Apicultura Wiki



FEEDING bees becomes necessary when they are in danger of dying, or swarming out for want of food. Feeding may also be made to pay a fair profit for the outlay, provided it is done in season ; the object to bo gained in this case is to have the bees strong at the commencement of a harvest season, either from flowers or other sources. But if feeding is resorted to for the purpose of having dissolved sugar or inferior honey stored as an article for market, it will prove a loss, directly or indirectly, to the person feeding and a swindle on the purchaser, as the material fed to them undergoes no material change except to receive a portion of musk imparted by the bees, and to become condensed by evaporation.


Feeding may be commenced as early as February, if the weather is warm and the bees are flying frequently. But if cool, defer^ it, as feeding at such times frequently causes dysentery ; consequently, it is better to supply hives that are short of provisions by taking combs having stores from other hives and placing the empty combs in their stead. This plan of equalizing will benefit both hives, if properly done. There are times in March, April and May, when bees gather but little honey and need to be fed. They can gather pollen in abundance at such times. And when supplied with sweets, they work with renewed energy.

As soon as the flowers fail on the plains, which, in most places, is late in May or early in June, pasturage will be scarce for the balance of the year, except along streams, on wet lands, and in the mountains. Then feeding should commence in quantities just sufficient to cause them to keep their combs full of brood, without allowing their stores to diminish. Their wants being regularly supplied, they rear very large numbers of young, so that at the time the Cephalanthus blooms, there is ample force to gather and store large quantities of the best honey of the season. Where this bush abounds, cease to feed about one week previous to the time it comes into bloom, which is about the first of July. In sections of country where the pasturage declines in June, feeding will have to be resorted to at intervals during the remainder of the summer, or they will have to be transported to where pasture abounds.


The first requisite is a "fertile queen, together with a sufficiently numerous swarm of bees to defend themselves. The second (and it is of but little less importance than the first) is to have perfect combs so arranged as to suit the wants of the bees. If in the first of the season, they will wish to extend the structures. If at the close, they will desire to remain quiescent. Feeding without these conditions is useless.


The materials suitable for feeding are honey, pollen, sugar, and flour.

HONEY. Honey for feeding bees is to be preferred to sugar, provided it is of good quality, but great care should be taken that no honey from hives containing foul brood is fed, for it will surely reproduce the disease. The dark fall honey, particularly that gathered from honey-dew, is inferior to sugar for bee food ; hence it ought only be given after the weather becomes warm in the spring. If strained honey which has become candied, or of thick consistency, be used, it should first be reduced to that of new honey, which is done by adding a little water and placing it over a slow fire until it attains 120 Fahr. ; it is then to be taken off and cooled, and is fit for use.

POLLEN. Pollen is an indispensable article of food during the season of breeding, yet the adult bees subsist in a healthy condition on honey alone, but cannot on pollen. Pollen, being stored in combs with honey, needs no preparation for the use of the bees ; hence the directions given for feeding honey in the comb apply also to pollen.

SUGAR. Sugar[1] of the best quality is the cheapest for this purpose. Refined yellow is to be preferred to any other, as it costs less, and is equally as good for the bees as the white crushed. Sugar containing a large amount of gum is unfit to feed to bees. For feeding in the hive, dissolve one pound of sugar in one pound of water, but for promiscuous feeding, use one and one-eighth pounds of water to one of sugar. Where a large quantity is to be used, it may be dissolved to the consistency of syrup and then reduced with water as above.

Should it be found necessary to feed late in the season, less water should be added, as evaporation is then less rapid, and longer time would elapse before the bees could seal it over.

FLOUR. Flour of different kinds (that made from rye is best) forms a valuable substitute for pollen, particularly in the spring, before the latter can be obtained from the usual source. As soon as the bees commence to fly out in the spring, they will partake of it, if placed within their reach, and continue to carry it into their hives until a supply can be had from the natural sources.

