Beekeeping/Recipes for the Bees

Occasionally it becomes necessary to supplement a colony’s diet. This may be due to lack of food stores, to encourage a particular behavior, or to medicate the entire hive. The following are recipes that are considered to be bee safe. Each of these recipes may be of benefit when supplied at the correct time.

Warning: Unless otherwise noted the following recipes should not be used in conjunction with a hive containing honey for non-bee consumption!

Honey edit

Despite the fact that on first observation it would seem obviously correct, honey is not the best feed for bees. Honey is in essence bee food that has been processed so that it won't spoil. When given the chance, bees prefer to eat nectar. When honey is used as a feed, or within one of the following recipes, be sure to know the source. If at all possible only re-feed honey to the same hive it was harvested from. Never use store-bought honey. Store-bought honey may contain AFB (American Foul Brood) or other such spores, which are perfectly safe for human consumption but can be deadly to bees.

Sugar Syrup edit

One of the reasons to keep bees is because you can harvest the honey that they create. After a honey harvest, it may be necessary to supply bees with an artificial honey replacement or with a source of artificial nectar, in order to prevent starvation. At other times when real nectar may be scarce or unavailable, artificial nectar can be used to encourage the drawing of comb or to aid in the rearing of brood.

This does not mean that it is appropriate to take all of the bees’ honey. After all, the bees did work rather hard for it. Bees should always have excess honey in storage.

When using sugar, only use white cane sugar. Don't use raw sugar, brown sugar or molasses as they contain impurities that may harm the bees or may be difficult for the bees to digest. If using powdered sugar instead of standard crystallized cane sugar, be sure to check the ingredients list as some powdered sugar contains anti-caking agents that might be harmful to bees. Although the following recipes call for ingredients by weight, volume is a close enough approximation as the bees don't particularly care about the specifics of sugar concentration.

1:1 Syrup edit

1:1, or One-to-One syrup can be used for supplemental spring feeding and encourage the drawing of comb.

  • 1 part (by weight) sugar
  • 1 part (by weight) water

1:1 syrup can be made by dissolving one pound of sugar into one pint of water. Simply stir sugar into room temperature water until all the sugar has dissolved to produce the desired quantity. The dissolving process will be sped up with hotter water, just be sure not to boil the sugar solution.

Some beekeepers suggest that you bring the water to a rolling boil in a covered pot to kill fungus and bacteria then remove from heat and stir in the raw sugar using a spoon that has also been sterilized in boiling water. Put the cover back on the pot and let cool to room temperature before feeding to the bees. The sterile sugar solution will stay clean and clear for up to two weeks using this method.

One volume of water plus one volume of sugar when prepared equals roughly 1.5 volumes of syrup. Weight of water = 8.34 lbs(#) per gallon 1/2 gal = 4.14# 1qt = 2.09# 1pt = 1.04# & 1 cup = .52# of water.

One 2-liter bottle of water plus one cup of water plus 5 pounds of sugar yields just under two 2-liter bottles of "close enough" 1:1 Syrup

2:1 Syrup edit

2:1, or Two-to-One syrup can be used for fall feeding after the last honey harvest, or if the bees do not have a sufficiently large store of honey.

  • 2 parts (by weight) sugar
  • 1 part (by weight) water

The two parts sugar will not dissolve in room temperature water. Because of this mixing difficulty it is advisable to mix the sugar into near-boiling water. The best way to do this is to bring the water to a rolling boil in a covered pot and then remove from heat and stir in the raw sugar using a spoon that has also been sterilized in the boiling water. Do not return the pot to heat and allow the sugar mixture to boil, as this will give the chance for some of the sugars to caramelize, creating a partially indigestible and possibly even toxic solution as far as the bees are concerned. Be sure to let the solution thoroughly cool before feeding it to the bees. It was once common practice to add cream of tartar (tartaric acid) to 2:1 syrup to prevent re-crystallization of the sugars, however this is not recommended, as it is believed to shorten the life spans of the bees that consume it. Alternatively, one could add a very small amount of vitamin C as the acid (ascorbic acid) to adjust pH to 4.5 to impede crystallisation, as an antioxidant and general tonic.

