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Some of the worst advice I have ever been given has been about feeding. It also seems like pretty common advice.


I will start off by saying that I recognize that, like breast milk being the best thing to feed newborns, collected honey, beebread, and pollen are the best food for bees. So, in a perfect world, bees would always have available stores of their own making. I also recognize that there are definitely times and situations in which bees should be fed, either sugar, "pollen" or both. I also recognize that there is strong debate on the subject and some people feel very strongly about both sides.

As I understand it, the first feeding most people will experience is with a new nuc or package. It is not uncommon to get the advice "Install this nuc into a full sized box, and feed them until they don't take any more feed." and related to this is "Feed them all they will take, if they are getting enough from forage they won't take the feed." Second to this advice being dubious is the fact that brand new beeks will have equipment, but no "drawn comb" and it would seem that if the syrup is so easily available they will use it to backfill all the drawn comb of the original nuc frames, thus becoming honey-bound without space to lay. Undrawn-out comb doesn't seem to be considered "space". Following this advice blindly has gotten me swarmed out when I was first getting started, and gotten me very close in other times. I am not sure this advice is intentional to screwing up new beeks, perhaps it is a matter of what one person means when they give the advice, and what the n00beek interprets when they hear the advice. I am not sure I know what the correct advice in this situation should be, or how the bees can demonstrate the desire/need for feed, and what kind.

When a split is made such that queen cells and nurse bees and resource frames are put in a nuc and moved away from the original hive, it is common practice to give additional sugar and possibly "pollen". This is understandable especially with these bees not having active foragers yet. Certainly one wouldn't want they to run out of resources, how do you know the resource frames are sufficient, and again, how do the bees indicate that they do or do not need more, or perhaps less?

When dearth comes, and some areas it is longer than others, I have seen the advice to put the feeders on and keep them full! Again, wide open feeding is going to be a problem, perhaps stimulating brood laying when perhaps it should be a slow-down time? Or again causing back filling and leaving no room to lay, and the problems associated with that.

The other two, I am certainly confused on the why's and wherefores, that being winter preparation and fondant etc feeding through winter. And early spring stimulation feeding.

1:1,2:1, fondant or dry sugar, pollen patties, dry pollen.
Which feed, when, and via what vehicle?
How to tell by inspecting the hive what to feed and how much?
How to tell by observation if they are being over/underfed? (e.g. if bees are bringing in pollen, do you necessarily want to be giving them pollen patty or sub?)
Which situations "require" feed?

My personal problems from being more of a saute cook than a baker. :) I like to put stuff in a pan, and observe it through the process and change things (change the heat, add ingredients to taste, etc...) as necessary throughout the process. The idea of mixing up a bunch of stuff and sticking it in a preset oven and trusting that an hour later it is done and successful, just goes against my comfort. :) That said, I know there are times when you have to do something, shut the hive and trust that they will do what is necessary and not mess with them for some extended period. I also know that, in general, one shouldn't constantly going in and out of the hive poking around. I guess what I am looking for is the equivalent of the "oven light" as a compromise. :)

So, other than "Feed them all they will take, and they will stop when they don't need it." or "Don't feed bees who have figured out over the centuries/millennia how to forage and feed themselves." What are the rules of thumb, or observational triggers/indicators regarding feed?
 

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So, other than "Feed them all they will take, and they will stop when they don't need it." or "Don't feed bees who have figured out over the centuries/millennia how to forage and feed themselves." What are the rules of thumb, or observational triggers/indicators regarding feed?
Well, it depends.

It depends on conditions, weather, supplies on hand, what you have been doing, and what your objectives are.

Some folks, with built-up hives, have supered for the Spring flow and harvested the supers, leaving little/nothing for the bees. In that case, they need to feed. Same thing in the Fall, when they have harvested and need to feed to give them stores for Winter. Sugar is cheaper than honey. If you are in the business of selling honey, then you may want to sell all the honey you can get and buy the cheaper sugar to feed the bees.

If you are putting a new nuc into a box with no drawn comb in the Spring, you may want to feed to get the comb drawn as quickly as possible.

Folks who pollinate, or who want to build up hives in advance of the Spring flow, may feed pollen/patties to get them started before natural pollen is available.

There is no one answer that is 'right' for everyone.

When you ask a question, someone may answer based on his perspective, but his perspective may not be the same as yours, and what is 'right' for him may not be 'right' for you.

If I am answering a question, I try to get an understanding of what the other person is trying to do...and if it isn't clear then I'll ask straight out.
 
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The method of feeding also makes a huge difference too. A hive top feeder can absolutely cause a hive to go honey bound in a very short time since literally thousands of bees can feed from it at once, same with open feeding. But a feed jar with only three pinholes in it limits the amount of feeding bees to a few dozen at most. The fact of the matter is that they need 7 lbs of honey (or 80% sugar solution equivalent) to make 1 lb of wax, and that's not counting regular bee metabolism. And if a package is starting with nothing, they need as much feed as they can get. Starting from nothing is extremely stressful on the bees and many studies have shown that in the case of almost all stressors in the hive, an over abundance of food allows them to power through it most of the time.

