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Feeding

 
Nicole Aakre
Posts: 4
Location: Drummond, Montana
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You will have to forgive me if this subject has already been covered as I am new here and have yet to find what I am looking for. Anywho...this will be my first year keeping bees on my own. I am starting with 2 nucs and will be using Langstroth 10-frames. My biggest concern is feeding. I know that feeding is very controversial in regards to treatment-free beekeeping which I would like to stay with as much as possible. My situation: I live on the top of a mountain on the outskirts of Granite County, Montana. We are zone 3 in the books but our windy mountain worries me. I have planted native wildflower seeds for summer honey flow but I feel that they might need some supplemental feeding before everything starts blooming. So for my real question: for those of you who have or do feed, what recipe do you use? I have found many and am unsure where to begin. The best I have found follows:

2 quarts (8 cups) of white sugar (do not use brown sugar or other substitute)
3 cups of almost boiling water
1 cup of chamomile tea (can use chamomile flowers or tea bags)
2 tablespoons of your own honey
½ teaspoon of fresh squeezed lemon juice
a healthy pinch of sea salt
3-4 drops of lemongrass essential oil
1 teaspoon vegetable glycerine

Mix sugar and water until all sugar is dissolved.

Mix in the chamomile tea, honey, lemon juice and sea salt until well combined.

Mix the lemongrass oil into the glycerine, then add to the syrup.

Cover and let cool to room temperature before feeding your bees.

opinions?
 
Michael Cox
Posts: 1570
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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I've only ever fed straight sugar and water. I really don't see the need for extra ingredients, especially as there doesn't seem to be any justification for it - where does chamomile tea fit into bees normal diet?

Sugar feeding should only really ever bee a stop gap measure to get a colony through a tough time - new swarms for example when their is no flow on.
 
Nicole Aakre
Posts: 4
Location: Drummond, Montana
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Thanks Michael! What kind of sugar do you use when you do feed? And what ratio of sugar to water? I was questioning all the extras myself but as I said I am new and looking for some guidance
 
Michael Cox
Posts: 1570
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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This pretty much matches my experience. The author suggest adding a small amount of honey will help the bees smell it and find it, but I have never noticed them having difficulties finding syrup.

Syrup feeding


Bees are fed a substitute for nectar which is made by mixing white sugar with hot water and stirring until all the sugar is dissolved. For autumn feeding mix one kilo of sugar with half a litre of water (2lbs:1Pint). For spring and summer feeding mix one kilo of sugar with one litre of water (1lb:1 Pint. If winter feeds have too high a water content the bees may not have time to dehydrate it enough to prevent fermentation before winter sets in. If you have to feed in the winter months, i.e. Jan/Feb, it would be best to feed baker's fondant ( the soft icing on cakes) as this won't ferment and the bees can eat it straight away.

Never use unrefined or brown sugar as this causes dysentery in the bees. There is no evidence that refined beet sugar is any better or worse than refined cane sugar. Sugar syrup has no smell to the bees and it helps to add a little honey to make it more attractive and give it an aroma. Honey mixed with a little water can also be fed but be careful the honey you use is from a known and trusted source or you could infect your bees with foul brood or nosema spoors.

The syrup is given to the bees in containers placed above the brood box from which the bees can help themselves. Access to the syrup is restricted to prevent the bees from falling in and drowning. Never put an open container of syrup in a hive or you will lose hundreds of bees. Most beekeepers use purpose made containers made of plastic and holding approximately one litre (2Pints) of syrup. Ensure bees cannot enter the hive under the roof or you will invite robbing.

Put feeders on in the evening when the bees have, or will soon, stop flying. This allows the initial excitement of the bees to subside over night and reduces the risk of robbing. Reduce the entrance to allow the bees a better chance of fending off robbers. Also, be careful not to spill syrup around the outside of the hive.

As mentioned before pure sugar syrup has no smell and it is possible that bees will ignore or not even be aware of food just above their heads. To avoid this problem either dribble a little syrup into the brood to provide a trail to the feed or add honey or do both!
 
tel jetson
steward
Posts: 3356
Location: woodland, washington
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I would also go with plain sugar water if you don't have a trustworthy source of honey to make syrup with. the advice to avoid brown sugar is good, though.
 
Arlyn Gale
Posts: 24
Location: Colorado Front Range (7000')
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When, how & why to feed are subjects of great debate & discussion.

