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I hate feeding my bees sugar. I have on occasion (quite a few years ago) had to feed my bees sugar syrup to add weight to them for winter survival. It appears to me that there is a real over-emphasis on having to feed bees supplements (mostly sugar). If I'm a commercial beekeeper then that's a different scenario and I'm going to manage my bees geared towards that profession. I run less than 100 hives here in the high desert where nectar can become scarce. A couple of local bee guru's have classes touting the benefits of sugar syrup not as an emergency food source, but rather as a means of normal proper management. I call this crisis management. A crisis self created by removing honey stores that the bees will need. In my humble opinion this is doing these people (and the bees) a great disservice. Last year my bees had an above average honey yield because we had good rainfall. My normal practice is to leave adequate honey surplus for the bees to winter on. I did not feed a drop of sugar last year. A few weeks ago when the bees started bringing in pollen I inspected my yards and found that my hives came through strong and still had a lot of honey in which to build up on. They hardly needed a pollen supplement or sugar to gear up their brood rearing activities. In addition, when I tore some hives down to the bottom boards and reversed some brood boxes I actually removed several supers of honey in case some weaker hives needed extra stores. There seems to be an awful lot of threads and articles geared towards how to feed your bees. I feed my cats and dogs but I don't have to feed my bees and they seem to be doing very well with natural pollen and honey stores. There can never be enough said regarding the value of a productive bee yard as far as location goes and an awareness of local flora is critical to good bee management.
 

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I am sure thankful that I have an available and affordable option of feeding. In my end of the cold high desert, bees could not exist long term without such unnatural actions. I am not conflicted about it. If bees need fed or might need fed, I go ahead and feed them. Try not feeding your horses who are forced to live in unnaturally small enclosures. People say that is criminal and ridicule and jail you. I keep bees in a marginal habitat. It seems criminal not to feed them too.
 

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I think that it is important to distinguish between the "advice" from those who simply reiterate someone else's instructions, those who manage their bees in a manner consistent wiith their philosphophies and objectives ... and the remaining beekeepers. Like Vance G points out, it is immoral if not criminal not to feed your livestock. For bees, you can feed honey or, if you want to take more honey than the bees can spare, you can feed sugar. There is no requirement to do it one way or the other - only each individuals preference. Myself, I prefer to feed honey but there may be times when sugar is required and, when it is, that is what I will feed. I will not allow my stock to go hungry.
 

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In my climate and flow conditions it is often hard to get a split up to wintering weight without feeding. Many of the keepers that have main flows of Canola source also find that the bees dont winter well on its crystallized honey. I do agree that many people simply take too much honey or, more pointedly, too late in the season for bees to replace it and reorganize their colony. It is also then too late then to feed syrup and give the bees time to get it dried down to prevent excess hive moisture.

Feeding can be a good or even necessary tool but it takes a fair bit of experience or coaching to use it effectively for your local conditions.
 

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I don't HATE feeding my bees, but it's an expensive time consuming job that i would just as soon not do.

I sent out a newsletter to my association this morning recommending that everyone check their hives and consider feeding them if they are light - or if they even think they may be in want. If we get a 5 day cold snap in the next few weeks a lot of hives will die of starvation because of the amount of brood they are supporting.

Over emphasis on feeding?
 

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Alright, I'll admit right away I don't know what the heck I'm doing but here goes...I started this hobby last spring about this time with one hive. My hive is still alive, however in September when my top super didn't have any comb built out or honey stored, I didn't take any from the hive. The bottom two supers were heavy as heck.

Today was the first day since last October I was able to pull out a frame or two...the two frames, both on the outside of the same side of the hive, were full of honey. My question to you is, I've been feeding them sugar for most of the winter. Should I stop now and take it out? They are eating the sugar slowly. Have I made a mistake by feeding them anything? Should I not feed them pollen patties now or ever? I tried giving them a smaller piece of a patty in late January or so and all it did was attract moisture into the hive.

I am beginning to get frustrated with this hobby as I don't know much, feel like I'm stumbling around in the dark, and between this forum and other stuff I read, frequently get conflicting information...sorry for the rant, but it's a whole lot different than wood working.

Thanks for answering my questions. I really do appreciate it.
Dave
 

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... between this forum and other stuff I read, frequently get conflicting information...
Dave
It is an unfortunate thing in the forums that many post responses as if it was they, themselves, that posed the question. Others just need to throw in their two cents worth. I know precisely how you feel. I am new at it too and I have sworn off the forums a lot more than once in the past seven months. On the upside, if you read the forums long enough, one of the things you learn is how to identify which posts to take seriously and which ones to skip over.

On your feeding, it seems a little odd that the bees are taking the sugar over the honey. Nevertheless, they are so, yes, maybe you spent money unnecessarily on sugar or maybe you bought a little insurance - take your pick. Strong hives in Spring are one of the objectives and you have achieved that. Some folks emphasize feeding but truth is that that is what is required in their yards and maybe others in the local area. Doesn't mean anyone else necessarily needs to pile on the sugar.

Something to keep in mind about the apparent emphasis on feeding is that there is feeding sugar, feeding pollen patties, feeding winter patties and then there is feeding which refers to overall bee nutrition. That feeding includes the bees feeding themselves through foraging or their own stores. The astute beekeeper recognizes when the bees may not be able to provide for themselves and, consequently, adds additional feed as he/she sees fit including adding stored frames of honey, sugar, winter patties, pollen patties, etc, etc, etc. The novice is likely to over do it on the supplementary feeding as an easy way to compensate for other management shortcomings.

Ultimately there cannot be over emphasis on feeding. It's a fact of life. Bees have to eat or they will either become sickly and unproductive or they will die.
 

