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Northeastern Kansas Beekeepers





Feeding you honey bees on sugar syrup?   When is the best ratio of sugar to water?

One gallon of 2:1 (fall feeding) sugar syrup is equivalent to increasing the colony food reserves by about 7 lbs. 

  • 2:1 ratio for fall feeding.
    • ​make a dozen holes or more in the jar lids of the gravity feeders to effect a light nectar flow. 
  • 1:1 ratio for spring feeding and spraying onto package bees.
  • 1:2 ratio for (spring or fall) brood-rearing stimulation.
    • make only 2 - 6 holes in the jar lids of the gravity feeders to effect a light nectar flow. 
    • ​bees are only able to obtain a small amount of syrup feed over an extended period of time.
    • using only stored honey without access to nectar foraging does not promote brood rearing stimulation

See? Not all feeding sugar syrup is the same. Ratios are important considerations. Define your goal. Ask if it is even necessary. Over-feeding can cause a condition known as 'honey bound' and induce swarming. 

Honey bees feed on glucose, fructose, and sucrose. They are important carbohydrates, and commonly referred to as simple sugars, providing the same amount of energy, but processed differently by honey bees, and humans, tool. Glucose and fructose are found in flower nectars as well as fruits and vegetables. So is sucrose but generally in a different (smaller) proportion. 

For humans, sucrose, commonly known as table sugar, is obtained from sugar canes or sugar beets. When fed  sugar syrup, honey bees produce an enzyme (invertase) that converts the sucrose into fructose and glucose. The enzyme reaction takes time, just like making honey. That said, converted sugar syrup-while good for the bees, does not make honey--only a good emergency bee feed.

Be sure to remove all feeds at least 2 weeks prior to placing honey supers on your colonies.

​Feeders should be cleaned and sterilized between feedings. Mix enough syrup for immediate use only. Any syrup with evidence of fermentation or that has a sour taste should be discarded and replaced.

Why do we feed with sugar syrup and not honey? Feeding bees honey can carry bacteria spores of several brood diseases (AFB, EFB, Sacbrood). You may only feed your bees honey from your own apiary, that you know, for certain, is free of any brood disease(s) DO NOT feed bees store bought honey or honey from other beekeepers. Do not promote robbing by letting bees clean out your equipment after extracting, or leaving combs out to be cleaned. Disease can be unintentionally spread, and devastating to neighborhood colonies.

Your fellow beekeepers and bee enthusiasts support and thank you for following best practices! 

Northeastern Kansas Beekeepers Association

- Some COOL things beekeepers can create & work with....

Thank you to Richard Stewart of Carriage House Farm and the Indiana Beekeepers Association for providing this handy MS Excel spreadsheet that allows you to plug in your weights and measure for a better calculation of 1:1 and 2:1 water and sugar for sugar syrup feeding.

  • Download the spreadsheet to your computer.
  • Launch it in Excel.
  • Enter a number in the yelllow shaded areas... and it spits out anything you need so long as you can measure either volume or weight, you can use it to mix just about any combination.  

  1. A spreadsheet to help you calculate 'water-to-sugar' ratio (.xls download 41KB)  
  2. Feeding Bees Sugar - Best Practices Fact Sheet from​ UK Government (.pdf download 358KB)
  3. *Open-source bee-feeding spreadsheet in MSExcel  ​​(*permission granted by original author) (.xls download)
feature info

Designed and used by other beekeepers that could be of benefit to you as well....

3- Types of Feeding for your bees...

1) Rapid Feeding - a tray placed over the hive.  

2) Contact Feeding - a jar or bucket placed over the hive with an empty hive or super.

3) Frame Feeding - look like a brood frame with a slot in the top.

*Contact feeders such as the inverted jars above work great for feeding your bees if they are able to be in contact with the syrup source. This is the best and most natural way to feed a colony short on stores in cold weather and in winter.

Some COOL features that might be of help or interest....

Ratio For Feeding Sugar Syrup:

Where 1 gallon of water (volume) = 8 lbs (weight)....  referenced ratios are 'weight : weight'.

In spring: 1:1 by weight, so 8 lbs of sugar to 1 gallon of warm water although one is not likely to get the volume of each to fit into a gallon jar, so use a larger container if you're trying to be exact. Otherwise, if you're pouring the sugar crystals into a glass container, you'll come to the same ratio if you fill it just slight more than 1/2 of the container but less than 3/4.

For an even lighter ratio for stimulation, you could use a 1:2 ratio of crystalized sugar to water, making an even lighter syrup than 1:1. 

​*Make only 2 to 6 holes in the gravity feeder lid, effecting a light nectar flow, allowing the bees to obtain only small amounts of syrup over an extended period of time...  Be aware, that any time you are feeding your bees for stimulation to grow in the spring, you are boosting them to grow to swarm conditions.

In the fall, the ratio is 2:1 by weight, so 16 lbs of sugar to 1 gallon of warm water. 

To "stimulate" colony growth or brood-rearing in dearth (no honey flow0) or early fall: 1:2* by weight, so 4 lbs of sugar to 1 gallon warm water.

If you're trying to feed in fall or winter to ensure the colony has enough carbohydrate food to survive, us a lid that has many holes to get them to take the feed quicker and store it. Plan ahead, and don't wait until the colony is near starvation or extremely light on stores. 

Colonies should be checked for weight conditions at least 1 per month, so there is no surprise when you discover they might be light on stores  - or found starved and dead.