Feeding bees is a necessary part of beekeeping.
Many beekeepers only feed in the fall and winter. But springtime feeding can be equally important.
However, the type of syrup you use and the reasons for feeding in spring are entirely different.
So, what recipe should you use to make spring bee syrup and give your bees what they need this time of year?
Spring Sugar Water Or Syrup For Bees?
Spring feeding for bees is crucial to prevent starvation and boost your colony for the productive season. The recipe for spring bee syrup is a sugar-to-water mixture in a ratio of 1:1. This makes a thinner syrup compared to fall bee syrup and encourages the bees to drink it rather than store it.
Winter time is a period of limited resources, and bee colonies often need help from beekeepers to get through this season.
The food used to supplement the bees during winter is designed to give the bees specific nutrients. The colony’s nutritional requirements change in the winter when there is no brood to take care of, and the colony is in survival mode.
So why is feeding bees in the spring important, and how should the recipe of the food change compared to winter food for bees?
Feeding Honey Bees In The Spring
Bees colonies need energy coming out of the winter season to begin building up their numbers and preparing for the summer bounty.
Colonies that had a tough time during a harsh winter especially need spring feeding to help them prepare for the coming season. Their in-hive resources are likely very low or possibly wholly depleted.
If the food reserves are depleted, and the spring forage is not yet available, the colony could suffer heavy losses, and many workers may starve. This is the worst possible period for honey bees to experience such losses, just before the spring blooms begin.
The early spring is often when beekeepers see these heavy losses if they do not provide supplemental feeding for the bees.
The queen needs a quick source of energy to begin laying eggs to ramp up the number of workers in the colony to bring in the spring and summer reserves.
The workers in the colony need readily available energy to build new comb to expand the hive and provide laying space for the queen. They also need energy to begin flying out to find fresh forage and bring water to the colony.
These activities will be hampered if the colony is low on food or they have experienced a severe winter.
Spring feeding is the answer 🙂
It gives them the additional resources they need to kickstart their summer preparations.
What Should I Feed My Bees In Early Spring?
There are two main feeding methods that beekeepers use in the spring.
Depending on the prevalent weather conditions, you can choose between solid food or liquid syrup.
First, solid food may be required in many cases, especially if the spring is off to a slow start and temperatures are still relatively cold.
The solid food is the same bee candy you usually feed your bees in the winter. This is the best option if the early spring temperatures are too cold for the bees to use liquid food.
As a beekeeper, you must become a weather watcher and keep an eye on your area’s early spring weather forecasts. Early spring storms or cold snaps may prevent the bees from going out to forage.
If these weather patterns extend for a couple of weeks, it could result in strong colonies starving and wiping out weaker colonies.
Bees will generally not use liquid food if the outside air temperature is not consistently above 50°F or 10°C.
When the air temperature reaches this pivot point, you can switch to feeding the bees liquid spring syrup.
So, what recipe and ratios should you use for spring syrup?
Spring Bee Sugar Syrup Feeding Ratio
A thinner mixture in the 1:1 ratio of sugar to water should be used in springtime. This encourages the bees to drink the syrup, which gives an immediate energy boost to carry on with their business.
Spring sugar syrup for bees is a mixture of water and white sugar in a specific ratio. The ratio for fall feeding is a 2:1 sugar-to-water ratio to encourage the bees to store the food.
In the spring, we want the bees to drink the syrupy mixture as an immediate energy source rather than store it for later.
Recommended Ingredients For Spring Bee Syrup:
Spring bee syrup may be a simple mixture of sugar and water, but it is vital to use the right ingredients to help the bees rather than harm them.
Many people make the mistake of using brown sugar for their bee syrup. It’s true brown sugar is known to be less processed and refined than white sugar, making it a more natural product.
However, brown sugar is better for humans but not for bees. When bees drink syrup made with brown sugar, they have an adverse reaction in their gut which causes dysentery. This side-effect can kill your bees; they basically poop themselves to death!
White sugar is closer to natural nectar in chemical composition than brown sugar. Therefore, it does not have the same diarrhea effect on the bees.
Any clean water can be used to mix with the sugar to produce the syrup, but if you are using chlorinated tap water, leaving the water to stand overnight is helpful to let some of the chlorine dissipate into the air.
How Do You Make Spring Syrup For Bees?
The spring bee sugar water recipe is one of the easiest food recipes for bees that you will have to make for your bees. The ratio and ingredients are easy to remember and mix.
The ratio is 1:1 for spring bee syrup, which means the recipe calls for equal amounts of water and sugar. The equal parts can be by weight or by volume. I prefer the by-volume method, which makes the measurements easier and negates the need for a scale.
Spring bee syrup recipe (1 gallon):
- 10 and ¾ cups of sugar and
- 10 and ¾ cups of water.
Pour the sugar into a container that holds more than 1 gallon. Mix the water slowly, pouring two or three cups of water into the sugar at a time.
I prefer to use my hands to mix the sugar-water mixture initially and then switch to a wooden spoon as the mixture becomes more liquid. The sugar must be dissolved entirely before the syrup is given to the bees.
How Much Sugar Do You Need To Feed Bees In Spring?
It can be tricky to quantify how much sugar syrup you should give your bees in the spring. However, observing your bees and their behavior is the best indicator that it is time to stop feeding.
I live in a climate with mild winters, and spring blooms are generally pretty quick after winter. So once I see my bees consistently bringing pollen into the hive in a steady flow, I stop feeding the colony and remove the in-hive feeding gear.
Another method is to check the syrup levels in your in-hive feeding system. When natural forage is available, the bees stop feeding on the syrup.
The bees prefer natural food over your supplements 🙂
When the syrup levels are not dropping significantly in the feeders, the bees have found enough natural forage, and you can remove the feeders from the hive.
Feeding your bee colonies in the spring can save them from starvation when spring is off to a slow start and can boost your bees into high gear early in the production season. When the temperature has warmed up to above 50°F or 10°C, you can feed the bees a 1:1 ratio of sugar to water syrup.
Stop feeding spring syrup to the bees when there is evidence that they have enough forage to no longer use it.