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Dave, the biggest problem with feeding sugar is that you have to pay money for it. :)

As far as feeding in general, pollen (and substitutes) and honey (and substitutes) are not interchangeable bee food. Pollen is mostly used by nurse bees (raising brood), while honey sustains adult bees over most of their lifetime. A good reference on bee nutrition:

http://www.beeccdcap.uga.edu/documents/CAPArticle10.html

One problem with feeding pollen substitutes earlier than when pollen is available is that it may encourage bees to raise more brood earlier than they would otherwise. While that might be good under some circumstances, if a cold snap occurs, the bees may not be able to keep that brood warm. That risks both the brood and any bees that are not clustered (trying to warm the brood) dying.
 

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To Dave in PACNW: I think you do have a good idea of what you are doing.

Beekeeping has a fair amount of frustration and heartbreak. All hives are different, and all years are different. I am entering my third year, and finally for the first time I was able to get a hive to survive the winter queenright.

If I were you I would leave the sugar on and remove the patty, or at least not add any additional patty. I would suspect that if your bees are not yet bringing in pollen, that should start soon. If they have stores in reach of the cluster, they should be fine.

Hope this helps.

Phil
 

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I don't really like the idea of feeding my bees either. I do it, but I don't like it. Ideally, I'd buy up some large fringe farmland and turn it into a bee pasture. Let the bees forage what they need, what they can, and then let the unworthy genetics die off. Still a few years from that, though... And until I can provide them adequate pastures, I'll compensate as necessary with feed.
 

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I find myself baffled by all the advice to "feed no matter what." "Feed until they stop taking it." And the new obsession with giving a package of bees a pollen substitute patty. The concept is that "feeding can't hurt". I have not found that to be true. Feeding when they need it is a wonderful thing. Feeding when they don't need it is not helpful and often counterproductive. Feeding a package constantly usually results in it swarming when it's barely gotten settled in, because the brood nest gets backfilled with syrup. Feeding until they stop taking it almost always results in this as they almost never stop taking syrup. Feeding patties to a package usually results in a lot of small hive beetle larvae getting a feast while the bees haul in fresh pollen. Feeding in a dearth almost always results in robbing frenzies. A lot of people feed all the syrup they can get them to take all the way up until it's too cold for them to take it, resulting in damp hives and uncapped stores and sometimes no where for the bees to cluster (they need empty comb to cluster). By all means feed your bees when they need it. But don't assume that feeding is always doing them a favor.

http://www.bushfarms.com/beesfeeding.htm
 

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If you aren't doing inspections then you don't know what they need - unless you are experienced enough to make judgements based on other factors.

At our recent beginners class it was recommended that any hive that didn't already have at least 15 pounds of honey stores be fed during the beekeeping season - until it does, but to watch out for backfilling of the brood nest. The only way for most of us to know either of those things is to do timely inspections.

We often have a dearth that starts (after a big 6 week flow) in the middle of June and continues with only a few trickles of nectar until the following spring. So believe me, by August robbing is an issue that has to be managed - but so is starvation. By the way my observation is that hives which have been weakened by poor nutrition are some of the most likely ones to be robbed. When you find a hive too much dry comb in summer it usually also has too many hive beetles.

Brand new hives (like the kind that beginners have) simply do not have a chance in my area if they are not well fed throughout the first year. They can not possibly get enough natural feed to make it. Second year? May be a different story. The problem is that beginners hear some expert say how bad feeding is, and they think it applies to them too.

So the over emphasis on feeding has to do with the fact that no matter what else you do your bees won't be healthy if they don't have adequate nutrition. A lot of things we might not have control over, but we can at least feed them.

I've seen hives that were over fed until they swarmed in mid summer because someone said "feed as long as they will take it", and I've seen hives that starved because the guy on the Internet sez feeding is bad. But I've seen way more of the second.

There is a growing number of people who do Mt Camp feeding in winter if the bees need the food or not. I don't know about any where else, but here in the mid South with our damp, highly variable winter weather it just works. Seems to anyway - zero losses for me so far this winter.

Don't listen to me or anyone else - Do your inspections, and give give your bees what you think they need .
 

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I think it might be helpful here, at least to new beekeepers, to take a step back and try to put the feeding thing into perspective. The first couple of years with bees is a lot like learning to parent that first child. The new parent has a lot of difficulty interpreting whether the baby's cry means "I am hungary", "I am wet", "I am cold" or "I just want to hear Momma's heartbeat". Consequently, the new parent tends to over compensate.

My eldest son and his wife were perfect examples. I have seen them both with food at the ready and the moment my grandson opened his mouth, more food. Then the parents complained that the little guy would never eat a meal. Of course he wouldn't! Meal time started when he woke up and ended when he went to sleep. The difference when their second child came along was amazing.

For new beekeepers, learning to assess the degree to which bees are able to adequately forage on their own can be a little daunting. For the folks that have been at it a while, the decision to provide supplementary feed becomes second nature. The new beekeeper has a very different perspective - sort of like looking in the brand new library that still has a lot of empty shelves.
 

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There seems to be an awful lot of threads and articles geared towards how to feed your bees.

If your talking good bee management, then feeding falls under that heading also. First you have the beekeeper has to decide if feeding is going to be part of their management plan, and if not then they must ensure they leave enough feed in that hive to survive on. If that beekeeper decides on providing supplemental feeding, management strategies get very interesting and provide many opportunities.

Would you call adding honey frames to the hive as supplemental feeding? I would,

Is your post against feeding, or against providing supplemental sugar
 

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Discussion Starter #17
> Would you call adding honey frames to the hive as supplemental feeding? I would,
Its feeding bees honey and I do it all the time as I mentioned in my post.

> Is your post against feeding, or against providing supplemental sugar
As I mentioned I have on occasion had to feed sugar. For me it is not my preferred method of managing my bees.
 
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