees over winter better on sugar as it produces less waste which is important if your bees can’t get out to poo in the winter. Mine can so do better with their honey


So logically this makes no sense. Bees hoard honey for lean times right? Feral colonies, which don’t get harvested are going to die out because they only have their own hoard to eat? I know the survey shows that statistically more colonies die when fed honey but it doesn’t show why the honey was fed to the bees in the first place and we all know site and climate specifics play a major role in bee survival.
I guess bottom line is that sugar is cheaper than honey so why feed the honey in the first place?
I have no plans of feeding the bees here now they are established anyway but I will tip to feel the weight if I’m concerned for them.
Here in WA @busso with our mildish winters with plenty of flowers, read weeds, we shouldn’t really need to feed them, really, feeding gives them a false economy.
But then again what would I know anyway…
Oh and welcome back mate.


Seemingly so.
But on reading this article and others googled up feeding the bees food high in sucrose, which nectar is, makes the bees respond differently than when fed on food high in fructose and glucose which honey is.
The NSW fact sheet www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0018/.../Feeding-sugar-to-honey-bees.pdf
Explains this very well.

And I now have no plans (I certainly did have plans to feed in Spring though) to feed the bees unless something adverse requires it.
A leaking roof and very high rates of condensation depleted my hive last Winter as I had a “no touch policy for Winter”. I have a better Winter inspection strategy this year so that should never be a problem again.

You are right. And the article first mentioned in the original post, seems to confirm, not feeding has similar hive survival to hives being fed. However if you can stimulate the hive which is already strong to produce high number of worker bees at the start of a Spring or other blossom boom you will be ahead for large nectar flows. Feeding honey will not do that.
Bottom line though: If you are going to feed, then feed white sugar biscuits.
Well that’s my take on it. Warning: My opinions may change if I can be persuaded and that’s not easy …ask my Wife.:relaxed:


You sound like a beekeeper!!! :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

Or even an engineer! :heart_eyes:


Welcome back @busso, missed ya!

This discussion makes me think of differences in types of sugar & resulting fat storage. Bees heading into and living through cold winter need fat stored in their bodies, and clearly honey is made for the purpose of sustaining this fat. So it makes sense why nectar and not honey is more appropriate during colony buildup - honey maybe leading to fat bees at the wrong time of year? And, I guess sugar-water can be seen as a similarly problematic substitute for nectar as infant formula is to breast milk…


I think by using sugar blocks or candy boards it absorbs the moisture in the hive. I think winter moisture build up is the number 1 killer of my hives. Wet bees can’t stay warm. Just my 2 cents.


Could we please get @Michael_Bush to make a comment on this subject?


He’s in hiding. I have rattled his cage a few times (on other threads) with no result. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye: Busy time of year for him, perhaps. After all, his annual Bee Camp starts tomorrow. :blush:


“Work week” for Bee Camp started last Thursday and I don’t have any time… For every study there is an equal and opposite study. As far as overwintering, there is a study that bees eating honey have longer lives than bees eating sugar syrup. My experience is they do better when you leave them honey. Feeding honey is a different matter than leaving honey. I don’t like to feed honey. I do like to leave them honey. That last batch of brood in the fall are different anatomically. They have more fat bodies. These are not like humans where we can just eat more and store it as fat. They have them or they don’t, when they develop as larvae and pupae. It takes a lot of pollen to produce those bodies and it takes it during their development. After their development they have them or not. The latest research on Varroa shows that Varroa feed on those fat bodies. Also nurse bees can use up those fat bodies when there is a dearth of pollen, in order to make royal jelly despite a lack of pollen. The understanding of these is still unfolding as research continues.