When fall hits the world of beekeeping, resource management becomes a huge priority. Late summer into fall is when forage availability starts to taper off, making nectar and pollen scarce. So, it’s vital you pay attention to signs of declining resources when you inspect your colony and be prepared to supplement. Fall feeding doesn’t have to be complicated. We’ll walk you through the whole process!
Let’s start by breaking down the reasons you might need to do fall feeding for your bees.
You accidentally harvested too much honey.
Listen, we get it. It’s hard to resist the sweet stuff and beekeeping requires learning and adjusting based on your unique experiences. It’s possible you accidentally took too much honey from the bees during the busy season. Cut yourself some slack, but be ready to give supplemental feeds to make up for it. (And leave more for the bees next year).
The weather was rough this year.
Whether it’s endlessly hot and dry or there’s too much rain, weather extremes make it harder for the bees to forage. If they can’t forage as frequently as they’d like, your bees will be in a bind. They need lots of carbohydrates to go about their busy lives and perpetuate their numbers.
The bees were weakened by disease.
There is no forage readily available.
Fall flowers are not as rich in pollen and nectar, and if you don’t consciously plant for all seasons, your bees will be left wanting. This is called a nectar dearth and it’s as dramatic as it sounds. Think: famine, but for the bees.
The best way to know if your bees need a helping hand is to inspect your hive. Check the honey supply in fall. Bees need 60-90 pounds of honey to make it through in areas that experience true winter (ice, snow, cold). For reference, approximately 12 frames are equivalent to 96 pounds of honey.
Keep in mind you can pull a couple of bars of honeycomb and reserve them in the Beepods Harvest Box so that you encourage your bees to keep making honey during this critical time. You will replace those bars when you get ready to winterize your hive, providing your honey bees with the largest quantity of honey that you can.
If you do notice that your honey bees are not on track for a successful winter, it’s time to feed.
If your colony needs supplemental feeding, it’s time to mix up a fall-friendly simple syrup. Essentially, since your bees are working hard to prep their hive for winter, you don’t want to make them work any harder than they have to. So, mix up a 2:1 (two parts sugar to one part water) sugar syrup. This way, the honey bees can slurp it up and when they store it, they don’t have to beat their wings quite as much to transform it into their desired consistency.
It doesn’t matter if you mix by weight or volume, but here’s our basic recipe for fall feeding for the bees:
1 part water
2 parts sugar (use plain cane sugar or organic cane sugar)
-Heat your quantity of water on the stove in a saucepan.
-Once it’s just shy of boiling, take it off the heat and stir in the sugar.
-Mix until everything is homogenous.
-Allow the solution to cool before feeding your bees.
For reference, aim to mix up at least 1-2 liters of syrup, but if your colony is really struggling, you may need to feed 5-10 liters a week until the stores improve.
With a little attention to detail and some basic skills in the kitchen, you can help your honey bees be as prepared as possible for the off-season. Remember, they need the honey more than you do this time of year, so let them enjoy the sweet fruits of their labor.
Psst… Are you new here? Did you just start beekeeping (and realize it’s the best)?
We have some incredible resources to get you started on your beekeeping journey. Here’s what you can do: