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To Feed or Not to Feed - Search for a Consistent Guideline


@Michael_Bush’s rationale that feeding bees can lead to backfilling of brood and swarming does make sense.
Is there a time to feed other than winter prep?

Last week I placed an empty 8-frame deep body on a box into which I had put an 8-frame nuc that I had purchased. Do I feed this hive? 8 frames need to be drawn out then filled. I’m in Eastern CT in the US and while I don’t think there’s currently a dearth, this is my first season and I question my own judgment on this flow/no-flow point. I live in a suburban yet wooded area, with no meadows or cultivated fields nearby.

Feed? If so, with what? Syrup? Complement with pollen patties?
Don’t feed? What are the risks of not feeding? Lower population for first winter?

  • Rookie In the Extreme


Anytime they are out of stores you will need to feed. They could run out of stores in any dearth if it lasts long enough. The lest stores they have, the shorter time it takes them to run out. The more bees the shorter the time to when they run out. If they run out entirely in a complete dearth, they will die quickly. Anytime they are at risk of running out of stores by spring, you should be feeding to get them up to weight for winter. The amount needed should be based on the cluster size and the norm for your climate. You should have a goal in mind and feed to that goal. In the fall, if there is a dearth, they will need to raise one last batch of young bees for winter. You may have to feed if there is a failed fall flow to get that last batch of bees. Bottom line: you need to pay attention to what is happening in your hives and in the world around you.


If they have to build 8 frames of comb in early summer.
Feed or not feed?
Should I describe my local conditions in more detail?
If I should base this on the rate at which they’re drawing out comb, what should I be seeing on 8 frames two weeks later in early summer?

Thank you Michael.


If there is a flow, don’t feed. If there is a dearth, feed.

Things always “depend”.

Different colonies do different things in the same situation. I would base it on there being nectar available, not on the speed with which they are doing it. If they are building then there is a flow. If they are using up stores and the colony is losing weight, then there is a dearth.


I too have a similar question regarding the “feed or not feed”. I obtained a nuc from a reputable breeder two days ago. The breeder instructed me to feed the bees throughout the summer since it is pretty late in the season to be establishing a brand new nuc. I live in Washington State, USA in a highly agricultural area (the breeder also lives in this area) and so I wonder is this truly necessary, as I do not want to encourage robbing behaviors. I was told to use pollen patties occasionally but mainly sugar water.

If I am truly to feed throughout the summer, what feeding method is best? Has anyone used the baggie method? I am interested in this method for several reasons including: less robbing ability, less drowning, and fairly easy to clean up. Any thoughts would be appreciated.


Are they short on stores? If so, reduce the entrance to prevent robbing. Use anything except a Boardman feeder. Something with access from the inside and not near the entrance where robbers will find it. A frame feeder, a Miller feeder, A can or jar feeder. A baggie feeder.



G’day Peter, the “reputable breeder” would probably be worth taking notice off. He lives in your area & he has a surplus of bees he’s able to sell to you. The fact that he has surplus bees to be able to sell, in my view, speaks volumes.