I inspected my backyard colonies yesterday and most of the hives seemed to be building up and getting ready for spring. However the bees must be using all their food stores for this buildup because most of the hives were very low on honey stores. I decided to feed them. In the past I have been a little resistant to feed the bees, trying to intervene as little as possible, but I think it is wise to feed if necessary to keep them alive.
If just a few hives need to be fed I top feed, but if most of the hives are in need then I open feed. A local friend told me of a technique that he calls “Trash Feeding” and it is so simple. The idea is to mix the food up in a 5 gallon bucket and then put leaves or pine straw or anything that floats on top of the mixture to keep the bees from drowning. As the bees consume the food the “trash” will lower itself, protecting the bees and providing a landing pad for them. Bee casualties are kept to a minimum and it seems like the bees consume every drop. I have tried other techniques in the past but this is now my favorite.
Many people warn against placing the feeder close to the hives. How far should the distance be between the hives and the food source? A number that comes to mind is to place the feeder 100+ yards away. This is a precaution that will assure no robbing in the apiary, but is a simply not possible in my yard as I am surrounded by neighbors. I have not really had significant issues when I open feed and usually feed relatively close to the bees, but keep in mind that there is potential for robbing if your food source is too close to the bees. On the other hand do not fear placing the food 100+ yards away. The bees will find it!
Today I used a 1:1 ratio of sugar to water and added Beekeeper’s Choice Feeding Stimulant, which was created by my friend Scott Derrick at Blythewood Bee Company in South Carolina. He is also the creator of Swarm Commander and Honey-B-Gone, quality products that deliver as advertised.
The 1:1 ratio is used to not only feed the bees but to also stimulate brood production in preparation for spring. Earlier in the year if trying to simply feed to bees and keep them alive a I use a 2:1 sugar to water ratio. If you decide to use a supplement then add the product per instructions.
I know I did not cover all aspects of feeding bees but I did want to share this easy method with those interested. I hope this information is useful to you.