My spring flow is pretty slow to start, but once it gets going, man does it get going. If I feed after it gets going, yes I will get swarming, even in a new nuc or package. You still have to be aware of what is happening in your hives and the immediate environment.
 
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Agree,, answer is it depends.

in general I do not feed, do not have feeders .
With that said I am down the road from "new keepers"
I almost always have dead outs in the spring, if a hive seems light I add a frame or 3 of stores.

I do add a pollen patty when the snow is almost gone to the hives I want to split, maybe 3 or 4 a year.
I will add a 1/2 or full super to a struggling late swarm or split, to augment their winter stores, in Aug..

Unless you have a package on new foundation, IMO feeding is not the best plan.
bees will draw comb faster with feed so if you plan to sell a bunch of NUCs and need comb then that makes sense.

My rule of thumb is feed to keep bees from starving.
As a sideliner I do not need the "feeding" process"
Some i realize take more honey and then feed syrup as they find a price differential they can use.

I tend to agree the new folks often over feed, as they seem to not completely understand the need, and stopping point.

IMO feeding is a option to mitigate starvation for new folks and a $$ making option for experienced folks.

GG
 

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Absinthe; You ask too many questions in your post, you give my brain an overload of things to consider in answering. I will try to start with the obvious answers.

1. Beekeepers feed with a goal in mind. Depending on what the goal is will determine the tools the beekeeper will use. The feeding tools beekeepers use are syrup to give the bees carbs, pollen substitutes for protein. There are feed additives that many people add to syrups and patties, but in my opinion those are a waste of money.

2. Pollen supplements/substitutes are fed in patty form or by open feeding. The purpose is to increase the amount of protein the nurse age bees will have for feeding brood and adult bees. Honey bees prefer natural pollen over pollen supplements and will ignore or remove patties when natural pollen in being brought into the hive. However, when weather conditions will not allow pollen foraging, the bees eat the supplements given them in patty form.

When pollen stops coming into the hive the nurse bees will reduce the amount of food fed to the larvae to the least amount required for life. This results in weak larvae that are prone to disease, and adults with shortened lifespans, and that are not able to perform their duties as well as they would had they been well fed. Larvae and eggs are also eaten by nurse bees if food grows short.

The lesson for beekeepers: Look at the open brood for the amount of food the larvae is floating in. Experience will show you if the larvae are well fed or if they are on short rations. Also, check the weather for coming periods of rain, or cold and cloudy weather. As little as 2 days rain will start nurse bees reducing their feeding of larvae. The same holds true in summer droughts, nurse bees reduce feeding if protein is short. Watch for the drones being removed from the colony.

3. Syrup is fed for energy to do colony tasks, and for survival. It should be fed as a syrup made with table sugar, and the thickness ratio should be mixed with the goal in mind. A mix of 2 parts sugar to 1 part water (2:1) is considered to be a "thick" syrup, a 1:1 mix is a "thin" syrup, and a mix of 1 part sugar to 1.25 or 1.5 parts water is a "stimulant" mix.

Syrup is fed from a variety of feeder types. There is no feeder that is suitable for all types of feeding jobs. The feeder should be of a proper type to dispense the syrup at the rate the beekeeper desires, and the rate is determined by the task the beekeeper wants the bees to perform. Usually feeders can be placed in three groups, the "fast" feeders, the "moderate" and the "slow" feeders.

Slow feeders is the type new beekeepers should use when starting packages or nucs and foundations are needed to be drawn out. Slow feeders will usually dispense one or two pints of syrup to a package or a nuc in a 24 hour period.

Moderate feeders are for colonies that have grown larger than one deep and are usually the "bucket above the cluster" type, with holes or a screen to access the syrup. Most often they will dispense anywhere from a quart to a gallon a day depending on the size of the colony and the number of holes, or the size of the screen. Depending on the number of holes in a lid, or the number of buckets used, a bucket type feeder can be in both the slow or moderate feeder group. Division Board feeders would be considered a moderate feeder because of it's volume of syrup.

Fast feeders are those that give large amounts of syrup very quickly, and are used to put on winter stores late in the fall, or when colonies are on the edge of starvation. These feeders are open containers available to all colonies, or hive top feeders for individual colonies.

4. Beekeeper's Advice; Beekeeping advice usually assumes the new beekeeper has in their possession a beekeeping manual, which they have studied and have made themselves familiar with beekeeping principles. Beekeepers forget that people new to the hobby don't know what questions to ask when they are receiving advice from experienced beekeepers, meaning the new keeper leaves with incomplete information or a wrong assumption.

