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Early Autumn - To Feed or Not to Feed?


Months ago here in this forum, I learned that bees may move sugar water or syrup from hive bodies up to honey supers…even long after feeding by the keeper has ceased; I think I remember reading someone here cite htis has happened to him even from as long ago as a previous season.

Now, the keepers in my part of the state in the US are saying feedfeedfeed or risk losing bees during the winter.

What to do?

Thank you.


First of all, you use your brain. :blush: Depending on your climate, a colony will need 40-80lb of honey to survive a winter. If they have less than that stored in the hive already, you will need to feed.

So, how do you know how much honey they have stored? You inspect, of course, and you carefully assess each frame of food stores. A Langstroth deep frame, when full, will hold between 4 and 6lb of honey, so let’s say 5lb average. So you need 8 to 16 deep frames completely filled with honey to get through the winter. If your bees have that, you may not need to feed, but my guess is that very few beekeepers leave that much in their hives. Also, if the winter is unseasonably cold, warm or long, you may still have to feed. The only way to be absolutely sure is to weigh the hives. I have a hive scale permanently installed under my hive, so I accurately know how much they have used (when it works! :wink:).

I think Ed (@Red_Hot_Chilipepper) was describing an unusual situation where he took over some hives which had probably been fed excessively for a prolonged period of time. It took him several seasons to get rid of the stored syrup from the hive(s). It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t feed, just that you should feed judiciously when needed, and stop when a flow is expected. I would rather feed and risk getting syrup in the honey, than not feed and lose a $150 - $200 colony of bees.


“…I have a hive scale permanently installed under my hive…”

That makes too much sense. :slight_smile:
Does it stay there during the winter?
If so, what kind of scale does best to endure?


Also remember that you don’t have to worry about dead bees moving syrup; but here’s how I minimize live bees doing it:

I keep brood chambers that are 3 deeps, unless I’m using 10 frame equipment then I use 2 deeps and 1 medium: I’ve never had to feed these colonies and they’ve remained self sufficient:

I’ve never fed a swarm (syrup). My observation has been that swarms come with everything they need to start a new hive, including food.

I don’t buy packages (personal choice), only nucs. Of my 50 hives, I purchased 5 nucs. I’m sure someone fed those nucs some sugar syrup before me though.

Those hives I took over were started as packages and fed non-stop from May through October. They filled 2 deeps and 2 mediums with brood and sugar syrup. Even after scraping the medium frames clean the following spring, sugar syrup was appearing back in the frames as the brood nest expanded and the workers needed to make room. They moved stores from below up and out I suppose. Those hives are all fixed now after a couple of years. I could have fixed them faster but didn’t have the time.


Year round the scale stays under the hive. I have only had it one year, but mine is an Arnia. You can buy cheaper ones which also work well. @adagna bought one which gave him tons of data until the desert climate sadly cooked his bees. The data looked very good though. You can probably search his posts to find out which hive scale he bought.

You can also use a luggage scale with the method that @Dee has described recently. Not as convenient or nerdy, but a fraction of the price! :blush:


Thanks for clarifying, Ed. Your experience highlights my comment about not feeding when there is a decent nectar flow on. Winter feeding is a slightly different concept, but even then, needs to be done thoughtfully.


In my location, If the flow has slackened and the hives are light, I would feed now. If the hives are up to weight I would not feed. If the flow is strong (goldenrod and asters blooming and hives still gaining weight) then I would not feed yet. Don’t feed just to be feeding. Have a target weight and feed to the target weight.


I got one of the SolutionBee scales through Brushy Mountain. Http://solutionbee.com/

It does a really great job, it tracks weight and ambient air temperature. So far it has survived an Arizona summer with flying colors. It is a really beefy piece of equipment, and well constructed. I would definitely recommend it. I do wish it had some of the other add ons that the Arnia hive monitors had, but it gives you the basics for a pretty reasonable price and no subscription fees, so I can’t complain.


Hey Adam! How’ve you been? Hope everything’s good :blush:


I have been busy with work and getting ready to move. We closed on a house a few weeks ago and we are preparing to move in the next few weeks. So lots has happened. I chose not to replace my bees not knowing where we would be moving, and some cities in AZ are more forgiving and accepting of bees then others. We ended up finding a house in one of the more accepting cities around here so I will be replacing my bees as soon as we are settled and I can get my hands on some. I keep thinking I may have a swarm move in there have been a good amount of bees checking out the hive in the last two weeks but none have bitten yet.


On the other hand here in the UK we had to feed the bees in July last year it was so bad. This year of my main hives, only one was strong enough to make honey 15lbs (7kg) - the rest of my hives were nucs I had made so expected to feed them.

Apparently many beeks here in the UK had a bad year again 2016. The honey shows have been light on for showing honey because of this.

Mother nature does not always do what we hope. I suppose this is where the Aussie crowd are lucky - they are harvesting now and some never stopped through winter.

Most of my hives have spent quite a bit of their honey this last year building comb (from scratch) and comb means the honey will be used for creating the comb. 6 - 8 lb (2.7kg - 3.5kg) of Honey for 1 lb (450g) of comb when you consider a frame of Lang comb probably weighs 2 oz (60g) and you need to build brood up first - probably double brood (which I have done) and then more combs for supers (less to fill the Flow Frame gaps), I estimate 1 oz (30g) per Flow Frame.

An 8 frame Lang will use 2oz X 8 X 2 + 1oz X 6 = 38oz of Wax approx = to 228oz - 304 oz (6.8 - 7.4 odd kg) of Honey just to build the combs, then the bees need to feed themselves.


Congrats on your new house, Adam! I’m glad you’ll get more bees - it’ll be nice to see you back on the forum again.


Good points. I opted to start feeding 2:1 syrup after my inspection yesterday - fall flow is tapering off & the news still need to finish off a few frames of comb.