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Discussion Starter #1
Somewhere I read that organic sugar wasn't okay to feed your bees. I think I remember something about because it contains molasses? They then used "turbinado sugar" interchangeably with "organic sugar" in the article. Isn't organic sugar (refined, just not with chemicals) different from turbinado? And is feeding it okay? Either one for that matter - organic refined or turbinado.

I don't plan to do much of it, preferring to leave them with enough honey instead. But I'd like to be ready in a pinch. Just in case.

Sorry I can't point to the article. I've read so much over the years, and even more these past few months, that it's all muddled together and I can't remember where I saw that. (Mind like a steel sieve...)
 

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The best sugar to use for feed is ordinary granulated white sugar. Sugars that are not white (brown sugar, molasses, etc and some organic sugars) have a higher level of solids than granulated sugar.

Those solids must be pooped out by the bees as they cannot digest them. If the bees are restricted from flying by weather, then they can't poop, as healthy bees don't poop in the hive.

This is a bigger problem in winter, but why risk problems with other sugars.
 

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It always seems bizarre to me when I'm standing in the check-out line with a cart full of 25 pound bags of Domino brand white granulated sugar. I'm hoping people think I'm just big on home canning and not making moonshine.

I store the sugar in those big food-safe plastic cans. There's no way I'd have enough freezer space for it.

Enj.
 

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I just leave sugar in the original bag, in my 'non' air conditioned shop. I still have some from a year ago. It doesn't spoil, but it does absorb moisture and get hard. But it is not difficult to bust it up with a few whacks on the concrete floor.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Ha, Enjambres! I think I'll mess with them and tell them I'm making 'shine. Mama was from Jackson, Mississippi, so that side of the family would be laughing at that (then offering me their recipes ;) ).

And good to know, Rader. In the future, I plan on buying a chest freezer for the honey house for dealing with wax moths among other things, so now I don't have to buy such a big one. I'll just get a galvanized trash can for the sugar so the mice don't get into it. Thanks for that! :thumbsup:
 

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Somewhere I read that organic sugar wasn't okay to feed your bees.
This is because a lot of folks are confusing "organic" and "unrefined". They really mean to say that unrefined or partially refined sugar, which has not had all of the molasses removed, is not okay. There are plenty of non-organic unrefined sugars. But it is true that most organic sugars are also not completely refined. Turbinado, by the way, is just crystallized sugar cane juice ... so a type of brown sugar, not at all refined, and definitely not OK for the bees. Great for coffee though.
 

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Discussion Starter #9 (Edited)
That's what I was thinking - turbinado being different from "regular" organic sugar. I've used both in baking and they act differently, though I don't recall how (again ... steel sieve *sigh*). And I know that I've seen turbinado that's not organic as well (of course).

Do you know of any organic sugar that is truly refined enough that it doesn't contain the solids Rader/Graham was talking about? After this conversation, I'll be using white for what little I hope to feed, but it would be nice to know if someone has found a good, safe organic one.

And thanks, Brian!
 

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I buy organic sugar for my own use. It is not turbdinado or any other version of semi-refined sugar, just from organic cane and not bleached pure white. It has a slightly-coarser texture and is a pale grey-ish white (not brown or tan from molasses). I think it would be fine for the bees, but it costs a couple of bucks per pound at my food co-op.

And that's the problem. If you're feeding your bees syrup made from sugar you're going to use a lot of sugar. For intance I mix mine in half gallon canning jars that I fill three-quarters of the way to the top with dry sugar before adding hot water. Some hives get two batches this size per day. I'd go bankrupt doing that using organic cane sugar. Sugar feeding has come about because sugar (a heavily subsidized and price-supported commodity in the US) is cheaper than honey. That equation doesn't hold if you're insisting on using certified organic sugar.

I do make a point of only using cane sugar, not otherwise unspecified source sugar that is mostly likely from beets, which are mostly GMO varieties. Does it make a diff. to the bees? Probably not, but it matters to me. I buy it in 25 lbs sacks (yellow and white package/Domino brand) to save money. Last fall I was buying it at a bit less than 39 cents per pound. I purchased it at one of the northeastern regional versions of those discount/shopping club stores (BJs Wholesale Club). I have heard it is also for sale at some Sam's Club stores.

I think the idea that you will only be feeding a small amount is unlikely to happen. If you decide to feed any kind of sugar (syrup, bricks or Mountain Camp-style), it's an all-in thing, or not any at all. Even, I think with only one hive you're going to need more than few three-lb supermarket bags of it.

