Suger water or not for your bees?

liznbeatleOctober 17, 2007

Hey all,

I am a new beekeeper. This is my second year of harvesting honey. I am learning from a beekeeper with sixty years experience, he is a great teacher. He uses suger water for his bees, old hives as well as new. I understand the need for using them in establishing new hives, but question the long term use of sugar water. I think the nutritional value of the honey must be affected, if not the health of the bees themselves using bleached proccessed sugar instead of natural nectar. What are your opinions on the difference in the flavor of the honey, the nutritional value of the honey, and the affect on the bees? I would appreciate your feed back. Thanks Lisa

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Konrad___far_north(3..just outside of Edmonton)

Not sure if I understand your question...
Sugar water is supposed to be used only for feeding bees
and stop using it when honey supers are in place.
Soo...I never get to taste the sugar water honey.
Some bee keepers here, where nectar comes manly from canola,
most of this honey should be replaced with sugar water for
winter build up, because canola honey gets tooo...hard for
bees to take and can starve!

I have two deep brood chambers and they are stuffed with nectar honey, I hardly feed my bees,
I'm a small hobby keeper and not greedy, I do believe, the "real honey" is better for them.
Allot of keepers feed the heck out of them with sugar water so, when the nectar starts to flow, they put supper on...I let them build up in spring with the real thing...but then, my honey crop doesn't look as good.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2007 at 1:26AM
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james_lindstrom(z5 PA)

The sugar solution should never be fed when supers are on. This will keep it out of the honey you take. Fall feeding is supposedly to provide the bees with stores of honey for the winter, but this would only be necessary if you have taken more honey than you should have. The answer is simple--take no more honey than you need, always leaving enough for the bees.

Spring feeding is to encourage a quicker build up. I also like to check in the spring to see if they have enough honey to get them through to the first nectar flow. I've lost hives in the spring because they start to get more active and consume the last stores of honey then starve, so I often find it necessary to feed a hive about a gallon of thin sugar water.

I agree, though, feeding shouldn't be necessary. The first goal is always to take care of the bees, not produce honey. A lot of beekeepers get those two switched around.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2007 at 6:55AM
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james and conrad,
excuse my onehanded typing, i am holding an injured chick in the other hand that wants comforting. thank you for the response, i understand the neccesity of a spring feed in some situations, but as you say if enough honey is left that should not be an issue. the method i have seen so far is too feed them sugar water all the time and my mentor has said to leave them ten full frames or one full super of honey for the winter on three super high hives. four are new hives that did well, then struggled withmites and thenmade a good comeback after treating them. some people i have talked to about our honey have said that they can taste the difference in the honey because he feeds them constantly with sugar water. i am not a fan of white sugar to begin with but since i am still a novice at beekeeping and he has been kind enough to teach me i have done as i am told. in the future i may want to switch to less or no sugar water so i need to become educated about the neccesity of it. i have another question if i may, do you treat for varoa mites with menthol crystals? if so, am i correct in thinking that no honey should be taken after treatment until the following year because the honey will be contaminated? if that is the case, how toxic is the menthol crystals? would it require us to make all new frames for next year and not take any of the old honey if there were any? it seems to me that somthing that strong would soak into the frames, box, and anything else. do you start with new supers and move your bees into them in the spring then make brand new honey supers and frames? we have been spinning our honey and reusing the empty comb, but once treated for mites i dont think they will be usable anymore will they? my mentor does not know anything about the toxicity of the menthol crystals he uses, puts the paper towels soaked in it on with bare hands. is that safe? and yes i am a bit chemical paranoid, i just dont want to go to the hard work of getting natural raw honey and then contaminate it by being ignorant. the smell of the stuff is so strong, it makes me sick. i dont have the label to check and see if there are any other ingredients in it, but even natural extracts can be toxic in too high a concentration. i have pestered you enough, i will go now. thanks very much for your help. lisa