Take one pound of dry flour for each ten hives of bees to be fed, (the quantity can be increased or diminished according as it is consumed) place it in troughs or large shallow dishes set in a place sheltered from the wind, and at the same time admit the sun to shine on it. It should be kept dry, and replenished from day to day as long as the bees continue to partake of it. Flour may also be put into combs or vessels and placed within the hive, in the same manner as other food.


From one to two pints of liquid sweets per day to the hive, according .to the average strength of the stock, is found to make them flourish; commence by giving a little till they find the road, and then give them one quart per day to the hive, for the first two days, if they can take it ; after which, one pint per day regularly, for eight or ten days, will cause them to increase greatly.

It is best to feed liberally and regularly for some days in succession, and then stop for a few days, as this feeding causes them to rear a large quantity of brood, which being considerably advanced in ten or twelve days, they do not require so large an amount of food as at first, or as they will when the young bees emerge, (which is within twenty-two days from the laying of the egg) at which time they should again be fed, unless there is pasturage sufficient to supply their wants.[2]


Each hive of bees, pr any particular one, can be fed by placing the food within the hive or at the entrance to it ; or the whole stock can be fed promiscuously in troughs or shallow vessels placed a few rods from them.

Feeding within the hive is the best plan (whether few or many colonies) when neighboring bees are numerous, unless we wish to give our neighbors' bees a special benefit. If the food to be given is contained in combs, it should be placed within the main apartment of the hive. In frame hives this is done by putting the combs into frames and placing them in the room of empty combs, and adjoining the cluster of bees. But if no frames are used, and there is a space not filled with comb, then, by means of cross sticks, fasten in a quantity of combs containing stores. If no space exists, then take a ring, say six inches deep and of the same diameter as the hive to be supplied ; place sticks across the bottom of the ring in a position to sustain and keep the combs elevated, to allow the bees a free passage between them and the stand. Then set the combs in on their edge, giving the usual spaces, and secure in that position by means of pieces of combs and cross sticks. Set the hive to be supplied on top of the ring or eke* and let it remain on the same stand.

An aperture for egress and ingress should be made to occupy the same relative position as the oflfe previously used by the bees. This ring should remain during the winter, and be removed as soon as the bees commence work in the spring. If the chamber hive be used, combs containing stores may be placed in the chamber, and allowed to remain until the bees remove their contents. At the time of supplying food, either within or at the entrance of the hive, the bees should be attracted to it by sprinkling liquid sweets on the cluster of bees and along the passage leading to the food. When promiscuous feeding is resorted to, sprinkle a portion of the liquid on the bees and at the entrance of each hive that is most in need. Pieces of comb, or even wood, may be dipped in the liquid and placed at the entrance of each hive until the bees cluster on it ; they are then to" be gently carried and laid on the food wherever placed. When once shown the road, they are always on the lookout for their daily allowance, unless stopped for a few days, in which case they should be toled to it a second time.

A tin cup, or dish of almost any kind, may be set in the chamber, for the purpose of supplying food ; floats are to be first placed in them, to allow the bees to sip the liquid without getting soiled or drowned in it. When such vessels are used, it allows the bees to spread through the chamber, and some of them are liable to be crushed in closing the door of the hive ; this, however, can be prevented by using smoke to drive them out of danger.

The following described box answers a good purpose for feeding within the hive, as it allows the bees to ascend without being in the way of opening or closing the hive.


PLATE XLIV, p. 306, fig. 73. Feed Box.

