Feeding your bees

There are many options for feeding your honeybees the most common of which is a syrup made by mixing granulated sugar or high fructose corn syrup with water.

Making syrup

There is sometimes discussion as to whether the sugar to water ratios are by volume or weight.     I find that it does not matter.     For 2:1 syrup I mix 3 gallons of water to 50 lbs. of sugar and that yields about 6.5 gallons of syrup, so the two are pretty much the same     The below tables reflect the sugar to water ratio that I use which are based roughly on weight.     I typically use a 1:1 ratio when I want to stimulate brood rearing and a 2:1 when I am feeding for survival.    It appears that the table below is slightly more than 2:1 because I disolve 50 lbs. of sugar in 3 gallons of water and that yields 6.5 gallons of syrup.     The "0.5" extra gallon tells me that the mix is just slightly above 2:1.

In very cold weather I have to increase the water in the 2:1 ratio shown below by roughly 17% (In my case where I use 3 gallons of water to 50 lbs. of sugar, I increase the water by 1/2 gallon (ie.. 3 1/2 gallons to 50 lbs. of sugar).      The below tables do not include the extra 17%.

1:1 Granulated Sugar/Water Mixture Ratios
Sugar By Weight Water By Volume
*Pounds Kilograms pints quarts gallons milliliters liters
1 0.45 0.96 0.48 0.12 454.43 0.45
2 0.91 1.92 0.96 0.24 908.86 0.91
4 1.81 3.85 1.92 0.48 1817.72 1.82
5 2.27 4.81 2.40 0.60 2272.16 2.27
10 4.54 9.62 4.81 1.20 4544.31 4.54
25 11.34 24.04 12.02 3.00 11360.78 11.36
50 22.68 48.08 24.04 6.00 22721.56 22.72
100 45.36 96.15 48.08 12.00 45443.12 45.44
 
2:1 granuilated Sugar/Water Mixture Ratios
Sugar By Weight Water By Volume
Pounds Kilograms pints quarts gallons milliliters liters
1 0.45 0.48 0.24 0.06 227.22 0.23
2 0.91 0.96 0.48 0.12 454.43 0.45
4 1.81 1.92 0.96 0.24 908.86 0.91
5 2.27 2.40 1.20 0.30 1136.08 1.14
10 4.54 4.81 2.40 0.60 2272.16 2.27
25 11.34 12.02 6.01 1.50 5680.39 5.68
50 22.68 24.04 12.02 3.00 11360.78 11.36
100 45.36 48.08 24.04 6.00 22721.56 22.72


The below tables are based on a publication in the Madison County Beekeepers Association's bimonthly newsletter "The BuzWord" by Mr. Harold V. Green, President of the Madison County Beekeepers Association from 2008/9 thru 2009/10 and is as follows:    

"You can use Fructose 55, which is very convenient, and consists of 77% dissolved solids and 23% water, by weight.   The solids are Fructose 55%, Dextrose 40% and other sugars 5%.     That means it has a combined sugar/water ratio of over 3 to 1.   If you want to use this in a 1 to 1 ratio to stimulate brood rearing, you need to add four parts water to five parts Fructose 55 by volume.  In other words, for every 5 gallons of Fructose55 you use, mix 4 gallons of water to achieve a sugar/water ratio of 1 to 1."    

The following tables are an extrapolation and expansion of Harold's  information.

1:1 Sugar/Water Mixture Ratios For Fructose 55
Fructose 55 Water By Volume
Gallons liters pints quarts gallons milliliters liters
1 3.79 6.40 3.20 0.80 3028.33 3.03
2 7.57 12.80 6.40 1.60 6056.66 6.06
4 15.14 25.60 12.80 3.20 12113.32 12.11
5 18.93 32.00 16.00 4.00 15141.65 15.14
10 37.85 64.00 32.00 8.00 30283.29 30.28
25 94.64 160.00 80.00 20.00 75708.24 75.71
50 189.27 320.00 160.00 40.00 151416.47 151.42
100 378.54 640.00 320.00 80.00 302832.94 302.83
 
2:1 Sugar/Water Mixture Ratios For Fructose 55
Sugar By Weight Water By Volume
Gallons liters pints quarts gallons milliliters liters
1 3.79 3.20 1.60 0.40 1514.16 1.51
2 7.57 6.40 3.20 0.80 3028.33 3.03
4 15.14 12.80 6.40 1.60 6056.66 6.06
5 18.93 16.00 8.00 2.00 7570.82 7.57
10 37.85 32.00 16.00 4.00 15141.65 15.14
25 94.64 80.00 40.00 10.00 37854.12 37.85
50 189.27 160.00 80.00 20.00 75708.24 75.71
100 378.54 320.00 160.00 40.00 151416.47 151.42

Feeding methods

Check out Bushkill Farms for a complete comparison of feeding methods

I prefer to feed my bees though a hole in the inner cover.     I use either a 5 lb. glass honey jars or 1 gallon glass jugs both with a standard "G" lid.     The 5 gallon jars are available from any good beekeeping supply house but the one gallon jugs (used for pickles or vinegar years ago) are a little difficult to find.      I punch about 30 "Frame nail size" holes in a standard "G" lid, and place it on the glass jug and invert it in the hole in the inner cover.        If the weather is warm I use 3 or 4 brick standing in their ends to form piers and place the outer cover over that for 5 lb jars.     Otherwise I use an empty deep super plus a 2 inch shim for the 1 gallon jugs.     The shims that I use were originally used to apply Miteaway II pads.     Punched lids are available from Dadant No. M00887 for about 60.    A Boardman feeder are normally shipped with one of these lids.
  Hive top feeders sometimes referred to as a "Miller Feeder" are OK as long as they are built so that they do not leak.

The baggie feeder is a very  good feeding option for warm  weather.     I find they work best if the plastic bag is placed inside a 2 lb coffee can then fill the baggie to the top of the can.    Then remove the baggie, cut the slits and place it on the hive.   This greatly facilitates filling from a 5 gallon jug on the tailgate of your truck.    

I prefer to place a queen excluder on the hive and place the baggie on it.    Then should the need arise to move the baggie, you  can pick up the QE without spilling the syrup.    

The above "coffee can trick" is the  brain child of a local beekeeper Mr. Bill Mullins.
I prefer not to use either a division board feeder or a Boardman feeder.

Division Board Feeders fit inside the deep (or medium) hive body in the brood chamber where a frame would normally be.    So you remove a frame and put the Division board feeder where the frame was.   I prefer not to use them because it is difficult to refill them.    To determine if they need refilling requires that you break the hive down to some degree.    That to me is a problem in cold weather.    Some bees are likely to be found drowned inside the feeder.    There is a "V" shaped screen wire product and a variety of "cap and ladders" on the market that fits inside or on top of the division board feeder that will reduce the number of drowned bees to some extent.   

Boardman feeders slip inside the entrance opening of the brood chamber.     A quart jar with a perforated "G" lid (like the one I use for Inner Cover feeding)  is inverted over the Boardman Feeder.    The feeder is hollow so that the bees can crawl out, under the perforated "G" lid and suck out the feed.    That works OK in warm weather but not at all in cold weather because the bees can not break the cluster and come out of the hive and get the syrup.     The syrup being outside the hive can encourage robbing and can attract ants.    

If you must use a Boardman feeder, I recommend that it be placed on top of the inner cover near the vent hole and place an empty deep and outer cover over that.   The hive bees can get to it but other bees and ants have a much more difficult time.    You can actually use up to 4 Boardman feeders at the same time if on the inner cover.

New File 5/4/14 brf last updated 3/2/2016 brf