Welcome, Guest

Author Topic: Help! Best natural feeding options  (Read 482 times)

Offline asfodeltreegiver

  • New Bee
  • *
  • Posts: 3
  • Gender: Male
Help! Best natural feeding options
« on: May 03, 2024, 12:39:44 pm »
Hi everyone! I'm a new beekeeper about to establish my first colony. I've been studying and preparing for over a year and have apprenticed with two local beekeepers.

One question I still have is this - what is the best food for bees in the spring and fall? I have a hard time believing that sugar water is the most nutritious and most viable option... To me, it feels like humans eating candy or processed sugars rather than fruit. Is it truly unsafe to give a colony honey from another healthy hive as they get established if the beekeeper have enough to spare on hand? Is there no better option than store-bought inverted sugar syrup or homemade sugar syrup?

If sugar syrup is truly the best option, would an unprocessed sugar like coconut sugar be more nutritious than white granulated sugar syrup?

Thanks in advance! I'm so excited to be here and to be starting on this amazing adventure!

Online The15thMember

  • Global Moderator
  • Galactic Bee
  • *******
  • Posts: 4598
  • Gender: Female
  • Traveler of the Multiverse, Seeker of Knowledge
Re: Help! Best natural feeding options
« Reply #1 on: May 03, 2024, 03:55:21 pm »
I consider myself to be a natural or at least naturally-inclined beekeeper (the definition of "natural" varies so much amongst beekeepers that I sometimes hesitate to use the term without context).  I personally see sugar as emergency feed only.  Is it the best thing for bees to eat?  No, certainly not, and your goal is always to leave the bees enough honey so you don't need to feed sugar.  But sometimes things don't go as planned.  Maybe the fall flow doesn't come in.  Maybe a weak colony is robbed out by a stronger one.  Maybe you have a package or nuc that is getting a late start and needs a boost.  In these situations, if you have extra honey frames squirreled away somewhere, or a big colony with a surplus you can donate to the other colony, that is what you'd do.  But if you don't have any extra honey, then sugar is what you can fall back on.  It's not the best, but it will keep the colony alive and prevent them from starving to death until they have access to nectar again.  Personally, I would be wary of purchasing honey to feed to bees, unless I could get it from a beekeeper who I would trust to have healthy bees.  I also feel like the extra expense of a different sugar isn't worth the price for the purpose, since I only use it when something goes wrong, which hopefully is rarely.  So I would just use whatever sugar I had on hand in the kitchen. 
I come from under the hill, and under the hills and over the hills my paths led.  And through the air, I am she that walks unseen.

Offline asfodeltreegiver

  • New Bee
  • *
  • Posts: 3
  • Gender: Male
Re: Help! Best natural feeding options
« Reply #2 on: May 06, 2024, 09:17:57 am »
Thanks so much for your reply! Yes, I was most interested in what to supplement bees' foraging with when getting a new colony established since honey stores will be empty (first hive!), and then of course it's also important to think ahead to potential food shortages for them as well. I'm fortunate enough to have about 100 jars of quality honey I helped to harvest myself from healthy bees last summer, so although it's not still capped in a frame I do believe it's a safe source of nutrition.

I was just reading that raw sugars contain elements that are undigestible to bees, so it's best to stick with white pure cane sugar (organic, if possible) in an ideal world. I'm not sure if anyone here can corroborate that or offer more insight into types of sugars when needed, but this is already very helpful.