Plate XLIV, fig. 73 : A represents a tin box five inches wide by seven inches long, and two inches deep ; b, float placed in the tin box to keep the bees from drowning ; (7, wooden box or slip-cover, made to fit loosely over the tin box, being five and one-eighth inches wide by eight inches long, and three inches deep all in the clear ; d, partition, two inches high, and made at one end to form a passage, as represented at n; e, wire screen to admit air and enable the apiarist to examine the contents of the tin box ; fy aperture, through which the liquid food is to be poured ; g, cover to aperture. The tin box A is represented as placed on a chamber floor in the position it should occupy in the hive, and the cover C elevated above it ; by lowering the cover to its place, the passage n corresponds with the passage m in the chamber floor, allowing the bees to ascend to the food, without having their liberty in the chamber. Feed can be supplied either by night or day, without removing the box. The above tin box may be set at the entrance of a hive, and covered, so that only a small opening at one edge is allowed for the bees to pass in and out. The feed should be given in the evening, and the box removed the following morning. This precaution is necessary to prevent robbery.


For promiscuous feeding, shallow troughs are made as follows : Take a sound plank, one and one-fourth inches thick, sixteen inches wide, and six feet long, for the bottom, and for the rim two pieces sixteen inches long, and two pieces six feet, two inches long and three and one-half inches wide ; these are to be well jointed, and white lead used when putting them together ; they are to be thoroughly nailed, and the inside painted ; when dry, it is fit for use. This size gives eight feet surface, and affords room for the usual number of bees from thirty-two hives to fe*ed at once. Before feed is put in, take slats or pieces of comb and place them in the trough so as to form a floating bridge on which the bees may stand without soiling themselves while feeding.

Shallow pans, bridged in like manner, with a surface in proportion to the stock to be fed, answer the same purpose. The place for feeding should be a few rods from the hives. During the spring, or when the weather is cool, the sun should shine on and around the place ; but when warm, it should be excluded. The advantages gained by feeding promiscuously are, that it can be better done and with less than onehalf the labor it requires to feed each hive separately. The strong and vigorous hives gather more than the weak ones. This is as it should be, for they are to be drawn upon, from time tb time, for brood and stores to build up the weak ones. When this plan is once commenced, it must be attended to regularly.


"While feeding bees separately, those of other hives are frequently attracted by the smell of the food, and try to rob them. This is best guarded against by keeping the entrance to the hive contracted, leaving barely room for the bees to pass out and in. They should be fed in. the evening, and if necessary, the hives kept closed (except for ventilation) during a part of the following day. If at any time they are liable to be overpowered, remove the feed, and close the hive till near sundown ; at which time, it is to be opened, to allow the robbers to depart.

Promiscuous feeding is also liable to incite robbery, particularly if a limited amount is given, without satisfying their wants. This difficulty is obviated by giving them all they can carry away, for two or three days in succession ; after which, a liberal feed, once a day, at a regular hour, will be sufficient. It should be given either in the morning or late in the afternoon. After the supply is exhausted, many robbers may be seen hovering around the different hives for a time ; but they soon cease their efforts. If, however, they persist, give them all the feed they can carry till dark; and as soon as they have enough stored to answer the purpose, cease feeding entirely. Homeopathic doses do not work well in the matter of promiscuous feeding.


I would caution new beginners to be exceedingly careful in practicing the different plans of feeding; for if badly managed, it may prove the ruin of the


  1. "Experiments have proved the excellence of sugar as a substitute for honey, and in some instances its superiority for the formation of wax. It might otherwise have heen supposed that bees might form comb from some particles of wax accidentally present in the honey, and that these afforded the pabulum for this secretion. To prove, therefore, that the saccharine principle alone enabled the bees to produce wax, being still confined, they were supplied with a syrup made with Canary sugar and water, and at the same time comparative experiments were made in another hive where the bees were fed on honey and water. The syrup-fed bees produced wax sooner and more abundantly than the honeyfed bees. Another fact was also incontrovertibly elicited, namely: that in the old hives the honey is warehoused, and that in the new ones it is consumed, then transmuted into wax." Bevan.
  2. The above plan has long been practiced, and with good success; hence, persons who keep bees on the old plan, should not fail to avail themselves of its benefits. By supplying such combs as contain mostly bee-bread, whether the bees are in immediate want of it or not, you will add greatly to their prosperity.