Winter Patties For Bees (What, Why, and How!)

winter patties for bees

Overwintering bees can be a nerve-racking time for beekeepers.

We want to keep them alive, well-fed, and healthy so that the colony survives the winter and is ready for work in the upcoming spring. 

But if your bees are struggling, you’ll probably need to feed them when they reach the coldest part of the year. To do this, many beekeepers use patties.

But what exactly are winter patties, how do you use them, and are they a good alternative to offer your bees in the winter season?

Winter Patties For Bees

Winter patties are a food supplement that beekeepers provide their bees during severe winter periods of prolonged cold or wet weather. They ensure the bees have enough resources, thereby keeping the colony strong. The patties include mostly sugar, with a small percentage of oil and pollen substitutes.

As the weather gets colder, leaving the hive to forage becomes more difficult for honey bees. Sometimes bees need extra energy to keep warm and maintain the colony’s strength throughout the winter when resources can run low inside the hive. 

Putting a winter patty or two in your brood box can help get them through the lean, cold winter months! 

What Exactly Are Winter Patties?

Winter patties are a means of providing your bees with essential carbohydrate-rich nourishment in the winter. They are made from various ingredients, including sugar, honey, oils, and fats, and a minimal amount of protein. 

As winter approaches, beekeepers worldwide begin to prepare their hives for the long, cold months ahead. 

Winter patties are basically a bee version of energy bars!

They can be purchased from commercial manufacturers or made at home using simple ingredients. 

The ingredients are mixed together, formed into flat patties, and allowed to solidify. These can be placed in the hive during winter as a food source.

The bees will then consume the winter patties as needed to maintain their energy levels throughout the winter. This is especially important if you typically have long periods of prolonged cold weather during winter, when the bees may be unable to venture out to gather food.

An Important Difference Between Winter Patties And Pollen Patties

You may hear beekeepers talking about “winter patties” and “pollen patties .” Unfortunately, these terms can be a bit confusing. After all… aren’t patties all the same?

Nevertheless, there’s an essential difference! Both are used to feed bees, but they are used for different purposes:

  • Winter patties are made with a mix of sugar, water, and a very small amount of pollen. They are used to help bees survive the winter when there’s no nectar available. 
  • On the other hand, pollen patties are made with mostly pollen and are used to help bees build up their protein stores and encourage brood rearing.

Do Bees Need Pollen Patties In The Winter?

Do not feed bees pollen patties during the winter by mistake. And you should probably avoid using them in the late fall as well.

Remember… Pollen patties are designed to stimulate brood rearing.

Honey bees do not necessarily need to increase their numbers as they move towards wintertime. An overpopulated colony in winter just puts a drain on its resources. And feeding pollen will trick the bees into making superfluous worker bees. And there’s a risk that big colonies won’t overwinter successfully. 

Furthermore, pollen fills their digestive system with waste materials they must hold in their intestines until it’s warm enough to make cleansing flights. This accumulation of non-digestible matter in the gut can cause bee dysentery.

How To Use Winter Patties For Bees?

Once you’ve got your winter patties, it’s important to know when to use them and where to position them in the hive. You’ll also need to keep an eye on how quickly they’re consumed in case you need to replace them…

Winter patties can be purchased from various locations and can even be bought online. The Mann Lake FD355 Bee Pro Patties (Amazon) are an excellent product that comes ready to feed your bees. These winter patties come in a 40-pound box, where each pattie is about 1-pound. There is no mixing or mess; simply take them straight from the box to the hive.

If you want to try making your own mixture for bee patties, you’ll find a recipe below 🙂

When To Feed Winter Patties To Bees

Only feed your bees if they actually need it. Begin by making an assessment of the colony’s strength. You can do this in late fall or early winter before the weather gets too cold. 

You can start feeding your bees with patties if you judge that they need supplemental feeding.

This way, you’ll give the bees a good store of readily available food before the winter becomes too cold. 

You should check on the patties in the hive periodically throughout winter and replenish the patties as needed. If they haven’t been consumed, remove them before they get moldy or attract pests.

Where To Place Winter Patties In A Beehive

If you’re wondering where to place winter patties in a beehive, the answer will depend on the type of hive you have. 

For top-bar hives, place the winter patties on the bars near the brood chamber. 

For Langstroth hives, winter patties can be placed in the brood box on top of the frames. If you have double brood chambers, lift the top box off, and put the patties on top of the frames in the lower chamber before replacing the upper box. 

This explains why patties need to be flat, so they can easily fit under the top cover or the subsequent brood box.

Remember… If you remove supers from your Langstroth hives for the winter, you should place the patties on top of the brood frames in the brood chamber near the center of the hive. This position will be close to where the bees will cluster for warmth when the weather gets cold.

How Long Do Winter Patties Last?

Typically, the patties can last anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. A good rule of thumb is that a 7-ounce or 200-g pattie can last an average hive for about 14 days. 

However, the patties’ duration will depend on the size of the colony and the stores they have in reserve for the winter.

The best strategy is to monitor the hives periodically throughout the cold months to check if they need to be replaced.

When opening the hives in winter, be sure to do it on a sunny day, and do not leave the hive open for too long, or the heat in the hive will escape. Once the patties are made, they can be stored in a cool, dry place until they are ready to be used.

So How Many Bee Patties Do They Need To Survive Winter?

Again, the answer depends on the size of the hive and the number of bees inside. As a rule of thumb, place 1-3 pounds (0.5 to 1.3 kg) on top of the brood frames for each application.

A small hive might need just a few bee patties, while a large hive could need dozens. Therefore, each beehive should be treated individually and fed as needed.

How To Make Winter Patties For Bees

You can buy commercially manufactured winter patties for your bees or make your own version at home.

There are many different recipes available, some of which include pollen substitutes like this (Amazon), which you should be able to purchase from a beekeeper’s supply store or online. However, if you add pollen, ensure it only constitutes about 2% of the total ingredients.

Other recipes use ingredients that can easily be found in most households or grocery stores. Here’s an example:

Recipe for Making Winter Patties From Scratch:

You’ll need the following ingredients to make homemade winter patties for bees.

  • 1 cup of white sugar
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 tablespoon of dry powdered milk
  • 2 tablespoons of coconut oil

Using a medium-sized pan, pour in the sugar and water and bring to a boil. Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the powdered milk and coconut oil until well combined. 

Place the bee pattie mixture in a shallow dish and let it cool until it’s firm enough to shape into patties. Once it’s cooled, use a spoon or your hands to form the mixture into small patties. 

Place the patties on a wax paper-lined baking sheet and put them in the freezer. Once frozen, you can store them in an airtight container in the freezer until you’re ready to use them.

To feed your bees the winter patties, simply place one or two on top of the frames in the brood chamber for them to feast on during the cold winter!

What Are AP23 Winter Patties?

These patties were developed by the beekeeping supplies company Dadant. AP23 is an artificial pollen substitute formulated to closely match the nutrients found in natural pollen. In addition, it is said to contain probiotics that make it easily digestible by honey bees.

“AP” stands for “artificial pollen .”And the number 23 simply means this is the 23rd formulation they have come up with. It’s intended to be the best substitute readily accepted by honey bees. 

AP23 patties are available as standard pollen patties or winter feeding patties. The winter variant contains only 2.5% protein (compared to 15% for the standard version).

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