Online The15thMember

  • Global Moderator
  • Galactic Bee
  • *******
  • Posts: 4598
  • Gender: Female
  • Traveler of the Multiverse, Seeker of Knowledge
Re: Help! Best natural feeding options
« Reply #3 on: May 06, 2024, 11:28:25 am »
Thanks so much for your reply! Yes, I was most interested in what to supplement bees' foraging with when getting a new colony established since honey stores will be empty (first hive!), and then of course it's also important to think ahead to potential food shortages for them as well. I'm fortunate enough to have about 100 jars of quality honey I helped to harvest myself from healthy bees last summer, so although it's not still capped in a frame I do believe it's a safe source of nutrition.
There is nothing wrong with feeding honey from a jar, I've done it myself several times, just so long as you can trust the source and it's not too cold.  I just put one of my feeder lids that has holes punched in it on the jar, turn it upside down over the inner cover, and away we go.  With a setup like mine though, if the ambient temperature is low, then the honey will be cold since it's not in with the bees, and they will refuse to take it because it would lower their body temperature.  But for helping a new colony build up in the spring, that shouldn't be a problem.   
« Last Edit: May 06, 2024, 11:47:37 am by The15thMember »
I come from under the hill, and under the hills and over the hills my paths led.  And through the air, I am she that walks unseen.

Online Kathyp

  • Global Moderator
  • Universal Bee
  • *******
  • Posts: 20551
  • Gender: Female
Re: Help! Best natural feeding options
« Reply #4 on: May 06, 2024, 12:19:39 pm »
What I found helpful is to be familiar with what is blooming in my area and when.  A short period of feeding sugar water until the bees find natural sources will not hurt them.  It only takes them a few days to orient on their hive and then go out and find food.  If you have lots of things blooming around you,  you shouldn't need to feed for long.

There are periods of time here when there's little for them to collect and it's important to keep a close eye on what they have stored.

You also need to figure out whether or not you want honey.  Some people just keep bees for pollination and pleasure.  If you want to gather honey, your management toward buildup might be different.

You helped harvest some honey so you have a mentor or someone who can help you evaluate the food possibilities for your area?
Someone really ought to tell them that the world of Ayn Rand?s novel was not meant to be aspirational.

Online The15thMember

  • Global Moderator
  • Galactic Bee
  • *******
  • Posts: 4598
  • Gender: Female
  • Traveler of the Multiverse, Seeker of Knowledge
Re: Help! Best natural feeding options
« Reply #5 on: May 06, 2024, 01:11:33 pm »
I agree with Kathy wholeheartedly.  Learning your local flows and understanding them in terms of your goals is critical to learning to manage bees, especially if you'd like to not feed sugar.  It's something that takes a few years of trial and error.  I'm in my 6th spring beekeeping and every year there seems to be one colony that I have mismanaged or has had some problem and needs sugar, but with more experience I'm hoping to make that a rarer occurrence. 
I come from under the hill, and under the hills and over the hills my paths led.  And through the air, I am she that walks unseen.

Offline Michael Bush

  • Universal Bee
  • *******
  • Posts: 19971
  • Gender: Male
    • bushfarms.com
Re: Help! Best natural feeding options
« Reply #6 on: May 07, 2024, 06:03:05 am »
I try to manage them so they won't need to be fed.  Most years I don't feed them at all.  When I do need to feed them, I use white sugar.  Solids are not good for bees.  Brown sugar is not good for bees.  Molasses is not good for bees.  The more refined the better.  I add some ascorbic acid to the syrup to lower the pH and make it keep better.
My website:  bushfarms.com/bees.htm en espanol: bushfarms.com/es_bees.htm  auf deutsche: bushfarms.com/de_bees.htm  em portugues:  bushfarms.com/pt_bees.htm
My book:  ThePracticalBeekeeper.com
-------------------
"Everything works if you let it."--James "Big Boy" Medlin

Online Terri Yaki

  • Super Bee
  • *****
  • Posts: 1688
  • Gender: Male
Re: Help! Best natural feeding options
« Reply #7 on: May 07, 2024, 07:18:37 am »
MB, in what form is the sugar when you are giving it to them?

