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pH for sugar water?

13025 Views 26 Replies 13 Participants Last post by  Beeonefarms
I seem to understand that people add vinegar to their syrup to lower the pH? Is this correct?
If so, could someone please explain why the pH needs to be lowered and what is the pH level that we're looking for?

Besides pH, is there any other reason to add vinegar?
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I am approaching my 1 year of beekeeping(I started last summer). Last year, I used apple cider vinegar in my syrup mix. From what I understand, the vinegar changes the ph to a level that is less than Ideal for fungus and or mold to grow. I had mold on the inside of my outer cover. That is why I added the vinegar. I forgot to add that to my syrups this year, but since I am having a slight chalk brood issue in one of my new packaged hives, I think I will be adding some vinegar next time I go out there. I can not say if it works or not, but what I can say from my experience is that it does not hurt anything, and cider vinegar is not expensive at all. I believe the recommended dose is 1 tsp per half gallon of syrup. Again, I am new as well, so let's see what others say.
It's pretty simple, sugar water without any manipulations (depending on your water) is more neutral to basic. Honey and nectar on the other hand are more acidic. Adding apple cider vinegar or vitamin C tablets (ascorbic acid) make the mixture a bit closer to what the bees are used to and has the benefit of the syrup staying good longer.
Thank you.
What is the pH level to look for?
I keep a pH and refracto meters for other animal husbandry hobbies so I may as well get the right mix if it's beneficial.
The pH of honey is between 3.9 and 4.5, and nectar is between 2.9 and 6.5, so (based on my local water's pH) I add a tablespoon of lemon juice per gallon to lower the pH to make it closer to nectar's pH and to help prevent fermentation of the syrup. I aim for a pH of 4.0 to 4.5 for my syrup. You can test your own syrup using ordinary litmus test strips and adjust your recipe accordingly. You can use lemon juice or Fruit Fresh (a brand of ascorbic acid found in your local canning department) or even Vitamin C tablets to lower your pH as needed. Cider vinegar also works. Citric and ascorbic acid also help invert the sugar, making it more digestible for the bees.


Thank you!
Great website.
And it smells great for the bees to find ...Also helps their gut ... stops blinky eye.. flappy wing.. raspy buzzing..and they will not sting you at all while drinking this its a fact.. a host of problems cured with apple cider in your sugar feeding..
Do you have any peer reviewed studies to offer that corroborate your assertions?
Otherwise... this is just hearsay.
>I seem to understand that people add vinegar to their syrup to lower the pH? Is this correct?

Some do. In my experience the vinegar sets off a feeding frenzy which can easily turn to a robbing frenzy.

> If so, could someone please explain why the pH needs to be lowered

Here are the studies on the subject of the microbes, all of which live best if the pH is not disrupted:

This one shows that there is a biofilm of Lactic Acid Bacteria (LAB) living in the gut of the bee that protects them from many diseases. Syrup disrupts this.

Here are a lot of studies by Martha Gilliam on the microbes that live on and around the bees and some of it points out that syrup disrupts those.

Why does syrup disrupt it? Likely one of the factors is the pH of the syrup, which is quite different from honey.

All of that said, while I manage bees to try to avoid feeding, I would always feed when the choice is between feeding and starving. There is nothing to be gained letting bees starve.

>and what is the pH level that we're looking for?

I shoot for 4.5

>Besides pH, is there any other reason to add vinegar?

It keeps the syrup from spoiling, but any other acid does and may not set off robbing so much. I use ascorbic acid (vitamin C) rather than acetic acid (vinegar).
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and the blinky eye thing.....
>"Anytime you see someone more successful than you are, they are doing something you aren't."

or they aren't doing something you are...
Where do you buy your pH test strips?

I have been feeding 4 new packages with 1:1 and they don't seem to want to take it. In the past, I have had new packages taking down 4+ gallons per week from my Mann Lake top feeders.
Thank you Michael once again for the great info.
I was being facetious though with beeonefarms.
Honey is acid because it is a mix of glucose and fructose which have loosely bound hydrogen ions as part of the sugars' six carbon chains.
Syrup (a solution of sucrose) is basic because there are fewer (ie negative log) hydrogen ions available.

Honey bees possess the enzyme to catalyze the hydrolysis of sucrose in their crop. This enzyme is added to syrup or nectar, and the syrup is inverted and becomes acid in reaction by the action of the bees ingesting it.

The bees possess everything they need to make honey in their crop from the inputs of nectar (a mix of sucrose, glucose and fructose). The addition of a hydrogen donor such as citric acid, or vinegar simply inverts the sugar in solution.

Inverting sugar "sweetens" it because a molecule of H20 is incorporated into the carbon rings in the process of hydrolysis. The bees use hydrolysis as a way of increasing the concentration of the raw nectar without evaporation.

Hydrolysis is splitting the double ring of sucrose in the weak middle link:::

Fructose in solution adds and loses hydrogen+ ions from the ring freely. Note that the sugar has a one or two carbon side chain, with an O-- atom occupying a ring position. The O bond with adjacent Carbon releases a H+ from a hydroxyl group. The nomadic H+ is what raises the log availability of H+ in the solution.

Ascorbic Acid is an unstable ring with loosely bound hydrogen

I have found that vinegar induces robbing.

You can feed unlimited amounts of simple sucrose syrup and the "honey" produced by the bees feeding on it will still be acid. It is acid because that is what fructose solution are intrinsically, not because of adulterants added to the syrup.
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>Where do you buy your pH test strips?

They are available from drug stores or aquarium places or Amazon. The digital testers have gotten pretty cheap and if you keep them in water when not in use, they work very well.
>Where do you buy your pH test strips?

They are available from drug stores or aquarium places or Amazon. The digital testers have gotten pretty cheap and if you keep them in water when not in use, they work very well.
Thank you, Michael!!
A warning to anyone who doesn't already know - add your vinegar when the syrup is cold. I added when it had just come to a boil and it can cause problems. From another thread:

Here is an interesting article from honey bee suite about "Hydroxymethylfurfural"
Although it is in regards to HFC it is relevant. I also went to wikipedia and found out that acid is used in the production of HMF, so maybe by adding vinegar combined with boiling syrup produces increased toxicity. I too had bees wandering around on the ground in front of my hives dying. I thought at first it was Tracheal mites, but I found no K wing. I'm almost sure now that I was poisoning them with HMF because we only have raw water that needs to be boiled so I was heating the sugar and water together, and bringing it to a boil. I still boil my water now but I mix the sugar in after removing it from the heat.
HMF is a degradation product of heated fructose. Toast or Roasted coffee are rich in the compound. It will form from any fructose source when exposed to temps over 120 F.
It is formed by low heat, leading to dehydration of the fructose hex (the H and OH groups are removed), and catalyzed by a weak acid source (which efficiently captures the hydroxyls to balance positive charge of the H+ released by the acid). If you want to efficiently make HMF -- follow the "natural" recipe of adding acid to syrup in the presence of heat.

HMF is absent in sucrose syrup.
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Holy cow!!
I jokingly asked for some science and it was offered up in spades!
I love delving into the nitty-gritty details of whatever new subject I take on and it looks like beekeeping has a lot to offer.
Now if only I could find some info on this blinky-eye problem.
You fix the blinky-eye problem by adding "Dark Energy" to Sucrose. This makes Bee Ray-bans, and the hep-cat bees don't blink.
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