Some questions about feeding

Hello here in Victoria it is obviously getting colder (north east).

I have two hives, one pretty strong and another around medium strength. Through March I gave them two 2.5 litre batches of each of 1:1 sugar syrup. I am usually pretty busy so white sugar is a preferbal option due to not needing to refill it as much.

Going into proper cold I am obviously worried like the most of us. How should I go about feeding them through winter? Would just regular white sugar do or should I continue feeding them syrup?

I am in Wangaratta if you would like to check the weather forecast to get an idea.

I haven’t checked them in some time but around a month ago they were packing a bit of honey. I won’t be able to check them going forward as it is too cold.


1:1 takes too much effort to concentrate it to <80% solution in cold weather.

1:1 is a spring feed (not always). 2:1 is for replenishing stores.

Dry sugar looks like an attractive option because it is the laziest one. But it leads to premature aging of bees and it is not recommended at all.

So 2:1 water:sugar? or the other way around? And how much to feed them a week?

2 sugar to 1 water - thick syrup.

Are you planning to feed them as they go in portions? A more traditional approach is to fill them to the brims once and check foods stores next time in spring.

Let’s go back for a moment. Your bees produced enough honey this year to harvest and you were asking about adding a second brood box. What happened to their stores? Do you really need to feed them?

For your question about the broodbox, I asked that since they weren’t using the flow super at that time and I was worried they would swarm again since they were getting quite congested. A few weeks after the fact they began using it.

They filled the flow super to around 40%. When it cam early autumn a local beek recommended that I compact them down since their numbers were getting smaller. Last time I checked I saw around 3ish frames with mostly honey.

I’m just trying to guage my options since we have gone into winter. Like I said I have given them around 5 litres of sugar water each. Just wonering I should give them more or not, since the forecast in my area is cold for the forseable future. I’m not experienced in lifting for weight that much either, so I don’t know how accurate I would be trying to lift them since I’ve never done it before.

I just don’t want a situation come end of august they run out of stores or something like that.

Thanks for your responses so far

Well. Ok. Some background to understand why late feeding is less than ideal, why it should be avoided in the future and how to do it :slight_smile:.

Bees going into the winter undergo some physiological changes. The purpose of some of them is to build up and preserve protein. Lade feeding stimulates the secretion of hypopharyngeal and wax glands again which weakens bees that were prepared for wintering. Varroa infestation and wintering on sugar is an almost guaranteed recipe for a post on the forum “My colony has not overwintered”. Another problem is that at low temperatures bees may not be able to take the syrup at all. That is why it is important to feed bees while it is still warm and glands are still active. Moreover, syrup processing wears out bees. There is a distinct division of labour in the colony. Summer bees collect the food, and autumn-winter bees eat it. Syrup can be fed only to strong colonies. A weak colony may be killed by late feeding.

About feeding.

Understanding sugar syrup.
50% (1:1_ syrup gives the faster inversion of the sugar, but at the same time too much sugar is being used for processing.
70% (2:1) - less sugar is being used, but bees take such syrup slower and cap it even slower.
That is why both are not good for late feeding.
60% (1.5:1) is a good compromise. Can be taken reasonably quickly and only 23% of sugar is being used for processing. It is beneficial to add 10% of the honey to such syrup. The addition of 0.3 ml of acetic acid per 1 kg of sugar also increases the speed of processing and capping of the syrup. It also reduces the weight of feces accumulating in the rear gut of wintering bees. White vinegar contains approx 5% of acetic acid, so you may add 6 ml of white vinegar per 1 kg of sugar.

How much. 4 kg of sugar (not syrup) should be enough for winter in our climate.

So, here is your approximate recipe:
4 kg of sugar
2.7 l of water
0.5 kg of honey
1.5 tablespoons of white vinegar.

How to feed.

The forecast for your area shows day temperatures that are borderline acceptable for the exercise. You need to take extra steps to make it possible.

Feeding stimulates flight. In this situation, it is a pure waste of energy and must be avoided. Close the hive entrance for the whole period of feeding (3-4 days). The syrup must be served warm (approx. 40 degrees) before pouring it into the feeder. Cover the feeder well to make sure that it remains warm as long as possible. If you find some syrup left in the morning reheat it and feed further.

When spring comes, feed them protein if they are low on bee bread as well.

For future reference.

Sugar does not replace honey completely. On sugar, they accumulate fewer feces, which is important and beneficial for climates where bees are locked in hives for a prolonged period. But it also causes protein-related problems and this requires special feeding in spring. In numbers, wintering on sugar means 14-40% less brood produced in spring compared to honey.


I’m very grateful for this most thoroughly helpful post on feeding - thank you! I typically finish the season with ample enough honey, but with robbing last fall had to supplement. It’s good to have this next-level understanding of what I knew so far.

I wonder if @bonun could consider fondant plus winter patties in his scenario? These are commonly used in my region because of the issues you explained about syrup and protein needs.