    Bookmark   October 18, 2007 at 6:01PM
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Lisa, Feeding sugar water does have it's values as stated in the replies.Spring can be unpredictable as far as weather goes. With an early package of bees in a new hive with just new foundation and no drawn out comb, it helps to feed a 1:1 ratio of sugar to water. This stimulates the bees to produce wax which is the first thing they need to do so that the queen will have a place to lay eggs. I've had times when I installed a package and was greeted with two straight weeks of almost constant rain and cool weather. In a case like that I will give them sugar water and a pollen pattie on the top bars. Bees need nectar. pollen, and water to raise brood. As Konrad mentioned, an overwintered hive can starve right before the first bloom in spring, so it's important to check your hives for stores often as winter ends.This past spring I only fed a few new colonies to get them going. Most of my overwintered hives were fine. Another thing I do is keep 8-10 full frames of honey in the freezer so it's ready to thaw and use as a boost where needed or when splitting a hive.If you use fummagillan to prevent nosema, it's usually mixed with sugar water and fed to the bees.For fall feeding use a 2:1 ratio of sugar to water. The higher sugar content is better for winter stores and as mentioned on previous posts, it is sometimes better than the fall flow of nectar available because it doesn't contain a lot of particulate matter. You definitely don't want to be feeding bees when you have honey supers on. Also, NEVER treat hives with any kind of medication when honey supers are on. This should be clearly stated on your treatments such as "mite away II" (formic acid for varroa and tracheal mites)or "apiguard" (thymol based treratment for varroa mites)Also follow directions exactly to prevent pests from developing resistance. Never consume honey that was on the hive during treatment. Use it only for feeding back to the bees. There are many IPM methods you can use such as drone frames, powdered sugar treatments, and screened bottom boards to help control mites. As long as you keep honey supers separate from brood chambers and take them off before treating you are okay to re-use them. sorry I rambled on for so long, but I wanted to address your concerns. Tony

    Bookmark   October 19, 2007 at 12:00AM
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Dear Tony,
Thanks very much for your response, you were not rambling at all:) I will research some of the things you mentioned, and we have not taken any honey after the hives were treated. We stopped taking the honey when the treatment was done. I think my concern was with reusing frames and boxes that may have been treated in the past, As you stated, I think organizing our supply of supers into honey supers and hive supers and not using one for the other will aleviate that worry. He had alot of older equipment that we took out and washed and rebuilt new hives with as well as some hives that were still going.I will discuss it further with my friend, to make sure we are doing treatment in an up to date safe method. It is probably fine, since he has been eating his honey for sixty years and nobody has ever gotten sick, I just need to know myself for peace of mind, and his supplies of mite killer no longer have a label on the container and he is doing it from memory. I would much prefer to use the other methods you mentioned for keeping the mites under control, rather than waiting til they get bad then have to use the menthol crystals. I will look into those methods. Thanks very much for your time in replying:) Lisa/liznbeatle

    Bookmark   October 20, 2007 at 10:46AM
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timintexas(z8 E.Tx.)

One thing that I do not think was mentioned in regards to feeding...I live in NE Texas. Many of my hives are Italian (race) and the Queens often do not shut down brood rearing till late, if at all. I have had many hives simply starve out and die due to their using up all their stores. Fall can be unpredictable as to rains...some fall flows are good, some, near non-existant. I have had 3 full supers simply get eaten by late September on one hive! Pretty much I now just take all the honey off the hives thru August. If I have a fall flow..good, if not (and even if so) I still begin to feed a light 50/50 sugar syrup at LEAST by the begining of Sept.
I have found that you can never assume you have "enough" stores on the hives just because you wern't "greedy". It never ceases to amaze me how fast the girls can run thru honey.
One other put your mind at ease about sugar. It is natural simply by its nature. It is not bleached as is, say, flour. Sugar crystals are pure sugar. It is not harmfull to bees or "worse" for them to eat. It is energy...same as honey. As is often said, honey is 4.00 a pound, sugar is .50 a pound. The bees don't care which they consume.
Bottom line is you should learn to is not hard and it is cheap insurance. The others have all made mention about when not to feed (when nectar flows are on and you are suppering ect.)
When I first started beekeeping, I did not understand the importance of feeding (among many other things, ha ha) and I had much higer losses. Feeding also allows me to keep a weak or small hive going thru winter. No way they would survive otherwise.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2007 at 11:12PM
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