For those without a scale, an easy recipe is 5 parts granulated sugar and 2 parts water by VOLUME. Sugar is somewhere between 170 and 200 grams/cup (depends on the reference)[1], [2], [3] and water is 240 grams/cup[4], [5]. So, for example, 5 cups of granulated sugar is 850-1000 grams, and 2 cups of water is 480 grams , which is close to 2:1. Picking 2:1 is a totally arbitrary ratio and is only a convenient, simple ratio for the bee keeper to think about for feeding bees late in the season.

2:1 syrup results in a final volume of syrup approximately double that of the liquid - e.g. 2kg of sugar in 1 litre of water will create 2 litres of syrup. This is due to the dissolved volume of sugar being less than in its crystalline form.

1:2 Syrup edit

1:2, or One-to-Two syrup can be used to stimulate brood rearing by simulating a nectar flow.

  • 1 part (by weight) sugar
  • 2 parts (by weight) water

Simply mix the sugar with room temperature water and feed the bees.

High Fructose Corn Syrup edit

( —A team of entomologists from the University of Illinois has found a possible link between the practice of feeding commercial honeybees high-fructose corn syrup and the collapse of honeybee colonies around the world. The team outlines their research and findings in a paper they've had published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Read more at:

It is not uncommon for a beekeeper with many hives and little time to use high fructose corn syrup in place of 2:1 syrup, however this method is not cost effective or practical for small-scale beekeepers. When purchasing high fructose corn syrup not specifically packaged as bee feed, be sure to check the list of ingredients. Many suppliers often add extra ingredients that may not be desired when feeding bees.

A few websites referring to the danger of feeding honeybees high fructose corn syrup, since overheating it during manufacture turns some of it into a compound toxic to honeybees:

Does this mean that high fructose should be sold only if it is already labelled with how much of that compound it contains?

Bee Candy edit

Occasionally it is not advised to feed bees syrup. For example, over winter any liquid syrup that contains higher levels of water than stored honey runs the risk of fermenting, spoiling the stores, and risking dysentery and associated diseases for the bees. Sometimes when emergency feeding it is best to use a dry or semi-moist food, other times bee candy is used as it is less messy than feeding syrup. Even though bee candy may be convenient to use as feed, it is not recommended as a complete substitution to syrup.

Un-prepared Sugar edit

The simplest bee candy is crystallized cane sugar. Pure sugar, while easy to handle, is generally only fed during dire emergencies, and bees sometimes will carry it out of the hive rather than consume it. A simple method of making Simple Sugar more useful is to make a candy shim with it. First build a shim out of 3"x 1" lumber and Staple 1/2" wire fabric on one side, this will be the bottom of the shim. Next, in a large bowl, add 5 pounds of white cane sugar, to that add 1/4th cup of Honey-B-Healthy plus about 2 to 3 drops of food grade red or white thyme essential oil, add to dry sugar and mix just until the sugar is all moist. Lay 1 layer of paper inside the shim on top of the wire fabric and then set a small water glass in the middle of the shim and add the damp sugar. press the sugar down to form a tight cake and remove the glass. Let the sugar dry. It will be like a giant sugar cube when it's dry. set it on top of the brood under the inner cover and finally punch a few holes in the paper, not too many but enough so the bees can get to the sugar. This shim has several advantages over just adding dry sugar on a piece of paper on top of the brood. One major advantage is the dried block absorbs the moisture and softens the block at night, then as soon as the sun comes up and starts to warm the inside of the hive the sugar block starts to dry. Another advantage is the essential oils act like a tonic to help make your bee's healthier to live through the winter. This system has become my go to for weak or late colonies.

Fondant Bee Candy edit

Fondant bee candy can be fed directly to the bees once cooled. It is also common to use this recipe in small quantities to plug the hole on a Queen Cage.

Boil water and slowly add the syrup and sugar until dissolved. Continue heating until the mixture reaches 238°F (114°C). Allow the solution to cool (without mixing)until it is slightly warm to the touch, and begin to mix and aerate the solution, the color should lighten. Pour into shallow dishes or mold and save for later use.

Quick Candy edit

In a pinch quick candy can be used in place of Fondant Bee Candy, it is easier to prepare, but may not be as easily workable.

Simply knead the two ingredients together like bread dough until completely integrated.

NOTE* Confectioner’s sugar may contain corn starch - use a blender to make powdered sugar from granulated crystals for use in the bee hive.

Pollen Substitute edit

Occasionally there is a shortage of pollen, or perhaps you simply desire to promote the raising of brood. Pollen substitutes can be used in such situations; however, despite its name, pollen substitutes are no real substitute for genuine fresh pollen.

