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Feeding Syrup in the Winter

If your hive was fed sufficiently in the fall, odds are they won’t need any additional feeding. However, if they did not go into winter with sufficient stores, or are eating stores faster than expected, you may need to feed during the winter. This can be challenging, since it is difficult for the bees to move around enough in cold weather to access syrup. Here are some tips to give them the best shot at drinking syrup, or having enough food:

1. Feed 2:1 syrup. This will allow them to use or store it immediately.

2. Use a division board feeder, or a top feeder directly over the cluster. The closer the food is to them, the more likely they are to drink it.

3. Take a few frames of honey from a different hive with excess honey, and place them immediately beside the cluster.

4. If the hive is completely out of food, place a gallon zip lock bag of syrup ½ full of 2:1 syrup, with all the excess air removed, on the top bars directly above the main cluster, and poke 10-15 small holes, or 1 inch slits on the top of the bag. This will give the bees direct access to food with minimal movement.

5. For southern beekeepers it's not necessary to feed fondant. Some beekeepers feed a thick sugar patty placed on the top bars for winter feeding. This works for northern climates where bees can't access syrup for weeks/months, and syrup freezes even inside the hive. Unfortunately, bees have to turn that sugar into a liquid before they can use it. Syrup is much easier for them to use and in the south, there are plenty of days the bees can access syrup.