Fall and winter feeding

Fall is upon us and my bees are slowing down. There are still fall flowers blooming, but their numbers are dwindling. This is my first year with bees and will be my first year of overwintering. I want to do everything possible to get them to Spring. My hive currently consists of 2 brood boxes with several frames full of honey.

  1. When do I start feeding the bees?
  2. Fondant vs candy vs sugar water?
  3. Pollen patties?

I started in August, because I saw this:

As you can see, the nectar flow ended in July, and the hive weight started dropping. I waited for it to drop about 10lb, then an inspection showed frames with space for food in them, so we started feeding.

Fondant and candy are really the same thing. When your overnight temperatures are consistently below 50F, I would feed fondant/candy or solid granulated sugar. The reason is that bees are very reluctant to take syrup when it is below 50F.

Again, you have to assess the brood boxes. If you have at least 2 decent frames of pollen, they probably have plenty until spring. In California, my bees keep gathering pollen all fall and into early winter, so they are almost never short of it. The dry climate allows pollen but stops the nectar. :wink: You may need to ask locals what they do, but I would certainly assess your hive’s stores too.

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Hi All, I have been feeding my bees over the winter here in Canberra as there isn’t much in the way of nectar flow at the moment. We seem to have had a very cold and wet winter this year, so the bees have appreciated being able to feed on sugar syrup, but when the weather is good they will forage as much as they can. On inpecting the feeder under the roof I noticed that the bees have built comb inside the funnell of the feeder. Has anyone else found this? I attach a photo so you can see what I am talking about. Thanks KSJ

Yes. It can mean that they are full in the box below the feeder, so I would pick a warm, calm day and inspect the box. :wink:


Thanks @Dawn_SD unfortunately Canberra weather at the moment is so wet and cold. It is only a young colony and my first year keeping bees in Canberra. The nuc was installed in December 2020 and has taken this long for the colony to build up. A warm calm day is not on the horizon for some time as August is still very cold in Canberra. When I look down into the feeder with a torch I can still see the wooden frames. Also when I tap on the box it sounds like the bees (the ball) are staying at the top of the brood box to keep warm. I am really hesitant to open the hive up in winter. A warm calm day in Canberra is probably when the temp gets to 14-15 degrees C, but at the moment it is mainly raining and 11-14 degrees. Temps at night are still -2 to 2 degrees :frowning:

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Hi Karen, that bit of comb is natural & nothing to be concerned about. I would be inclined to wait until the day temps are over 20degs. before opening the hive up.

Alternatively seek out local advice as to when to start swarm prevention strategies.

It was mentioned a few years ago on the forum how bees built comb in the roof above the crown board hole before they filled out every frame. This is the reason why I suggest to people to use a hive mat in lieu of a crown board. With a hive mat, the bees wont build above it until every frame is full. This bit of information is irrelevant in this case. Just keep feeding & ignore the comb. The bees wont block the opening completely.


Thanks @JeffH, that is very helpful advise, cheers KSJ