Do Not Feed the Bees or the Nucs

| 7/8/2014 11:35:00 AM

Tags: beekeeping, honeybees, Tennessee, Betty Taylor,

Feeding established hives sugar water or high fructose corn syrup is almost never necessary—nor is feeding necessary when creating nucleus hives (nucs). In this article, I hope to convince you that feeding your bees is not only bad for the health of the bees and bad for honey production, but is bad for your bottom line! By learning about nectar flows, forage plants, and how the beekeeping season progresses in your area, you can increase your honey yields, your hive numbers, and the health of your bees.

Over the years, I’ve discovered that my bees know how to feed themselves and are healthier and more productive when I don’t interfere with their nutrition by feeding them “candy” or processed pollen paddies. When fed sugar water and corn syrup, the bees get lazy and do not forage for more nutritious fare. They use the artificial feed to make and store honey, thus greatly decreasing the quality, taste, and nutritional composition of the honey. The bees build up quickly when artificially fed, but then are addicted to feeding. When the beekeeper quits feeding them and the bees must forage on their own, the momentum and any jump on the season are lost.

Some beekeepers think taking away all of the honey and then feeding back sugar syrup is more economical because the profit from the honey outweighs the cost of the syrup. I believe feeding ends up costing the beekeeper more in the health of the bees and in overall honey production. A healthy, strong, well-fed hive produces far more honey, and the honey is of better quality and taste.

Currently, normal yields for my area are 40 to 50 pounds of honey per hive. Each established hive in my apiaries consists of 2 deep brood boxes and what I call 1 “eternal” shallow super. It’s always there. The nectar flow has finished here, and after pulling honey for the last time a couple of weeks ago, I left these shallow supers filled with mostly uncapped honey. With this honey and what’s in the deeps, the bees will make it through the dearth of summer until the fall bloom. By that time, these top supers will be mostly empty and the bees can refill them in the fall with the bloom from asters, goldenrod, and other fall flowers for their winter stores.

In addition to not feeding the hives, I took eleven 3-frame nucs from the strongest hives this spring during the nectar flow. So how did all this “hurt” my honey harvest? I averaged 73 pounds per hive! Yes, I could have squeezed out that last super of honey and increased my yields even more, but I would have paid for such folly in next years yields. In addition to my honey crop, the bees produced the new nuc hives.

9/10/2014 1:59:57 PM

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