Feeding Honeybees in Winter


Sometimes it is necessary to feed honeybees through the winter which can be accomplished by several methods. That is the position we find ourselves in here on Five Feline Farm after two colonies have struggled through the fall with apparent robber bees.

A colony of honey bees needs 30 to 60 pounds of honey stored going into winter. This is the equivalent of 8 to 9 full frames. This provides enough to keep the cluster alive through winter and early spring until the nectar starts to flow again.

Even during a cold winter, there will be opportunities to open the hive for a quick addition of food. My hope is to have at least one viable day each month or so when the temperature hits near 50 degrees to slip some food into the hive.

The choice then becomes what method or medium to use in delivering food for the cluster. Below are the options we have tried or considered along with my opinion about each. The first two are proprietary mixes available for order from bee supply companies.

Winter Patties

These are one of those proprietary mixtures available from a major bee supply house dadant.com.  The patties come smeared between pieces of waxed paper. It is gooey and smells a bit like molasses. The catalog description states extra ingredients that will help the bees build up in the spring is part of the mix. The patties are placed in the hive directly on top of the brood frames waxed paper and all. A two inch spacer is added to allow room for the bees to access the patties. After chewing through the patties, the bees tear the waxed paper into pieces if not removed by the bee keeper and throw it out the entrance.

2/13/2018 12:55:53 AM

I don't have bees, but it's something I'm very interested in. Since I live in interior Alaska, I doubt I will be over wintering bees. Everyone who has bees up here loses more than half if not all their bees. The question I have is about tea tree oil helping with parasites. Can you add the oil to the candy cakes?

1/22/2016 2:27:10 PM

Let me clarify my comment below. Those are essential oils, Lemon and peppermint. It has to be food grade for the bees.

1/22/2016 2:24:24 PM

Even thought our temps aren't as cold as you, I had one hive I was worried would not have enough honey to make it through the winter. I have made the sugar blocks and will put them in the hive when temps reach above 50 degrees. I did add a couple drops of Lemon and peppermint to the sugar after cooking. We will see if the bees take to it. Thanks for the recipes. C

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