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Of cause, @bonun can consider it. What fondant recipe we are talking about? Sugar/honey, sugar/inverted sugar?
But if @bonun can get or make inverted sugar and use it as a replacement for sugar/water in the recipe I posted above, I believe it will beat fondant from an energy consumption side anyway. No need to dissolve it.

Do they really feed patties in late autumn in Philadelphia?

These aren’t for late fall, they’re for winter, after brood stops and before it begins again:

The protein content is lower than in regular pollen patties.

Thanks for all this information! very detailed. thanks for using your time to write it all.

Will obviously consider all of this. I think part of my problem is I don’t know how many stores they have, like I said last time I checked was quite sometime ago, about just over a month. when I checked each hive had around 3ish frames full of honey.

Since then they have been very active pulling in resources up until around last week when the cold hit. I’m just worried IF I should continue feeding and with WHAT if you are catch what I am throwing! But it seems your method would suffice, but again I don’t know if it neccecary

Just get in a habit of hefting one of the hive corners when you inspect it. It does not give much precision but creates a correlation in your head between what you see and how much it weighs. “Good/not good/need to watch it” is close enough approximations for practical purposes :slight_smile:

Not sure how exactly winters go in you area, but if weather permits cleansing flights early, I think bees would be able to survive this type of feeding.

Thanks ABB, this has been my winter feeding method and it works well here.I was suggesting winter patties because of what you explained to Tom. I’m always mindful of regional considerations, which is why I “wondered” about it :wink:

For example, some areas have worse hive beetles problems than others, and one would need to monitor how fast bees are consuming a brick of pollen in weather that beetles could survive in and start laying eggs in it, if bees aren’t eating it fast enough.

For my type of weather, it gets frosty/foggy but clears once it is day. Rarely does it drop below 3c at night. most winter days are between 10-20ish c. Not super cold I do live near mountains. North East Vic Alpine region.

Could be an option

Hi Bonum,
You can start lifting your hive now (or a corner) and compare as you progress through winter. They probably haven’t made a huge dent in the three frames yet, but will as winter progresses. Your bees will be out and about on sunny days, but you’re going to need to keep an eye on the drop in weight as 3 frames may or may not get you through. If you harvested honey, you can always keep it in reserve and give some to them as you would sugar syrup.

For our American friends, the climate is relatively mild over winter with lows in the 30’s and 40’s and highs in the 50’s and 60’s ( I had to look that up - #celcius is king!).

Six of my hives will cruise through winter and two might need some help, so I’ll keep lifting to get an idea of where they’re at. Thanks to @ABB for that excellent info about sugar syrup ratios. I’ve used very low rates of citric acid in the past instead. Would you consider that an alternative?

Not for this friend. Subtract about 20 from those figures where I am, well north of where those temps are the average, but quite a ways south of the northernmost point in the US :cold_face::wink:

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Amen to that! :grin:

Why not? If the purpose is to push pH to something honey-like. Almost any acid “from the pantry” will do. And citric acid is not the worst choice I guess. If you have sleep problems, you may read about Krebs cycle It will sort you out :slight_smile:

Why I recommended the acetic acid? Institute of beekeeping in the USSR ran a trial on the addition of acids to sugar syrup used as wintering food. They tried oxalic, acetic, tartaric and lactic acids. Same dosage for all of them - 0.3 g per 1 kg of sugar. All of them showed good results in relation to the winter mortality rate compared to pure sugar syrup. All acids showed a positive result in a reduction of sugar consumption in autumn by 19.6%. But acetic acid resulted in the lowest mortality. Also, it reduced the mass of feces stored in the gut - 22.9 mg vs 27.9 mg on pure sugar. Other acids - no difference. All this is not so critical in bonun’s case but on top of that, the use of acetic acid resulted in the fastest processing and capping of syrup as well as a 9.5% increase in brood production in spring.

Additional information:

I know that the addition of citric, oxalic or acetic acid is recommended in early spring feeding for colonies that had to winter on honey with the addition of honeydew. Bees come out of winter weakened and with strong diarrhea. The addition of acid helps them to recover and be more active. The recommended dosage, in this case, is rather heroic - 3 g per 1 kg of sugar.

Ascorbic acid is used as a symptomatic treatment for nosema - 0.2 g per 1 kg of candy.


Still too easy :grin: The lowest temperature I experienced was -40°F. Was slipping in a tent at -26°F. Wintered bees in the open air :rofl:

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Hi Tom, I think a good suggestion would be to see what others, if any are doing in your area over winter. You’ll probably find that 3 frames of honey will carry them over winter, not to mention the honey arcs above the brood. There might be just enough for the bees to forage on to carry them over.

Another consideration would be the use of added insulation around the hive, because the better insulated a hive is, the less honey they’ll need to use to keep the hive warm.

Hello Jeff,

The local beekeeper I’ve been speaking to says he feeds them 1:1 sugar through Winter then 6 weeks from Spring switches to pollen patties

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