Does feeding lead to lazy bees?
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  1. #1
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    Default Does feeding lead to lazy bees?

    I think way too much feeding goes on now days.... When I started 25 years ago you almost never heard of people feeding their bees... They got the syrup that was left in the package after shipment and that was it... I am still of the opinion that the left over syrup is all they need to get started. Now days people feed, feed, feed.... Then wonder why their hives do not produce surplus honey? It is because they don't have to collect nectar so why should they? If you stop feeding your dog it is going to go out and get what it needs to survive.

    I was looking back at some of the old threads on the forum and came across one of the early posts about feeding dry sugar by MT Camp. That was back in Nov 2004 and he referred to it as "emergency feeding". And that is what it should be, for emergencies... You have a bad nectar year and just need to get the bees through the winter, or you have a poor producer and want to get the resources through so you can give them a better queen come spring, so you put a feeder in, throw some dry sugar on, lay some fondant on the hive. If you put a feeder on in August of course the fall flow is going to look lousy, the bees are not going to go out and get it.

    The goal should be to propagate the most productive hives and the ones that can winter with the least resources. Not Feed them so they survive regardless of production and resource consumption.
    Always question Conventional Wisdom.

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: Does feeding lead to lazy bees?

    Sometimes package bees don't need fed right out of the cage, if there is plenty of pollen and nectar coming in, but what if the weather is bad when you install them, and they can't fly for a week or so, which is common for people who get early packages in my area in April or even into May sometimes. Not feeding in that situation just stalls their buildup, or worse. Personally, JMO, I don't think feeding makes the bees lazy, to them syrup is just as good as nectar if they don't have to work that hard for it. If you cut off the syrup, they'll go get nectar if they can fly. I think staying ahead of the bees needs (by feeding) is more important than trying to keep them from being lazy. If you want bees to build up steadily, they need constant food coming in, either artificial or natural.

  4. #3
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    Default Re: Does feeding lead to lazy bees?

    Some of the developing genetics for mite resistance may be counterproductive for honey. I am raising predominately Carniolan bees and with the cold and wet weather here they appear to have virtually shut down brooding. Most are splits that would not have gotten up to a 2 deep hive weight of 90 lbs ( no honey taken and virtually zero mite fall). Last year unless you made some bad decisions you could have taken honey and not had to feed. I dont know if I have an alternative to feeding some years but I am in a very different climate to yours.

    Probably with sugar being relatively cheap and honey prices high, people are making an economic decision. Perhaps too there might be a connection that characteristics of todays typical bee is being skewed toward what is good for polination rather than being an easy winter keeper.

    Edit, JMGI, I started my post before seeing yours; I don't think you can make bees lazy by feeding either, but if there is no forage............ it is like the old saying "you cant get pants off a bare arth"

  5. #4
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    Default Re: Does feeding lead to lazy bees?

    It has been my experience that bees will abandon syrup for nectar when the nectar is produced in amounts that meet their requirements. Bees being fed syrup continue to forage, both for nectar and for pollen.

    Bees will reduce brood rearing when the honey stores are reduced below about 20 pounds, and most managers try to keep at least enough to maintain brood production. Naturally, a colony can become honey bound from overfeeding and stop foraging and/or swarm , but that is because a beekeeper made a management error and not because of lazy bees. If bees have storage space and the nectar is present in sufficient quanity they will collect it.

  6. #5
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    Default Re: Does feeding lead to lazy bees?

    I will defer to the father of modern beekeeping: " The feeding of bees resembles the noxious influences under which the children of the rich are reared." LL Langstroth.

    Any experience beekeeper will agree that honey production and hive densities per yard are declining. Many say it is the loss of good habitat and forage. It quite possibly is a result of our feeding habits. Brother Adam experimented with what he called the "American Italian" bees. His comments where that they were generally lazy and didn't produce honey, in his words they were "the poorest example of a honey bee he ever saw" While I agree that breeding for pollination may be a contributing factor, the practice of pollination requires feeding regularly and likely that is also contributing to the degradation of our bees. It is hard to gauge and breed for production if all hives are fed across the board.

    Brother Adam did feed, but he fed specific amounts at specific times of the year. If I recall correctly all hives got 6 L of syrup on Oct 1st. He developed a measurable calculated system that worked for his area and that is what we all should strive towards.
    Always question Conventional Wisdom.

  7. #6
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    Default Re: Does feeding lead to lazy bees?

    If man were meant to fly, He'ld have wings. Creditable when it was first said!

  8. #7
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    Default Re: Does feeding lead to lazy bees?

    Well Bluegrass if you can figure it out, (a measurable calculated feeding system that worked for everone's specific area) I'm sure the world will beat a path to your door. Many of us have been striving towards it but I for one sure as heck didn't see this one coming.

  9. #8
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    Default Re: Does feeding lead to lazy bees?

    Quote Originally Posted by bluegrass View Post
    The goal should be to propagate the most productive hives and the ones that can winter with the least resources. Not Feed them so they survive regardless of production and resource consumption.
    Are we to allow our least productive colonies perish then? Or should we feed those lazy, lazy bees and re-queen them next year with better stock?

  10. #9
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    Default Re: Does feeding lead to lazy bees?

    Im probably not experienced enough to be in this thread but it won't be the first time i have been where Im not supposed to be. I think how you feed has a lot to do with it. from what i have seen with the hive top feeders will make them back fill and just set there and be lazy if they don't swarm. I ran into that this year i fed some splits and they would just back fill and not draw comb or anything. I started open feeding and now they are starting to build. I think if its coming from inside or on top of the hive the house bees just move it around and the field bees just set there because they don't have to do anything. Imo it could be bread into them not to have as many nectar foragers if they have a constant food source in hive long enough. Look at people.

