Calculator for Sugar Feeding Bees

weight of sugar for a given volume of syrup at a set ratio

This calculator is provided for public use by BuzzTech to help remove some of the confusion around sugar to water ratio calculations. Should you find the resulting Brix is not what you expected, please email julian@buzztech.nz to verify your / our calculation method.

Though we have taken all due care to verify our calculation we provide no guarantee and accept no responsibility that your mix will have the exact Brix specified in the calculation.

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CAUTION! RESULTS MAY VARY! ALL SUGARS DIFFER SLIGHTLY

 

CAUTION! RESULTS MAY VARY! ALL SUGARS DIFFER SLIGHTLY

Precautions

Creating a mix below 67 Brx is not recommended for novice beekeepers as fermentation will occur. The commercial standard for sugar feeding bees any time is 2 parts sugar to 1 part water (67 Brx) because the mixture provides ample feed and water to the bees and does not ferment.

Because all apiaries and colonies are unique, some people use lighter mixes in specific cases where they can control fermentation but this is not recommended for novices.

Giving syrup in a feeder always causes excitement in a colony, at least temporarily; if this occurs during the daytime, bees flying around in search of food can soon start an outbreak of robbing, particularly in the autumn when there are strong forces of bees of foraging age and little or no nectar for them to collect. All the hive entrances should be reduced to a width of 25-50 mm, depending upon the strength of the colonies before any feeding is started and the hives should be examined carefully to make certain that there are no gaps between the various parts through which robber bees, or wasps, could find their way. The syrup should not be given until the evening when there will be fewer flying bees to cause a disturbance in the apiary. Similarly, feeders that need to be refilled, should be replenished in the evening rather than during the daytime.

Spring feeding

Spring feeding with thin syrup was once regarded as a necessary part of the routine management of bees but it is likely that much of the success attributed to it was due more to the water in the syrup than to the sugar. In the absence of fresh nectar, which in itself contains enough water for the purpose, the bees must find water to dilute sealed stores. A suitable source of water should be provided in the form of a ‘drinking fountain’, placed 10 metres or so from the hives, in a sheltered position warmed by the spring sunshine. Nevertheless, it is sometimes desirable to encourage a colony to build up more rapidly than it would if left to its own devices – for example, a colony, which is to be used later on for queen rearing, or one that is to be split up for making increase. Provided it has ample stores of pollen for the needs of an expanding brood-nest, such a colony may be fed by giving small quantities of syrup in a feeder at a regular interval, from early spring until the bees can forage freely for themselves.

 

Autumn feeding

When preparations are being made for removing the honey crop after the end of the main nectar-flow, each colony should be examined to see how much honey and pollen is present in the brood combs. In some seasons, the bees stock the brood combs with honey before they fill the supers. In others, nearly all the honey may be stored in the supers, leaving the brood combs practically empty; so it should never be assumed that if the supers are well filled, there is necessarily enough food in the brood chamber to maintain the colony during the winter and spring.
Well before winter sets in a colony needs to have 16-18Kg of stores sealed in the combs. The object of autumn feeding is to supply the amount of sugar syrup necessary to bring the total amount of stores up to at least this minimum. In estimating the stores present in the hives, a New Zealand Standard deep comb, well filled on both sides, can be taken to contain 2 kg; a shallow comb 1.4 kg. The weight of supplementary stories given in the form of sugar syrup should be reckoned as the weight of the sugar in the syrup and not as the total weight of the sugar plus the water.

The syrup is fed during the latter part of autumn. If it is given earlier, an excessive amount of the syrup may be used for rearing brood, with the result that there will be less food stored in the combs and more bees to be maintained. If it is fed later, the weather may become too cold for the bees to carry the syrup down, ripen it and seal it over. Syrup left unsealed may ferment in the combs and cause dysentery in bees that consume it. Syrup for autumn feeding should always be fed in a rapid feeder. This should be large enough to hold the whole amount needed to supplement the natural stores so that the bees can take it down quickly and without interruption. Thick syrup fed rapidly in the second half of Autumn produces the maximum amount of sealed stores per kg of sugar used. Autumn feeding may sometimes be advisable even when the colony already has an ample supply of honey.

 

Emergency feeding

Emergency feeding It is a good rule never to allow stores to fall below 5 kg. Rules cannot always be kept, however, and if a colony does run short of stores it must be fed to carry it over the emergency. If the weight or ‘feel’ of a hive in late winter or early spring raises any doubts about a number of stores left for the bees, the colony should at once be given warm, thick sugar syrup, in a feeder so that the bees can take the syrup readily without having to move far from the cluster.

Honey should not be fed back to bees: It causes great excitement in the colony and is liable to induce outbreaks of robbing. Invert sugar candies made by inversion with the enzyme invertase are suitable for bees. Feeding in this way should be regarded strictly as an emergency measure and should be followed at once by a feed of thick sugar syrup given in a rapid feeder.

In a bad season, colonies may run so short of stores, even during the summer, that feeding with syrup in a rapid feeder is necessary to prevent starvation. Colonies, strong in brood and bees, can very quickly eat up their reserves if there is a scarcity of nectar for any length of time. As an emergency measure, if the bees are found to be in a drowsy condition – a result of the complete exhaustion of their stores – they can sometimes be revived if warm syrup is sprinkled down between the combs or lightly sprayed over the bees using a hand sprayer; syrup in a rapid feeder should be given as soon as the bees have recovered sufficiently to take it.

 

Precautions

Giving syrup in a feeder always causes excitement in a colony, at least temporarily; if this occurs during the daytime, bees flying around in search of food can soon start an outbreak of robbing, particularly in the autumn when there are strong forces of bees of foraging age and little or no nectar for them to collect. All the hive entrances should be reduced to a width of 25-50 mm, depending upon the strength of the colonies before any feeding is started and the hives should be examined carefully to make certain that there are no gaps between the various parts through which robber bees, or wasps, could find their way. The syrup should not be given until the evening when there will be fewer flying bees to cause a disturbance in the apiary. Similarly, feeders that need to be refilled, should be replenished in the evening rather than during the daytime.

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Sources:

Spring, Summer Autumn Ratios: BeezThingz
Some copy and Heavy/Light Feed Ratios: https://pbka.info/reference/feeding-bees/