Dry Pollen Substitute edit

Dry pollen substitute can be placed directly into the hive or used in bird feeders to attract local bees.

  • 3 parts (by weight) Soy Flour (expeller-processed soybean flour)
  • 1 part (by weight) Brewers Yeast
  • 1 part (by weight) Nonfat Dry Milk (Not instant milk)

Simply integrate the powders together and use. Occasionally bees may refuse to eat pollen substitute, most often when fresh pollen is available. It is, however, possible to trick bees to take the substitute when necessary by integrating a small amount of Vitamin C into the mixture. Often 1 teaspoon per 5 cups can be added. If a powdered form is not available, it is possible to crush a Vitamin C tablet for integration.

Pollen Patty edit

To make a pollen patty, bind the Dry Pollen Substitute with enough 2:1 Syrup to make a putty or dough like consistency.

Grease Patties edit

Grease Patties containing both wintergreen oil or tea tree oil and mineral salt appear to have an effect on varroa mites and tracheal mites. These effects can be seen when brood is present, and has a devastating effect on mites when brood is not present. However, grease patties with essential oils should not be used during time of honey collection for human consumption. During this time, grease patties without essential oils can be used to a lesser effect. For any noticeable effect, a grease patty of some form should be used at all times. Replace any consumed patties.

Simple Grease Patty edit

  • 1 part (by volume) solid vegetable shorting (such as Crisco)
  • 2 parts (by volume) white sugar

Mix sugar and shortening until well combined. Split into approximately quarter cup (~6 centiliters) portions and store excess in the freezer sandwiched between sheets of wax paper.

Grease Patty With Mineral Salt edit

Prepare the same as you would a simple grease patty recipe.

Grease Patty With Mineral Salt and Essential Oils edit

Prepare the same as you would a simple grease patty recipe. Remember to wear gloves when handling wintergreen oil.

Extender Patty edit

If a grease patty contains terramycin, it is called an extender patty, and was once considered one of the best ways to control AFB. As resistance has been noted with this form of application it is no longer recommended. For your information, the recipe is here.

lb powdered sugar
lb solid vegetable shortening  (such as Crisco)
2 tablespoons Terramycin TM-25

This patty was used to eliminate three weekly dustings of powdered Terramycin. The danger is that keeping a low level of TM in the hive leads to resistance.

Other edit

The following recipes simply do not fit in to any of the previous categories, this however does not mean that they are any less useful.

General Purpose Essential Oil Mixture edit

A commercial, general purpose essential oil product for bees that is similar to the following recipe claims many benefits, but many of those claims have yet to be proven. The following recipe may work about as well as that product. It has been known to occasionally cause Robbing behavior due to its great appeal to bees.

  • 5 cups water
  • 2 1/2 pounds of sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon lecithin granules (used as an emulsifier)
  • 15 drops spearmint oil
  • 15 drops lemongrass oil

Bring the water to a boil and integrate the sugar until dissolved. Once the sugar is dissolved remove the mixture from the heat and quickly add the lecithin and the essential oils. Stir until everything is evenly distributed. This solution should have a strong scent and not be left open around bees. Cool before using.

Smokeless Smoke edit

A solution of general purpose essential oil mixture and 1:1 syrup can be mixed and used in a standard spray or misting bottle. This solution reportedly has varied effects depending on the specific history of the hive. Because of differences between each hive it, is best to try a ten to one [1:10?] mixture of essential oil mixture to syrup and vary the ratio as necessary. Have your smoker readily available during your first few trials in case the bees don't react to the solution.

Essential Oil Scent Masking Syrup edit

Nearly any essential oil can be mixed with a 1:1 syrup solution to mask an undesired scent in the hive. Among other uses, a masking syrup can be used during queen introduction or when joining two hives. Simply add the desired amount of oils to the syrup. The stronger the scent, the better it will serve to mask other scents, though be frugal as essential oils have a strong smell.

One of the more common oils to use is peppermint oil, but be sure not to use banana oil.

Scent Masking Syrup edit

An inexpensive scent masking syrup can be used similarly as the recipe for essential oil scent masking syrup. Simply prepare a 1:1 syrup and one or two crushed peppermint candies for every two cups of prepared solution. Load the solution into a spray bottle and use as needed.

References edit