Tip 7: Don't let your bees starve.

Why feed?

The first and most natural way to make sure this doesn’t happen is don’t be tempted to take too much honey at the end of the season, only take the honey that you collect in the supers, any honey that has been collected for the brood box can stay with the bees.

Bees can starve at anytime in the season, and as their custodians it is the beekeepers responsibility to ensure they always have stores be that honey stores or replacement feed.

There are those who refuse to feed bees and choose to leave a super of honey on through the winter instead. There are a few problems we can see with this method 1. During a bad season in Britain yield can be extremely poor meaning a super of honey may not even be collected 2. Leaving a super on could mean that the bees spread from the nest to the super meaning that the cluster does not remain warm enough 3. Robbing is perhaps more of a risk

What to feed?

Sugar syrup will be used by the bees to tide them over until there is a nectar source in the Spring. White granulated sugar dissolved in warm water at a 2:1 ratio gives you a thick syrup.

Specially formulated invert sugar syrup- from bee feed suppliers is a very good but expensive option.

Fondant- home made or bought in bakers fondant. For the bees to make use of this solid form of feed they require water that is often found in the hive as condensation therefore fondant is used slowly by the bees when they need it.

Honey stores on frames – So long as you are 100% sure that they are disease free, if you have more than one hive you may want to take frames of stores (honey) from hives with excess to give to lower weight hives.

Protein supplements- We have found that this is superfluous in our pollen rich surroundings here in West Wales but in some areas it may be of help in early Spring to bring on the colonies.


Types of feeders

How to feed?

There are many different feeding methods, (feeders) depending on your choice of hive, reason for feeding and environmental conditions. Click on the types of feeders for examples that you can buy.

  1. Rapid feeders–  There are various models to try but the basic principle is having a tray that is placed over or in place of the crown board with a hole or slot to save the bees from drowning. They are ideal for feeding larger amounts of syrup to bees in the Autumn but are not the best option of feeders for cold conditions.
  2. Contact feeders– are containers or buckets that have a filter or mesh section in the middle, the container is turned upside down then the vacuum keeps the liquid syrup inside. When placed over the crown board feeder hole, the bees have access to the syrup. This method is more effective in cold weather conditions and emergency feeding of smaller quantities. Also not the best option for very cold conditions as there is a risk that a contraction of the container can occur that can push the feed into the hive soaking the bees.
  3. Frame feeders– are hollow frame shaped feeders with a float inside that prevents bees from drowning. These types of feeders are typically used in nuclei, or for when building up nuclei into full sized hives.

When to feed?

Autumn feeding: A hive that has plenty of stores to go into the winter is less likely to starve. Check in late autumn if the conditions are warm enough and if the stores are depleted you can feed the bees with a sugar syrup with rapid feeders. If its not warm enough to open the hives you can heft them to check the weight, if you grunt when you try and lift a side then they’re heavy enough.

Emergency feeding: prevention should avoid this being necessary,  but sometimes a bees source depletes in the surrounding area also periods of bad weather stops the bees from being able to travel to their nectar source.

Early Spring feeding:

New or weaker colonies- when you have introduced a new colony to your hive feeding sugar syrup will help it to increase its numbers therefore establish.

Hive is light- if your hive is easy to lift it may not have sufficient stores.



Don't feed while nectar flow on


Adulteration of honey – be aware of not feeding during the honey flow which would result adulterating your honey.

Robbing- Feeding bees excites the bees which can stimulate robbing, so don’t spill or leave feeding equipment around your apiary. If feeding before Autumn do the whole apiary at the same time.

Pest control following Autumn feed- ensure hives are mouse proof, with mouse guards after feeding.

A good rule of thumb is to always leave your hive with at least one frame of capped stores on the edge of the nest.