5. My Rant; Beekeepers that depend on the internet and bee forums for all of their management advice are idiots. Most of what advice they read are only opinions, very often not based on experience, only on what someone has read on another forum. This is often found in some books, but not nearly as often as on the net. New beekeepers take the advice given them, but if it fails to correct the problem they have, they never post that a failure has occurred because they feel it must have been something they failed to do that was the cause.

This reply is much too long, we need shorter, more geared to one point posts.
 

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You do not have a question, you want a debate! No worries. Beekeeping is local. I believe in feeding new colonies until their brood box/s are full of drawn comb, brood and bees. I use lemon grass oil to get them to take the syrup. And I monitor progress til the bees say stop. Honey is not as good a feed as sugar which has fewer solids than many honeys. Pollen patties at least the ones I buy are insurance that needed protein will be available even when it rains all week or your location is drying out.
 

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Good reply AR. I would add that new beekeepers often repeat advice they have been given or read about and then offer that advice in a situation where it does not apply. For example: "feed until they stop taking it" may be good advice for feeding a hive in Vermont in September to stock it for winter, but not for a hive in Georgia. I also agree that someone offering advice must assume the person has a basic understanding or else every answer would go on for pages talking about variables, what ifs and what to do next.
Nobody is really at fault. I think it is just one of the drawbacks of teaching in a forum rather than in person. J
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Great advice, I will have to read it over again a bit later ti digest it all. But you seem to have covered the areas I was trying to figure out.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
You do not have a question, you want a debate! No worries. Beekeeping is local. I believe in feeding new colonies until their brood box/s are full of drawn comb, brood and bees. I use lemon grass oil to get them to take the syrup. And I monitor progress til the bees say stop. Honey is not as good a feed as sugar which has fewer solids than many honeys. Pollen patties at least the ones I buy are insurance that needed protein will be available even when it rains all week or your location is drying out.
I am not sure I was inviting a debate. You, are also touching on the information I was hoping to get. When you say "until the bees say stop". I think that is the key I am looking for. That and when they say "help!". It is the things to "notice" that indicate these states that I am looking for.

Even more so, if I am feeding them all they can take and rather than drawing comb(my goal), they are back-filling existing comb (not my goal) I have done something wrong. Maybe AR hit on the piece I am missing in that it might not be how much feed, but how accessible it is. IDK, but perhaps that is what I was missing. :) But, unless I am going in every day or every two days or whatever I put on feed and "expect" they build whole lot of comb, and when I open up in a week or two, I find that instead they backfilled the brood comb instead, and barely worked the wax. Now it is time to take evasive action! And, worse, not knowing what was done wrong withing the previous 2 weeks that caused the problem, thus not having a good way of fixing it. OTOH, if I go in the hive too often, then I am "stressing them out" and problems, are of my doing again. Although I can then make split second adjustments, I am forced to do so because of what I am doing.

I want to do the right thing, and in most cases I believe I am, otherwise I would be doing something else. Contrary to people not sharing when things go wrong, I will constantly be doing postmortems when anything I do doesn't go according to Hoyle. I will ask the questions, and apply what makes sense, or use the advice for further research into how it pertains to my specific situation in my location and so forth.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Good reply AR. I would add that new beekeepers often repeat advice they have been given or read about and then offer that advice in a situation where it does not apply. For example: "feed until they stop taking it" may be good advice for feeding a hive in Vermont in September to stock it for winter, but not for a hive in Georgia. I also agree that someone offering advice must assume the person has a basic understanding or else every answer would go on for pages talking about variables, what ifs and what to do next.
Nobody is really at fault. I think it is just one of the drawbacks of teaching in a forum rather than in person. J
It is not only in the forums, but I have gotten advice in person, at bee club meetings that I have since learned is flat out wrong. Or at least doesn't even come close to what is appropriate in whatever my current situation was. People do have a responsibility to do research on their own. I don't just post a question and rush right out and follow the first advice that pops up. And I have a really hard time following what I consider "magical" advice. I am not a good one for "Do it this way because I told you so, and I have been doing this for 45 years!" It might be the right answer, but if I don't understand why I am doing something, I can't apply it conceptually to the next similar situation. And unless that 45 year veteran is planning on standing next to me all the time, it certainly won't help me be better.

I also get that there are different styles. And some methods and choices are based on that. So one answer will not be the same as another because of that. Perhaps that may be a bit frustrating, but understanding the reason and mechanism involved will allow me to develop my own style perhaps not exactly the same as one beek style, nor as the other, but accomplishing the similar task.

Thanks again for the input.
 

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For the record, if I am feeding and a good flow starts, MY bees have always stopped feeding. I have only done this for 5 years, do I can't say it always happens. But it makes me wonder if some are thinking that it is over feeding that is causing a hive to become "honey bound",when it is actually a flow. J
 

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Absinthe; You ask too many questions in your post, you give my brain an overload of things to consider in answering. I will try to start with the obvious answers.