(I still find the whole idea of feeding bees sugar kind of bizarre, but as a new beekeeper I am willing to do what works well for others until I have the experience to find a diferent path. And sugar works.)

Enj.
 

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Note that using cane sugar (versus beets) does not rule out the use of systemic insecticides. See the pests section of the sugarcane page in Wikipedia:
Pests
The cane beetle (also known as cane grub) can substantially reduce crop yield by eating roots; it can be [HIGHLIGHT]controlled with imidacloprid[/HIGHLIGHT] (Confidor) or chlorpyrifos (Lorsban). Other important pests are the larvae of some butterfly/moth species, including the turnip moth, the sugarcane borer (Diatraea saccharalis), the Mexican rice borer (Eoreuma loftini); leaf-cutting ants, termites, spittlebugs (especially Mahanarva fimbriolata and Deois flavopicta), and the beetle Migdolus fryanus. The planthopper insect Eumetopina flavipes acts as a virus vector, which causes the sugarcane disease ramu stunt.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sugarcane#Pests

More on organic sugar and bees:
http://www.honeybeesuite.com/is-organic-sugar-better-for-bees/
 

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"I buy organic sugar for my own use. It is not turbdinado or any other version of semi-refined sugar, just from organic cane and not bleached pure white."

White sucrose is not bleached. Bleaching is a chemical process where colored materials are oxidized and thus made colorless. No such process is performed during sugar refinement. Rather, sugar is refined by simple recrystallization. Recrystallization is one of the two oldest methods of purifying chemicals. The other old option to purify is distillation if the substance happens to be stable at its boiling temperature.

Raw juice regardless if it comes from sugar cane, sugar beets, maple trees, etc has a variety of impurities, dirt, fungi, bacteria, plant parts, bugs parts and dissolved minerals in it. Probably the occasional ground up rabbit also. It also only has a low concentration of sugar so would not have any shelf life. Generally the first process is to simply boil off much of the water. Then the concentrated solution is filtered to remove insolubles. After further concentration the solution is cooled and raw sucrose crystallizes. This raw sucrose will have various color agents in it, decomposition products produced during the boiling process as well as some impurities just along for the ride. Feeding this to bees, particularly for winter food, is a great way to kill a hive due to all the indigestible solids present such as polysaccharides and sucrose degradation products that can be toxic to bees even thou they are not particularly toxic to most people.

This raw sucrose is redissolved in water, often treated with charcoal to absorb colored and non colored impurities, reconcentrated by boiling, and recrystallized by cooling the resulting solution. If all has gone well you have white sucrose at that point.

The rule of thumb for what is safe to feed your bees is if the sucrose is snow white and labeled either cane or beet sugar and dissolves to make a near water clear and colorless solution it is safe. Anything else may, or may not be safe. If it is safe it is because you got lucky. If it is not safe it will harm your bees to a greater or lesser extent. There are no nutrients in colored sugars of the slightest benefit to bees. The sucrose that bees collect from plants is not loaded up with crap that is the inevitable result of boiling sucrose solutions in order to isolate white sugar. Why not feed them what they eat in nature rather then some degraded mess? Either feed white sugar or feed high fructose corn syrup as those are the two excellent mimics of nectar.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Wow! This is awesome! All this information is great. Thank you, every one of you, for this.

it costs a couple of bucks per pound at my food co-op. ... And that's the problem.
Man. A gallon of sugar a day per hive. I had no idea they would need that much. Ouch. (I also look for "cane sugar"on the label to avoid the GMOs. I'm not real fond of them either.)
Note that using cane sugar (versus beets) does not rule out the use of systemic insecticides.
Hence why I really wanted to use organic if I have to use any at all. I'll be redoubling my efforts to learn how to manage them so I don't have to feed much sugar, but I know it's unlikely that I won't have to feed any - that's why I'm doing my research now, before I even get them (they're not due for almost two months yet).
I still find the whole idea of feeding bees sugar kind of bizarre, but as a new beekeeper I am willing to do what works well for others until I have the experience to find a diferent path. And sugar works.
I agree. While I don't like the idea of feeding chemicals, it'd be pretty **** stupid of me to not follow the advice of people who've been doing this for years.


Again to everyone - thank you immensely.

Anyone else have anything to add? I'm always open to learning more.
 
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