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To feed or not to feed the hive over winter time


I’m new to beekeeping (this year) with a Flowhive & a top-bar that I made. Is it possible to leave enough honey on over winter or will I have to feed the bees? I’m trying to get their honey to be as pure as it can be or am I to optimistic?

The Flowhive has had bees in since end of May & the Top-bar hive had a swarm in 3 days ago and they are already bringing in pollen. It was quite a big swarm, well I think so.

I’ve heard the saying “ask 3 keepers a question & you’ll get 4 answers” :slight_smile: so I look forward to your advice.


G’day Gervase, I don’t keep bees in a cold climate, however it’s my belief that the better insulated you make the hive during winter, the better chance they have of surviving the winter. I would not be concerned about feeding the bees sugar syrup during winter because what syrup the bees use is consumed & wont be stored as honey.

If you are concerned about sugar syrup getting into the honey, stop feeding the bees when they start to bring in honey during spring.


Hi Gervase,[quote=“gervase_evans, post:1, topic:7875”]
Is it possible to leave enough honey on over winter or will I have to feed the bees?

Your question is very much dependent on what forage is available in your area and at what times of the year and also your climate. If you are rural then either the native vegetation or agriculture and if urban then it will be on whats being planted and the street trees. As you will learn you become part beekeeper/part horticulturalist. In some climates (like Australia) there is no need to feed bees, but if in a cold climate where the winters are long and there is not enough nectar to be collected during summer and autumn (fall) then some feeding to build up the bees stores is essential to their survival.
My advice is to hookup with a local beekeeping club in your area, they will be the information bank you need to get your bees through the winter. Cheers


That is exceedingly good advice…
The rest of us can only throw generalisations at you
Good luck


Morning Jeff
That info is great news to me. I wouldn’t mind leaving honey on for the bees as I’m not in it to make a profit from the bees, Just there to enjoy/marvel at their work.
When I had the 1st swarm for the Flowhive, I gave them sugar syrup in a feeder I’d been lent but the casualties it left was distressing so I took it out.
I also found out that the sugar I used was beat sugar & not cane sugar which seems to make a difference!!!

I will see how I can insulate my hives as well. Good advice there. I had read that the colder it gets the more stares they have to consume.
Hope you have a great year with your bees & thanks.


Thank you Rodderick.
I live on the edge of a town with a lot of gardens around us & farmland just up the road. Some OSR is sown about 2 miles away in early spring but I think most of the foraging will be on the meadow and trees close by. The place on top of me manshed is sown with wild flowers & sedums which is well looked after by the bees & bumble bees.

I have joined the local bee keepers & will throw them that question when I get to one of the apiary visits planned for this summer.



Thank you Gervase, the only time I feed any bees, it’s with a sauce bottle & it’s only when they have no food at all, I’ll just give them enough to tie them over for a day or so until they get out foraging.

There might be a different type of feeder you can use over winter so you don’t get any casualties. Maybe you could leave the bees some honey as well as syrup so you get to enjoy some of the honey yourself as well as share some with family & friends.

Good luck with your bees, take care, bye


The best place to put winter feed is straight on the top bars. With your TBH you would have to move a couple of bars apart a bee space and put the candy/patty there.
Here’s how :wink:


Thanks Dee.
That’s great to know & simple to. I’ll make up some insulation jackets for the hive this autumn ready for the winter.
THank you all for your help & support in my learning. @JeffH @JeffH @Rodderick


It depends on the year. But most years I do not feed any of my bees anything at all. Some years I feed a few hives going into winter. Some years I have to feed all of them. Last time I fed all of them was probably 8 or 9 years ago.


Thanks Michael.

How hard are your winters as I believe this has a big bearing on the energy the bees have to expel to keep warm. Our winter temp drops to just below freezing for a month or 2 usually but we also have had some very mild winters recently.

I guess that you must check to see how much capped honey they have at the end of a season.

If I insulate them well that should help a lot.



I’m in Southeast Nebraska right now. Winter in beekeeping terms (from a killing freeze until the first blooms) usually lasts 6 months here. (like the middle of October to the middle of April) Sometimes 7 1/2 months (like the middle of September to the first of May). Sometimes I’ve seen it only 3 months (Jan, Feb and Mar). We typically get -10 F (-23 C) for about two weeks. Sometimes we get -27 F (-33 C) for two weeks. When I started beekeeping in Western Nebraska, we once had -40 F (-40 C) every night for a month and a half. When I was in Laramie we had -40 F for about a week once. A typical large cluster, Italian colony needs to go into winter weighing about 120 pounds (54 Kilos). It’s more about what you leave them, but if they are light you need to feed them up to a target weight based on the size of the cluster.


Wow, that’s extreme beekeeping & just living!! I’ll not worry so much now & make sure they have enough stores left on.
Thanks for your encouragement and I hope you get some summer.


another argument for leaving enough stores rather than feeding sugar is that the stores they have contain significant amounts of pollen which is missing when feeding pure sugar.
It’s not only important as a food protein and mineral source during the colder months, but when spring comes, it’s required for feeding the brood. If the spring weather isn’t conducive to producing plenty of pollen, the early spring build up of brood could be delayed if the colony’s only food source is pure sugar.


How well do your bees do in the winter? I am in MN and we have some pretty rough winters here too. A local beekeeper does not winter his bees, he says it’s to hard and they loose profit on the honey. We are hobbyists and were wanting to try and winter our bees (first hive), and people think we are “brave”, LOL.


I have over the years changed from only overwintering strong hives to overwintering both hives and nucs and letting the smaller ones have a chance to get through the winter. Back when I combined all the small ones, I hardly ever lost a hive. Since I started overwintering nucs, it depends on the winter. This last winter was very mild and losses were very low. I lost none of the strong full sizer hives and probably 20% of the nucs. In a really hard winter I lose more like 50% of the nucs and 20% of the hives.


That is good to know, thank you!


I did this, and still got about six different answers and I’m no more clear now than I was before!!! This beekeeping world is very confusing at times! We are just going to take all the information, and then try what we think is right for our bees and hope for the best! We get down past -40 C here in the winter, so I agree that most of you can’t possibly tell me what to do for winterization as you live in much warmer climates!


This might help


Thanks Dee!!! I really appreciate it!