1. Beekeepers feed with a goal in mind. Depending on what the goal is will determine the tools the beekeeper will use. The feeding tools beekeepers use are syrup to give the bees carbs, pollen substitutes for protein. There are feed additives that many people add to syrups and patties, but in my opinion those are a waste of money.

2. Pollen supplements/substitutes are fed in patty form or by open feeding. The purpose is to increase the amount of protein the nurse age bees will have for feeding brood and adult bees. Honey bees prefer natural pollen over pollen supplements and will ignore or remove patties when natural pollen in being brought into the hive. However, when weather conditions will not allow pollen foraging, the bees eat the supplements given them in patty form.

When pollen stops coming into the hive the nurse bees will reduce the amount of food fed to the larvae to the least amount required for life. This results in weak larvae that are prone to disease, and adults with shortened lifespans, and that are not able to perform their duties as well as they would had they been well fed. Larvae and eggs are also eaten by nurse bees if food grows short.

The lesson for beekeepers: Look at the open brood for the amount of food the larvae is floating in. Experience will show you if the larvae are well fed or if they are on short rations. Also, check the weather for coming periods of rain, or cold and cloudy weather. As little as 2 days rain will start nurse bees reducing their feeding of larvae. The same holds true in summer droughts, nurse bees reduce feeding if protein is short. Watch for the drones being removed from the colony.

3. Syrup is fed for energy to do colony tasks, and for survival. It should be fed as a syrup made with table sugar, and the thickness ratio should be mixed with the goal in mind. A mix of 2 parts sugar to 1 part water (2:1) is considered to be a "thick" syrup, a 1:1 mix is a "thin" syrup, and a mix of 1 part sugar to 1.25 or 1.5 parts water is a "stimulant" mix.

Syrup is fed from a variety of feeder types. There is no feeder that is suitable for all types of feeding jobs. The feeder should be of a proper type to dispense the syrup at the rate the beekeeper desires, and the rate is determined by the task the beekeeper wants the bees to perform. Usually feeders can be placed in three groups, the "fast" feeders, the "moderate" and the "slow" feeders.

Slow feeders is the type new beekeepers should use when starting packages or nucs and foundations are needed to be drawn out. Slow feeders will usually dispense one or two pints of syrup to a package or a nuc in a 24 hour period.

Moderate feeders are for colonies that have grown larger than one deep and are usually the "bucket above the cluster" type, with holes or a screen to access the syrup. Most often they will dispense anywhere from a quart to a gallon a day depending on the size of the colony and the number of holes, or the size of the screen. Depending on the number of holes in a lid, or the number of buckets used, a bucket type feeder can be in both the slow or moderate feeder group. Division Board feeders would be considered a moderate feeder because of it's volume of syrup.

Fast feeders are those that give large amounts of syrup very quickly, and are used to put on winter stores late in the fall, or when colonies are on the edge of starvation. These feeders are open containers available to all colonies, or hive top feeders for individual colonies.

4. Beekeeper's Advice; Beekeeping advice usually assumes the new beekeeper has in their possession a beekeeping manual, which they have studied and have made themselves familiar with beekeeping principles. Beekeepers forget that people new to the hobby don't know what questions to ask when they are receiving advice from experienced beekeepers, meaning the new keeper leaves with incomplete information or a wrong assumption.

5. My Rant; Beekeepers that depend on the internet and bee forums for all of their management advice are idiots. Most of what advice they read are only opinions, very often not based on experience, only on what someone has read on another forum. This is often found in some books, but not nearly as often as on the net. New beekeepers take the advice given them, but if it fails to correct the problem they have, they never post that a failure has occurred because they feel it must have been something they failed to do that was the cause.

This reply is much too long, we need shorter, more geared to one point posts.
good answer
I like 5 the best

GG
 

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For the record, if I am feeding and a good flow starts, MY bees have always stopped feeding. I have only done this for 5 years, do I can't say it always happens. But it makes me wonder if some are thinking that it is over feeding that is causing a hive to become "honey bound",when it is actually a flow. J
yes you have it right. often the quality will let them forage, but some races, on a flow they work the field by day and drink at the pub all night.
so it builds much faster.

maybe a different way to think about it is by weight. it the hive is fall or pre fall heavy you over fed
if a comb is more than 1/2 full in spring you over fed. I like 2 frames of honey in the hive the rest is in the way until end of September.

or as if it were a warehouse and a brood factory. When the warehouse is full of syrup, the brood factory is smaller.

so the real issue then is the inability to determine when a hive "needs" to be fed.
Over eating I think most people get.

GG
 

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Nectar Management
Principles and Practices,

by Walt Wright

I no longer have a link, but I think it is on this site. This should help.

Alex
 
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