  11. #10
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    Default Re: Does feeding lead to lazy bees?

    Quote Originally Posted by bluegrass View Post
    Any experience beekeeper will agree that honey production and hive densities per yard are declining. Many say it is the loss of good habitat and forage. It quite possibly is a result of our feeding habits.
    I guess you and I don't have the same experiences, because I have not noticed hive densities declining. Commercial yds I am aware of are of the same size as they were 20 years ago.

    Laziness is a human trait which we should not attribute to honeybees. It's an unfitting anthropomorphism.
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    Default Re: Does feeding lead to lazy bees?

    tank, I don't think there's ever a reason to feed until its pouring out the entrance. There are times to feed and times not to feed. There is such a thing as too much feeding of a hive.

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    Default Re: Does feeding lead to lazy bees?

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Palmer View Post
    Are we to allow our least productive colonies perish then? Or should we feed those lazy, lazy bees and re-queen them next year with better stock?
    Like I said in the first post, feed as an emergency measure, many are not doing that anymore, but are feeding just to feed. The Migrators feed all the time, bee producers feed all the time, now the sideliners and hobby guys are also starting to feed all the time.

    I thought I would see you at the Tunbridge fair this year, stopped by the booth, but didn't see you.
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  14. #13
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    Default Re: Does feeding lead to lazy bees?

    Quote Originally Posted by jmgi View Post
    tank, I don't think there's ever a reason to feed until its pouring out the entrance. There are times to feed and times not to feed. There is such a thing as too much feeding of a hive.
    Yes i totally agree with that and once i get to a number of hives that i can afford the losses i will not feed at all unless i do something to put them at a disadvantage. I was just putting my observation out there. I like these type posts. I can learn a lot from others disagreeing. My point was the way i feed i think has a lot to do with what they do with it i am talking about splits and swarms not big established hives. Imo a good big hive shouldn't need feeding unless i do something like taking to much off or splitting to late.

  15. #14
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    Default Re: Does feeding lead to lazy bees?

    Quote Originally Posted by sqkcrk View Post
    I guess you and I don't have the same experiences, because I have not noticed hive densities declining. Commercial yds I am aware of are of the same size as they were 20 years ago.
    I have an early 1900s photo of a bee yard in Morrisville VT that has 50 hives visible. Today a good number of hives for one yard in central VT is a dozen or so... Get closer to the lake and you might get up to 20-25.

    How much syrup are you feeding today compared to 20 years ago?
    Always question Conventional Wisdom.

  16. #15
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    Default Re: Does feeding lead to lazy bees?

    once again we are assigning human qualities to bugs... You assume a bug can get lazy..... They forage less than 2 weeks.... and once you have a few hives for a length of time you realize bees will take the most valuable forage. If there is nectar flowing foragers will ignore your feed.
    If your hive is a dink and foragers are not returning with goods, food in the hive can allow younger non foragers to access it, and build the hive strength up.

    Feed or not, its your choice. but don't be silly enough to think you taught them a bad habit.. there are in no way lazy becuase of food.

  17. #16
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    Default Re: Does feeding lead to lazy bees?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tenbears View Post
    If man were meant to fly, He'ld have wings. Creditable when it was first said!
    Bees should have needed feeding more so in Langstroths time than now. They were not adapted to the native fauna and the introduced plant species they were used to were far less wide spread over what they are today, with many being invasive.
    Always question Conventional Wisdom.

  18. #17
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    Default Re: Does feeding lead to lazy bees?

    Quote Originally Posted by gmcharlie View Post
    once again we are assigning human qualities to bugs....
    How often does a drone get described as lazy? Lazy is just a description. Call it what you want, but we are breeding less productive bees and over-feeding is contributing.
    Always question Conventional Wisdom.

  19. #18
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    Default Re: Does feeding lead to lazy bees?

    Some food for thought:

    When I started doing cutouts 10 or so years ago one thing I started to notice is that even in the worst of seasons when all hives are on welfare; feral hives are full of honey. Maybe they are good robbers, or maybe they are better foragers.
    Always question Conventional Wisdom.

  20. #19
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    Default Re: Does feeding lead to lazy bees?

    Quote Originally Posted by bluegrass View Post
    I have an early 1900s photo of a bee yard in Morrisville VT that has 50 hives visible. Today a good number of hives for one yard in central VT is a dozen or so... Get closer to the lake and you might get up to 20-25.

    How much syrup are you feeding today compared to 20 years ago?
    Well, sure. I can show you photos of apiaries w/ 300 hives in them in NY from ages ago. Is it the bees that have changed? Or is it modern agriculture. We don't have the dairy farms we once had, the kind that graze cattle on pastures of clover.

    I agree that there seems to be more feeding done these days than 20 years ago, but is that because of the bees or because of the price of honey compared to corn syrup, the way the beekeeper manages his bees, and the locations available?
    Mark Berninghausen

  21. #20
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    Default Re: Does feeding lead to lazy bees?

    Quote Originally Posted by bluegrass View Post
    Bees should have needed feeding more so in Langstroths time than now. They were not adapted to the native fauna and the introduced plant species they were used to were far less wide spread over what they are today, with many being invasive.
    By Langstroth's time honeybees had been living well in North American well over 200 years. I don't know where you are getting your ideas from. They seem somewhat far fetched to me.

    Invasive? We are the invasive species. And we brought many of the plants beneficial to bees and plants bees were beneficial to too.
    Mark Berninghausen

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