View Full Version : Chalkbrood and pH of sugar syrup and honey

Michael Bush
01-03-2006, 04:37 PM

According to this study a pH<5 will inhibit Chalkbrood from germinating.


According to this the average pH of honey is 3.9. Sometimes it's as low as 3.4.


According to this the pH of table sugar is neutral (ph = 7.0).

So is there a difference between sugar syrup and honey?

I'm very curious how pH affects Nosema and AFB and EHB and other problems including mites.

George Fergusson
01-03-2006, 06:15 PM
Whoa. Interesting Michael. Water is theoretically neutral so it's hard to imagine sugar water would be much different- honey would be a lot more acidic.

This bears some investigation. Seems I recall reading on Wrangler's site about the use of vitamin C crystals (ascorbic acid) as a food "attractant" I think he called it... lemme check... here it is:


Adding vitamin C crystals to pollen and syrup would definitely acidify it. I wonder if there's a connection?

[ January 03, 2006, 07:24 PM: Message edited by: George Fergusson ]

power napper
01-03-2006, 07:14 PM
Now that is interesting. In the area I live our water is acidic, mostly due to the coal mines and strip mining, my spring water is a ph of 5.7, it will eat out copper pipes over time and no we do not drink it. That is the water that I provide to my hives!!

George Fergusson
01-06-2006, 01:25 PM
So, perhaps I should be testing the ph of the feed I give my bees. Perhaps I should give them a selection of feed with varying ph and see if the bees have a preference for one over another. Anyone ever try something like this?

There's so much we don't know about bees.

01-06-2006, 02:15 PM
I wonder what the ph of propolis is? Its anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-viral and according to the article about HIV and propolis, Dr. Spivak mentions a tropical source of propolis that prevents AFB. George, is there an easy way to measure pH? :cool:

George Fergusson
01-06-2006, 02:27 PM
>, is there an easy way to measure pH?

It's not hard, in theory. I've done it with soil test kits and when I made beer I had some special litmus paper for testing the ph of wort.

Many tests work for only a specific range of ph i.e., something to test your water may only give results between 5 and 9 or 6 and 8. Litmus paper can be problematic with liquids that that are colored too. I've heard about digital ph meters but I imagine those are more or less expensive. I'll have to do some research and get back to you.

Anyone else have any experience with this, pipe up.

01-06-2006, 03:43 PM
"There are three methods for measuring pH; a probe and meter, litmus paper, and a field kit. The most accurate and reliable method is the probe and meter. This method is no less convenient than the other methods, but requires a more expensive piece of equipment."


Jim Fischer
01-06-2006, 06:22 PM
Swimming pool test kits included a pH test,
but as I recall, the color charts measured
only from something like 6.0 to 8.0.

For testing how acidic (low pH) or alkaline
(high pH) something is, one can directly add
reagent chemicals to the water (or honey).

In general, bromthymol blue will be more yellow
in more acidic conditions, and will turn more
blue in more alkaline conditions. Don't bother
with phenol red, as it is going to be as yellow
as it can be at higher alkaline levels than would
apply to honey.

Michael Bush
01-06-2006, 08:02 PM
>So, perhaps I should be testing the ph of the feed I give my bees. Perhaps I should give them a selection of feed with varying ph and see if the bees have a preference for one over another. Anyone ever try something like this?

Sounds like an interesting experiment.

>Swimming pool test kits included a pH test,
but as I recall, the color charts measured
only from something like 6.0 to 8.0.

My son checks it in his aquariums, but I'm guessing it will be a similar range to the swimming pool test kit. I'll try to get that information from him.

George Fergusson
01-06-2006, 09:28 PM
>Sounds like an interesting experiment.

Yup. I'll give it some more thought and see what develops.

You usually find litmus paper or a test kit that works only for the practical range of values you expect to see in what you're testing- a swimming pool, or soil. In this application, you probably won't find one flavor that covers the entire range of interest. The accuracy and precision can vary wildly too. I think you'd want an accuracy of at least a half a ph point to be useful.

I had no idea that honey was (or usually is) that acidic. I've also heard of bees sampling what amounts to lye (runoff from wood ashes) which is incredibly alkaline.

01-09-2006, 07:15 AM
For those of us who dont have Ph Paper what are the doses of Vit. C? I am going to mix up some syrup shortly and would like to give it a try. I am guessing it would take a moderate amount to get the PH down to 3.9ish.

George Fergusson
01-09-2006, 09:03 AM
Never having tried vitamin C, the best thing I can do is point you at bwrangler's page on this matter:


I AM going to try vitamin C though. I'm not even sure the goal is to bring sugar syrup into the ph range of honey. Honey can vary from 3.4 up to 6-ish.

01-09-2006, 10:47 AM
How to Make Red Cabbage pH Indicator


never tried it myself, let us know
also lemon juice and lime juice is very acidic could be used to bring down the PH
Sulfuric acid has a ph of .3 while lemon juice has about 2.3
Perhapse a minute amount of sulfuric could be used, Lemon juice would be much safer and easier to find.

I also found ascorbic acid has a PH of 2.1 while buffered vitamin C has a ph of 6.8, ascorbate bio-C is 5.8 so looks like you need to make sure you get straight ascorbic acid vitamin C to get the low PH.

Michael Bush
01-09-2006, 01:16 PM
I haven't measure the pH when using vitamin C. I just added more until it didn't mold anymore. I ended up with about 7 1000 mg tablets (7 grams) of the cheapest vitamin C in about five gallons of 2:1 syrup and about 14 (14 grams) added to five gallons of 1:1 syrup. But my goal was simply to keep it from spoiling.

I would like to figure out how to lower the pH to somewhere between 3.4 and 3.9.

01-09-2006, 02:05 PM
here's litmus paper strips that go down to 4.5


pretty cheap
I added some vinegar to some syrup this summer and the bee's still took it fine


01-22-2006, 05:03 PM
>I would like to figure out how to lower the pH to somewhere between 3.4 and 3.9.

Apple cider vinegar might be worth a try. Or citric acid - both cheap.

[ January 22, 2006, 06:04 PM: Message edited by: buckbee ]

Michael Bush
01-23-2006, 07:36 AM
Yes, I need to find the citric at the grocery store. I also need to find pH strips that will measure it down to 3.4 or less pH.

George Fergusson
01-23-2006, 03:46 PM
Whomever gets there first, share with the rest of us! Easily, cheaply, and accurately measuring pH in the range of interest is a challenge.

George Fergusson
01-23-2006, 04:13 PM
OK, here's the litmus paper source:


They've got a large variety of litmus paper for short, wide, and full range measurement. I'm not sure what the best choice would be, but they've got it. We're mostly interested in the acidic end of the scale but it would be good to cover the upper end of the scale too. Also a consideration is precision. The short range papers are graduated in 0.5 pH units, the full range are graduated in 1.0 pH units.

This one:


For $19.90 covers 3.0 to 5.5 in 1/2 pH units might be just the ticket. The precision is probably worth it??

Jim Fischer
01-23-2006, 04:20 PM
Oh, litmus paper?

Sorry, I did not say two words - "Hydrion Mikro".

Its a standard stock item at most decent
lab supply houses. It is just litmus paper,
after all.


Clearly, the "0 to 11" 2-roll set is what you
want, there is no apparent need for the higher
range litmus paper in beekeeping.

George Fergusson
01-23-2006, 04:43 PM
And at a better price too smile.gif

Michael Bush
01-23-2006, 06:05 PM