Feeding Honey Bees
Written by Steve Repasky
In the spring it is often necessary to provide new or weak colonies with supplemental feed in the form of sugar. White table sugar (sucrose) mixed with water to create sugar syrup is simple and preferred mixture to feed honey bees. Sugar syrup fed in the spring should be one part sugar and one part water (1:1), either by weight or by volume. Fall feeding requires a thicker syrup (2:1) and we will discuss this in a later topic.
In the spring thick/concentrated sugar syrup can cause digestive problems since the bees are trying to consume it for immediate use to build comb and feed larvae. Generally the bees will accept syrup mixtures with a ratio between 1:1 and 2:1 anytime of year without significant problems so it is not necessary to measure the ratio exactly. The recommended syrup ratios is a general guideline.
Hot tap water should be sufficient to dissolve table sugar for making 1:1. Overheating (boiling) sugar syrup on the stovetop can make the mixture difficult to digest due to caramelizing (oxidation) of the sugar and is harmful to the bees.
Calculating ratios is simple. One gallon of water weighs 8.35 pounds. So a 1:1 ratio would be approximately eight pounds of table sugar to one gallon of water.
An easy way to transport sugar syrup to the hive is in clean, one gallon plastic jugs. They are also very convenient for pouring into the feeder. There are many methods to feed sugar syrup. Feeders that are placed either inside the hive or directly on top of the hive are generally preferred because the syrup is readily available to the hive and it is difficult for stronger colonies to rob the syrup away from the hive.