A simple addition to sugar & water is Vitamin C (ascorbic acid). ~1500mg/gallon will reduce the pH to near that of honey. Why? Because the "near neutral" pH of sugar syrup promotes a number of hive problems - American Foul Brood, European Foulcbrood, Chalkbrood & Nosema, to name a few.

If you have a pH tester, aim for somewhere in the normal range of honey, 3.2-4.5 . Some also use vinegar but I haven't seen a reliable recipe.

When I've found need to feed, I've used 1500mg of Vit C/gallon.

'Makes sense...?

for more info - see "Ecology of the Hive", http://bushfarms.com/beesfoursimplesteps.htm

 
Nicole Aakre
Posts: 4
Location: Drummond, Montana
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Thanks Michael, that is exactly what I was looking for!

Arlyn, where do you source your Vitamin C?

I am hoping my nucs will have enough honey to last until everything starts blooming but you never know what spring in Montana will bring.
 
tel jetson
steward
Posts: 3356
Location: woodland, washington
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the ascorbic acid suggestion leads me to wonder what the pH of nectar is. I believe that would be the pH to aim for, rather than that of honey. even sugar syrup will be processed by the bees and undergo some transformation. that may include lowering the pH, but I really don't know.
 
Arlyn Gale
Posts: 24
Location: Colorado Front Range (7000')
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Nicole,

So far I've just used the Vitamin C we have on hand - presumably from the local store. It can be readily had on line ( also as "ascorbic acid"). Avoid "buffered" Vitamin C - it has been alkalized ( pH adjusted).

Tel,

I would assume that nectar is ~ the same pH as honey - ~ 3.2-4.5 .



On another note - using vinegar will increase the "odor" which may be good ( help the bees find it), or bad - help the robber bees find it.

 
tel jetson
steward
Posts: 3356
Location: woodland, washington
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Arlyn Gale wrote:I would assume that nectar is ~ the same pH as honey - ~ 3.2-4.5 .


not an unreasonable assumption, but also not one that I believe matches with reality. after poking around a bit, the figure I came across for nectar was a range from 4.2 to 8.5.

I also ran into an explanation stating that honey's low pH is due to the rather loosely bound hydrogen ions of fructose and glucose. so honey is acidic because of its sugar content, not because of any other acids present in the solution. this confirms for me that adjusting the pH of syrup in order to improve its quality as feed is not effective.

on the other hand, adding ascorbic acid will dramatically retard spoilage, which is likely to be desirable.
 
Arlyn Gale
Posts: 24
Location: Colorado Front Range (7000')
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It's one of those "you decide what you think is best" kind of things.The extremes for nectar pH range are given - the question "what is the (more realistic) average" is a valid one. The extreme 8.5 nectar pH is for Rhododendron - not one of the "main flow" sources, but certainly one the bees might visit.

Here's some of the discussion:

http://www.beesource.com/forums/showthread.php?291933-pH-of-nectar-and-sugar-syrup

and more:

http://www.beesource.com/forums/showthread.php?273070-Acidulating-Sugar-Syrup&highlight=water+strips

The Baker paper states that Ascorbic acid occurs naturally in some nectars. It is elsewhere reported that neutral (unadjusted) pH syrup promotes the growth of AHB, EHB, Chalk brood & Nosema.

My intent with adding Vit C hasn't been to improve the food value for the bees. It appears, from the same source you quote, that ascorbic acid acts "like" a catalyst for inversion of the syrup - arguably "better" food. It inhibits mold & fermentation. It's cheap and easy - just test & adjust for your particular water source.

I've yet to find any substantial negatives to adding it.

 
jacob wustner
Posts: 64
Location: Western Montana
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I would recommend only feeding honey unless it is unavailable and you are trying to prevent your colony from dying of starvation. And though people say don't feed honey from other people's bees because you could get foul, I think it is still better than sugar for that also encourages disease. If it is your first year, buy some honey locally from a trusted source. Otherwise you should save enough feed honey each year for emergencies before you harvest any for yourself. And if there is any knapweed growing on your mountain, which I have seen it at higher elevations, then the bees should be able to collect enough nectar to make it through 6 months of dearth if they had a good year. Feeding sugar doesn't really fit in line with permaculture beekeeping or treatment free beekeeping.
 
Arlyn Gale
Posts: 24
Location: Colorado Front Range (7000')
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I agree with you, Jacob, that's what I try to do - leave more than enough honey on in the fall. Nothing is better for the bees.

