Do I Have to Feed My Bees? The Clear Guide To How, When and Why

Raising bees can be tricky when you have questions about what, when, and how to do something involving your bees. And you don’t know where to turn. Beeks Best is your one-stop-shop for all your beekeeping and informational needs.  One of the many questions asked by beginners or those curious about raising bees is: Do I have to feed my bees? 

That is a great question and in this article, you’re going to learn about why you would feed your bees and when. In addition, you will learn what you can feed them. 

Let’s get started.

When Do You Feed Bees?

When first starting out it is common to ask ‘do I have to feed my bees’ a lot because of lack of experience. You may be thinking will my bees starve or do your bees have enough food stored away for the winter months?  

Ideally, when bees are running low on nectar or it’s not available they use honey from the hive for food throughout the winter to survive.

Bees are self-sufficient and normally can be left alone and they will thrive. But in situations when there are no nectar secreting plants available you as the beekeeper must keep an eye on your bees to make sure they don’t starve. 

One trick experienced beekeepers use is to pick-up the hive and feel the weight. If it is light, there may not be much honey for the bees to eat, so you would need to supply food for your bees. 

Another step you can take is to just monitor the amount of honey they have. Doing so will allow you to know exactly when it’s time to start feeding your bees. 

What Can I Feed My Bees?

You can feed bees honey, sugar syrup, or dry sugar. All three will give your bees nourishment. But there are a few cautionary steps you need to follow depending on what your feeding your bees, and how you feed them. Let’s talk about these steps. 

  • Honey as Feed – It’s very important to only feed bees, honey, from your very own healthy disease-free hive. Certain spores that harbor disease can be present in honey. It’s critical not to feed your bees, honey, from unknown sources.

An example would be other beekeepers or supermarket honey. These sources can infect your bees with a disease. When feeding your bees honey it must be placed inside the hive and never outside the hive. A law was passed in 1994 making it illegal to do so (the Livestock Disease Control Act).

  • Sugar syrup / Dry sugar – Just like honey, leaving sugar syrup or dry sugar out in the open can cause many problems. You can attract unwanted bees from other colonies. Meaning that you are now feeding other bees – along with your own. Not only will this waste money, but it also can create a platform for disease transfer. 

A pro beekeeper tip is to use the sugar syrup or dry sugar in the hives more towards the evening time. This helps prevent other bees from attempting to rob hives that are fed. 

 How Often Do You Feed Your Bees?

It’s common for bees to remove the syrup and reduce the water supply. Then they store it inside the combs just like they do honey. If you have a moderate to strong colony it’s possible for them to empty the feeder in a couple of days. But it varies so pay attention. 

When you are questioning do I have to feed my bees. And it’s a brand new colony with no stored honey or nectar available; your first feed vastly depends on the size of the brood, the size of your colony, and the size of your feeder. 

Experts say it is safer to overfeed your colony than to slight your bees, causing the possible death of your colony. 

How Much Do You Feed Your Bees?

Initially, when you feeding your bees, many experts say to start with 1-3 liters. 

Keep in mind when you’re feeding your bees you must monitor them and gauge how much syrup your bees are consuming and how much has been stored in the comb. 

This tells you valuable information about health and the stores they have created for the colony. And tell you how much syrup needs to be given. Once the nectar supply returns feeding your bees is unnecessary.  

In conclusion

In this article you learned the valuable answer to the question – do I have to feed my bees?

And that answer is two-fold, it depends on what time of the year it is and if your bees have access to nectar-producing flowers. Furthermore, it depends on if your bees already have a honey store resource for food that they’ve already built up. New colonies require more attention.

You also learned what you can feed your bees, and how much.  

For any questions about beekeeping tools and supplies, or to ask more questions about raising bees Beek’s Best can help you with anything you need to get started. Reach them at (866) 712-3357. Do I have to feed my bees? It’s a question they have answered many times. Let their expert staff help you. Pick up the phone and give them a call today.