Supplementary feeding before winter. Does it work?

In March 2017, after a disappointing summer for beekeepers, I started feeding sugar to the bees by placing a perspex plate on top of frames in the top box and spreading approximately 500gms of sugar. Within several days the sugar had been consumed.

At the end of March I commenced a feeding regime of sugar syrup - 6 cups sugar:6 cups boiled filtered water, cooled and tipped into a ziplock bag. This was placed on top of the perspex plate and the bag punctured in 6 or so places. The bees took approximately 2 to 3 days to empty each bags.

From March 26 to May 20 the bees emptied 22 bags of sugar syrup. I replaced the last bag with ~750 gms of sugar on the top plate and left the hive for the winter.

An inspection at the end of September found the population had increased, frames filling and the need for another super to be added.

At the end of the year the two top boxes had 80% capped honey and the remaining cells all had uncapped honey including the third box.

Early January ~28 to 30 kg honey extracted.

This sounds like a lot of syrup. How much capped honey (syrup) was stored in frames at the end of May? The reason I don’t feed syrup over time like this is that it stimulates the colony, so feeding large amounts of syrup going in to winter can result in a large number of bees consuming the stores. How big were the 22 bags of syrup? With 6 cups of sugar + 6 cups of water were they around 2 litres?

For my single full depth hives I target about 10 ideal frames of honey to over winter. This equates to about 6 full depth frames of honey plus whatever honey is in the deep brood box (eg. insulating outside frames, and honey arc above brood). Over winter I also provide dry sugar which the bees will access if/when stores are low and it doesn’t stimulate laying in the same way as syrup.

If others are interested there is a good resource on supplemental feeding here (because there is a lot of discussion on the topic)

Page 20. has details of methods of sugar feeding.

Also ‘Sugar Concentration’ is discussed in the following document on page 3:

Hello Team,

As I understand it, the honey police report sugar feed bees as being the #1 source of honey contamination. ABK might have had an article around January this year. To my knowledge a relatively simple test has also been developed as well.

I might presume that if I was buying that honey, that it might be honey made entirely by a natural process, which sugar feeding in my limited knowledge is not.

Sugar feeding might be best viewed through the lens of how might this play on the front page of the Canberra Times.



Hello everyone,

As farmers, for choice of a generic term for we as beekeepers clearly practice insect husbandry, feeding your bees at times to ensure that they have sufficient food reserves to get them through winter or for that matter out of winter when they are rapidly wishing to draw wax foundation is part of what we do as beekeepers as I see it to improve the health & wellbeing of the livestock in our care, nothing more, nothing less.

This is clearly significantly different to what occurs on a commercial scale where corn syrup and the like is feed in bulk to overwintering bees in the US and elsewhere around the globe to keep them alive during winter.

I cannot imagine anyone in this neck of the woods intentionally trying to pass sugar syrup off as honey but I could see someone new to beekeeping getting caught up in a mess where they cannot distinguish between what is the sugar syrup is that their bees have stored that is now laying along side of nectar from trees that the bees have foraged and could now be extracted to be a blend of both.

That said again I can only see this occurring in this country as un unintentional event to a new beekeeper aware of how to identify the difference/s.

There is now shame in feeding your bees, far from it, but the more I learn about bees the more I learn that the confusing issue here is typically with the beekeeper and not the bees as such as to what should be fed and why.

I will post a bee feeding post in the coming days on this which I hope will help further clarify how, when and what to feed your bees to maintain a successful hive before and through a Canberra winter.



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This is covered in the second document I linked above:

Sugar contamination of honey
This is an extremely important issue when considering feeding bee colonies sugar syrup. The evidence suggests that honey bee colonies fed one or two litres of sugar syrup at a time are likely to consume all this liquid sugar and not store any of the sugar for any length of time. The use of small amounts of sugar syrup to stimulate bees on pollination jobs, for use in queen rearing systems, or to stimulate the colony in early spring, should not pose any significant risk as far as sugar syrup being stored and at some future date extracted. Feeding larger quantities of sugar syrup does pose a risk of the sugar syrup being stored by the bees and at some future date being extracted by the beekeeper. Feeding large quantities of sugar syrup may occur in autumn in preparation for winter or during periods of severe drought. In most cases the bees will consume the bulk of this stored sugar and the risk of extracting stored fed sugar will be minimal. The first extraction after large quantities of syrup have been fed to bees should be identified in the paper work sent to the honey buyer/packer company. This first extraction could be many months after the sugar syrup has been fed to the bees. While not feeding bees any sugar would be ideal, the occasional or seasonal use of this management process can be a lifesaver for the bees and can significantly enhance a colony’s performance.

As Eric has said, I don’t see beekeepers doing it intentionally in Canberra, but it is something new beekeepers may do inadvertently. This is why you should always take care when feeding, and avoid feeding with supers that are to be extracted on the hive.

This was also one of my concerns when discussing the honey co-op idea for CanberraBees in your other thread. Checking the residual moisture/water content of contributed honey is straightforward, determining if there is sugar contamination (accidental or intentional) is more difficult. That is one of the reasons I think I will go down the path of limiting it to providing standardised bottling/labelling.

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Amazing arguments for and against, also why and when to feed the colony. looking forward to reading more ideas on this topic, Eric and Sam. Thanks. A

Hey everyone,

just wondering who is feeding their bees and where they are geographically as whilst there are a few gums still in flower throughout the ACT these seem to be in very isolated pockets and single trees rather than in any real number.

There are other varieties that are in heavy bud so will flower in the coming weeks but how much good these will provide the beens where the weather changes as it typically does on Anzac Day is anyones guess as the cold typically decreases foraging bees who weigh up the ROI on flying on cold days…

Where hives need a feed i’ll reassess this on the ANZAC Day inspections as this will allow enough time with internal feeders to build colonies up before winter and the cold ahead.



Hey everyone

thought that this post was worth reposting as we rapidly approach Winter in the ACT, noting that we are down to overnight lows of 1C two days after ANZAC Day this year…, Feeding them syrup now while you can makes a great deal of sense as it wont be long before its too cold for them to bother with syrup and then your only choice is plain white sugar as a safe alternative.

Anyway, just a gentle reminder so you check now and see how they are travelling with Winter well on the way.



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