In a pinch, sugar & water will provide emergency feed, and feeding can be advantageous if you have plans for expansion beyond what nature will provide in your timeline.

I've almost never fed syrup. Understanding how to more closely mimic nectar or honey, when & if one feeds, is something to think about.

According to Michael Bush ("The Practical Beekeeper")

" There are more than 170 kinds of benign or beneficial mites, as many or more kinds of insects, 8,000 or more benign or beneficial microorganisms that have been identified so far, some of which we know the bees cannot live without and some of which we suspect keep other pathogens in balance. "

What/if we feed can almost certainly have both positive and negative implications for the overall health of the hive.
 
Nicole Aakre
Posts: 4
Location: Drummond, Montana
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I definitely don't plan on feeding unless I feel it is absolutely necessary. I only want to be prepared and have the knowledge on hand for when the situation arises. We have knapweed overtaking our hillside I just don't know when it will start blooming. I have seen the balsam root and hounds tongue starting to pop but nothing from the knapweed. For the future I will most definitely leave adequate honey prior to harvesting, I just don't know how much honey my nucs will have and am unsure how long it will last if spring doesn't actually arrive.

Thank you for the input everyone, I think I will look into finding a local source if not I'll use sugar as my backup.
 
Arlyn Gale
Posts: 24
Location: Colorado Front Range (7000')
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Nicole - good to see you looking into it. I don't see feeding bees as an evil thing. I do it on occasion, to help colonies in need and sometimes to prepare them for increasing numbers.

Feeding a new colony might almost be considered a responsibility. You've provided a young colony with a home & now they may need a boost to get settled in. They are often in a precarious position until the second/third brood cycle hatch. I usually only feed until they are well established - then they are on their own. I've found that they often stop taking syrup when a good natural flow begins. Understandably, some may disagree with this approach.

Knapweed appears to provide a substantial flow at times. Our county has, in the past, had an aggressive plan to eliminate it as it is an aggressive, non-native species. I doubt they realize (or care) that is is of any benefit to the bees. The bees seem to prefer clover or alfalfa when they are available. Knapweed seems to be a bit more drought tolerant.
 
Martin Miljkovic
Posts: 55
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First of all there are 3 different type of feeding during the year, THey have different function and they have different sugar:water ratio.
You are here interested in spring feeding. The rule of thumb is to feed when the temperature during the night is over 0C. Doing otherwise may cause illness.

(Also the bees need to have honey protecting them from winter months both physically from the strong winter/ cold spring and to have food. Do not neglect this part and do not move brood outside of the protection of warmth that honey frames provides during spring months.) -had to add this part.

Now to move on the topic of WHY do you need to feed them?
You may need to feed them in order to boost brood production or for simple survival of the hive. If you want to boost the brood you use 1:1 sugar and water.
For all other ingredients see other beekeepers from your area. As for me I use some combination that may strengthen the resistances that were not mentioned above. For more info send me p.m.

If they do not have enough food you use 1.5:1 sugar: water. Enough food is 1 frame of pollen for each 1.5 frame of brood and border frames filled with honey at
almost all time. Boil the water, place sugar in it stir. Wait for it to cool and then add what you need. Serve only when it has less than 25C as it can also cause problems otherwise. Add all the other things once it has cooled down. Honey is not necessary and if you do not have your own DO NOT BUY it and give it to your bees. It may contain spores or bacteria that can kill your own bees!

Moving on, when you boost the numbers you need to know for what crops do you boost them. What can they gather. From what I understood you only have wild
grass. Bees do not need boosting for those crops. They gather them over time and in slow pace. Do not overdo it because then you will have a lot of bees that eat more than they can gather. Also on unrelated note having sheeps helps a lot. It is a healthy thing as they leave natural fertilizer behind them. Fertilizer = more flowers.

Next, if I remembered correctly you were thinking about some crops for your bees. The best I would recommend you is buckwheat. It gives nice amount of honey
and of course more seed. The advantage is that it grows on high altitudes VERY well. Focus on it. You may need a bit stronger hives for them. So you may feed your bees some 20-25 days before it flourishes. How much do you feed? 1dl/day for 7 days is enough to stimulate them to boost their numbers. That way they can gather 100% of the yield.

Hope this helps. I touched many subjects that are of great importance so feel free to ask on any of them if you need to. I will come back to forums this week some more.
 
I agree. Here's the link: https://richsoil.com/wood-heat.jsp
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