When and How You Should Feed Your Bees

When and How You Should Feed Your Bees

Matthew Davies image of a beehive with feeders attached

Whether or not to feed your bees is a common question that most beekeepers ask themselves. Of all the questions about beekeeping, this seems to “bee” the most widely debated topic and hardest to answer. Fear not! I, Matthew Davies, am ready to share a plethora of knowledge with you regarding this very question.

As I have stated above, feeding bees is a highly debated topic amongst beekeepers. From a Darwinian standpoint, you would never feed your bees because the weaker bees will weed themselves out, and you will be left with only the strongest genetic traits. This only works if we are talking about natural selection. That is, if a bee is to die over the winter, their genetic makeup was probably not that great, to begin with.

On the other hand, if your area were to suffer the same fate as California, Australia, and many other countries that are susceptible to wildfires, you may want to reconsider. No matter how strong, genetically, a bee is, they are not prepared for those conditions. Feeding your bees in these circumstances would probably be condoned by beekeepers that are staunch supporters of Darwinian style beekeeping. That being said, let’s take a closer look at when and how you should feed your bees.

How can I tell if I need to feed my bees?

Unlike many other questions about bees, this is not a one-size-fits-all question. Numerous factors need to be considered before taking this decision. Some of the elements are, but are not limited to, the honey-to-brood ratio, the specific strain of bees you have, and of course, the climate. All of these aspects will tell you whether or not your bees can survive with the current honey stores they currently possess.

Before you decide to feed your bees, you will want to do a lot of reading. Specially, you will want to read about the strain of your bees. This will not only tell you when you should feed them, but it will also tell you what you should feed them. Reading up on your species of bees will tell you all you need to know about feeding.

As an example, let’s say you have Italian bees. Well, these bees are bred for short winters. That means if you are living in a northern state, or any other place with long, hard winters, your bees will likely deplete their honey before the end of winter. There is no shame in feeding these bees as they were not bread for your particular climate. However, if you have a climate similar to Italy, you may want to err on the side of letting Darwinism dictate if you feed them.

When should I feed my bees?

I am going to assume that you have decided to feed your bees. Now you need to consider when the best time to feed them is. I cannot give you a specific time. However, I can give you a general idea of the best time to feed them. The best time to feed them is just before winter. Keep in mind that bees will not drink liquid feed once the temperature has dropped below 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius). Should you find that you are already too late to provide liquid feed to your bees, you can provide them with forage that will help them instead.

How do I make feed for my bees?

If you are considering feeding them this time of year in a northern state, you will want to do it at a rate of two cups of sugar for every one cup of warm water. The water needs to be warm to incorporate the sugar into the water. Stir the mixture until there are no granules of sugar remaining. Never under any circumstances, use raw sugar or brown sugars. Not only will you bees not be able to digest the mixture, but it can also harm them worse than not offering them the feed at all. Adding a crushed vitamin C tablet will make the mix more palatable for the bees as they are used to a higher acidity liquid than the simple sugar mixture will provide them.

What kind of feeder should I use for my bees?

While this question can seem complicated, it comes down to what kind of hive you have. There are several different styles of colonies, and each of them will be able to accommodate various feeders. However, if you are looking for a great all-around feeder, I would suggest simply using a couple of mason jars with holes in the lids. The jars should be placed upside down and located at the top of the hive. Additionally, the liquid should not have direct access to the rest of the colony. Doing this would get the inside of the hive wet, and your bees could freeze if the temperature drops below freezing at night.


Deciding on whether or not to feed your bees is not a decision you should take lightly. While it is our nature to want to help out people and animals in a tight spot, you will not be doing your brood any good. By saving bees that would die in the wild may seem like the right thing to do, your hive will suffer by having sub-par genetics floating around in it. Try to take the approach to be as hands-off as humanly possible. Once you decide to feed, make sure you provide the proper mixture, keep it separate from the rest of the hive, and don’t wait until it is too late in the season. I, Matthew Davies, hope that this article has answered your questions regarding the feeding of your bees. I wish you the best of luck in any future endeavors you have with your bees. Remember, bees help keep our planet fertilized, so we all have plenty to eat. Don’t muddy your hives’ genetics for what you think might be the right thing to do.

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