Offline Michael Bush

  • Universal Bee
  • *******
  • Posts: 19971
  • Gender: Male
    • bushfarms.com
Re: Help! Best natural feeding options
« Reply #8 on: May 07, 2024, 08:17:10 am »
Generally I feed syrup, but that depends on the time of year and the goal.  When you feed dry sugar it keeps them from starving and it usually doesn't get stored much, but it's there if they need it.  Syrup is more useful if you want it to get stored or if you want to stimulate brood.
My website:  bushfarms.com/bees.htm en espanol: bushfarms.com/es_bees.htm  auf deutsche: bushfarms.com/de_bees.htm  em portugues:  bushfarms.com/pt_bees.htm
My book:  ThePracticalBeekeeper.com
-------------------
"Everything works if you let it."--James "Big Boy" Medlin

Online Terri Yaki

  • Super Bee
  • *****
  • Posts: 1688
  • Gender: Male
Re: Help! Best natural feeding options
« Reply #9 on: May 07, 2024, 08:23:35 am »
So it would be safe to just give them straight sugar? I have heard of sugar patties or loaf or whatever they want to call it and syrup but I hadn't hear of just straight sugar. I figured bees couldn't handle it for some reason.

Offline Michael Bush

  • Universal Bee
  • *******
  • Posts: 19971
  • Gender: Male
    • bushfarms.com
Re: Help! Best natural feeding options
« Reply #10 on: May 07, 2024, 08:36:20 am »
https://bushfarms.com/beesfeeding.htm#drysugar

Yes, dry sugar straight works.  But they are not going to go to a lot of effort to store it.  If you don't clump it up a bit then they may haul it out for trash.  See the link above for details.
My website:  bushfarms.com/bees.htm en espanol: bushfarms.com/es_bees.htm  auf deutsche: bushfarms.com/de_bees.htm  em portugues:  bushfarms.com/pt_bees.htm
My book:  ThePracticalBeekeeper.com
-------------------
"Everything works if you let it."--James "Big Boy" Medlin

Online Kathyp

  • Global Moderator
  • Universal Bee
  • *******
  • Posts: 20551
  • Gender: Female
Re: Help! Best natural feeding options
« Reply #11 on: May 07, 2024, 10:13:35 am »
Because we are so wet here, I would dump 5 lbs of dry sugar on the deep side of the inner cover for winter.  It served two purposes.  1. It was emergency food and 2. it absorbed moisture.  It started out dry and ended up more like a candy board.
Someone really ought to tell them that the world of Ayn Rand?s novel was not meant to be aspirational.

Offline Ben Framed

  • Global Moderator
  • Universal Bee
  • *******
  • Posts: 12831
  • Mississippi Zone 7
Re: Help! Best natural feeding options
« Reply #12 on: May 07, 2024, 11:18:24 am »
Thanks so much for your reply! Yes, I was most interested in what to supplement bees' foraging with when getting a new colony established since honey stores will be empty (first hive!), and then of course it's also important to think ahead to potential food shortages for them as well. I'm fortunate enough to have about 100 jars of quality honey I helped to harvest myself from healthy bees last summer, so although it's not still capped in a frame I do believe it's a safe source of nutrition.

I was just reading that raw sugars contain elements that are undigestible to bees, so it's best to stick with white pure cane sugar (organic, if possible) in an ideal world. I'm not sure if anyone here can corroborate that or offer more insight into types of sugars when needed, but this is already very helpful.



I?m a little confused. You said in your first post, your first hive, yet you say you have about a hundred jars of honey you obtained from healthy bees last season?

This time of year is flow season in my area. I realize you are in Germany and the situation there may be different than here, perhaps your flow has ended?

Did you obtain this colony by swarm? If so they should have brought along enough honey to keep them going unless you have had some sort of bad weather conditions? Or this is a late swarm for your location?  I ask this as you said honey stores will be empty.

Now; if you obtain this colony via package, this may be another situation altogether. In that case I wound feed sugar water until you get them on their feet, (white; pure cane sugar) while you might keep, sell, or give the honey to friends. Honey is much more valuable than sugar. Plus humans will receive the bounty from the previous years share of the (excess) harvest.

Phillip

2 Chronicles 7:14
14 If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

 

anything