I think spring is finally here to stay. We’re still getting cool weather, but for the most part we’re above freezing. We just had the last maple syrup boil of the season and the insects and spring bulbs are starting to appear.
Early spring is a critical time for honey bees. Their honey stores are at their lowest and even though the weather is warming up and they may appear to be active, there isn’t an abundance of flowers in early spring.
It’s important to offer your bees an additional food source to ensure that they don’t starve during this last stretch of cooler weather.
Feed Until the Dandelions Bloom
There are many trees and other plants that flower before then, but sometimes these flowers are difficult to distinguish and identify. (They aren’t an obvious flower like a daisy for example.) So to be sure that our bees have enough nectar to collect and prosper, we offer supplemental food until the dandelions bloom.
You can also judge to see if the bees are no longer consuming the supplemental food. Then you know they are out foraging successfully
The best food to feed the bees is some of their own honey that you’ve harvested the season before. However, this isn’t always possible. If you have a new hive or a hive that didn’t produce a good harvest, you will have to feed your bees an alternative food.
There’s a lot of debate right now in the bee keeping community about what to feed bees. Some are adamant about not feeding sugar water and say that honey is the only appropriate food. Others say that feeding honey from other hives can increase the chances of spreading disease. We’ve always had success with feeding sugar but you will have to make an educated decision as to what is best for your hive.
Recipe for Sugar Syrup
We feed a 1 to 1 ratio of water to sugar.
Measure the sugar and water and heat in a pan until the sugar is completely dissolved. Let cool and store extra syrup in the fridge.
Check out this video to learn more! Feeding Bees in Spring
There are a few different methods to feed your bees. Each method has positives and negatives.
Mason jar entrance feeder– This feeder is convenient in that you don’t have to open the hive to provide your bees with food. You can easily see if the feeder is empty, you can track how hungry your bees are and change the feeder often. Unfortunately they are fairly small and need refilling often to keep up with demand.
Poultry Waterer in the top box- Some people suggest using a poultry waterer filled with food in an empty box above the frames. This methed is good in that the waterer will hold a lot of feed. But you will need an extra box to make it work. This method doesn’t work well in very cold weather because the bees have to keep the extra space warm.
Frame Feeder– a Frame Feeder is a wonderful way to feed your bees, but there are some drawbacks. They are nice because they don’t take a lot of room and are easy to fill. The bad part is that they tend to drown bees even though most are designed not to and if you let one go empty they will start building comb in it.
Candy feeder– It’s not hard to convert a spare internal cover into a candy feeder or sugar board. This type of feeding is better for wintertime, but will work in the spring as well.
if made incorrectly the candy once heated in the summer can drip onto the frames below. These boards also tend to attract ants.
External Feeders – External feeders provide food outside the hive. It’s very convenient for the bee keeper but they tend to attract unwanted guests.
If you have an established hive then the amount of additional food your bees consume in the spring is a good indication for you to adjust your harvest amount for the following fall. If your bees are very low on honey reserves, then you harvested too much the year before and should leave them more honey the next time you harvest.