Bees are fed a substitute for nectar which is made by mixing and dissolving white sugar in hot water. Make sure 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). The Winter feed requires a higher ratio of sugar to water. If winter feeds have too high a water content the bees might not be able to dehydrate it enough to prevent fermentation before winter sets in. Another way to feed in the winter months it to use 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, so add a little honey to make it more attractive and give it an aroma. A honey and water mixture can also be used as feed 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. Liquid feed 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 the bees can’t enter the hive under the roof or you will encourage robbing. The feeders should be put on in the evening when the bees have stopped flying. Doing this allows the initial excitement of the bees to subside over night and reduces the risk of robbing. Reduce the entrance size to allow the bees an advantage when fending off robbers. Also, be careful not to spill syrup around the outside of the hive. Remember, pure sugar syrup has no smell and it is possible that bees will ignore the 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!
We are getting closer to that time of year when we feed our bees. It may still be a little way off, but thinking ahead can save you money on sugar. One of the benefits of BBKA membership is that we qualify for membership of Bookers Wholesale Stores [N.B. you will need to show your BBKA membershipcard!]. Bookers are far cheaper than the supermarkets. The downside is that they don't have a branch in every town. There are branches in Watford, Tottenham and Luton. If you leave things to the last minute, you end up either making a special journey, else going to Sainsburys etc. Plan now, and drop in when next passing that way.
For members with only a couple of hives, trekking over to Bookers may not beworth the petrol. Pound Stretchers are currently selling sugar at 59p/kilobag - this compares with about 97p in the average supermarket and may be abetter alternative. This is a special offer and price may go back to the previous price of 69p/kilo.