This blog explains how I keep bees. It works for me, it might not work for you. Use my methods at your own risk. Always wear protective clothing and use a smoker when working bees.

Search This Blog

Monday, September 16, 2019

Feed for bees

There are many options for feeding bees. There is sugar water, High Fructose Corn Syrup and ProSweet. They all have pluses and minuses. Using the right feed at the right time can lead to better quality bees and increasing winter survival. Let's break them down.
  • Sugar, sugar has been the feed that beekeepers have used for the last one hundred years. Table sugar" or "granulated sugar" refers to sucrose. It is mixed with water and fed to the bees. The spring mixture of sugar and water is 1 part sugar to one part water. Fall mixture is heavy syrup, 2 parts sugar and one part water. The bees take this mixture of feed down into the hive and use the carbohydrate for their food and wax production. The bees need to turn this feed from sugar water to honey for long term storage. Sugar water will ferment with time. If the bees don't take it fast enough, sometime the syrup spoils and has to be thrown out.
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS). A fructose based sugar. There is two types of HFCS, HFCS 42 and HFCS 55. HFCS 42 granulates very quickly, about 2 weeks to granulate, not many commercial beekeepers use this. HFCS 55 is widely used by commercial beekeepers, it can granulate within a month. Heating HFCS can produce toxins for the bees, that is why with HFCS 55, only purchase what you need to use. HFCS will add weight quickly to a hives winter stores. HFCS is sold by Mann Lake and their dealer network. Mann Lake has the exclusive North American contract with Cargill to sell HFCS to beekeepers. A commercial beekeeper would order a half a semi truckload or full truckload of syrup for their operation. Hobby beekeepers sometimes struggle with the problem of granulation with HFCS.
  • ProSweet, ProSweet is a custom feed developed by Mann Lake. It is widely used by both hobbyists and commercial beekeepers. It is purchased in the semi truckload or in 2-1/2 gallon or 5 gallon containers. ProSweet is both sucrose and fructose. Honey is both glucose (which has the same general sweetness as sucrose) and fructose. Honey weighs 12 lbs per gallon, ProSweet weighs 11.55 lbs per gallon. ProSweet does not granulate or ferment. For spring feeding ProSweet gives the developing bees the proper nutrition for proper gland development, because of the providing both sucrose and fructose. ProSweet is available to use direct from the container it comes in. No mixing required. It lasts from one season to the next. Out of all the feeds out there, ProSweet is the most attractive for the bees in my opinion. For fall feeding the bees can take down ProSweet and do not have to dehumidify the syrup, like they have to do for sugar water. ProSweet is more concentrated than sugar water. If you feed a gallon of sugar water, after the bees work to dehumidify the syrup the net amount of syrup is less than a gallon that was started with. The net food after the fact may only be about 2/3rds of a gallon. With ProSweet, you feed a gallon and the net amount of food in the hive is one gallon. So a beekeeper has to feed more sugar water to get the same amount of feed as ProSweet. That leads to increased trips to the hive costing time and gas money. If a beekeeper needs to feed a lot of syrup to a hive, if it gets cool the bees may not be able to get enough sugar water into the hive. The bees may then starve from lack of food. Or the bees may not have enough time to convert sugar water to honey. This may cause the sugar water to ferment in the hive. Fermented syrup and honey can give the bees dysentery and cause the hives demise. By feeding sugar syrup for a long time in the fall can lead to more brood in the colony and higher mite counts. The higher mite counts can increase viruses in the bees. With ProSweet, beekeepers don't have these problems. Feeding is done quickly and the bees don't have to do anything extra for their feed to be ready for winter.