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Author Topic: Why feed bees?  (Read 3130 times)

Offline chefgian

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Why feed bees?
« on: July 01, 2012, 09:12:46 PM »
Can you have bees without feeding them?  I feel like they survived in the wild without our intervention so why can't we allow them to forage for their own food?  I understand why you might want to supplement in the colder months. 

Offline JP

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Re: Why feed bees?
« Reply #1 on: July 01, 2012, 09:23:30 PM »
When you set up a hive in a new location the bees are at the mercy of this new environment. If there is any kind of nectar flow and not too much competition from other colonies in this area for those precious resources they should be able to make a go at it but... There are always possible scenarios we have no knowledge of and feeding them may be what they need to kick start the colony thus allowing them to establish a healthy and strong foundation. I monitor every new colony or swarm I set up. If I am fairly certain there is no significant flow on I routinely offer feed at least for a short while until they have established themselves. Then, I take the training wheels off.

Think of bee keeping as a type of farming as they are dependent on the environment just like any other crop.


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Offline Jim 134

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Re: Why feed bees?
« Reply #2 on: July 02, 2012, 09:22:15 AM »
Can you have bees without feeding them?  I feel like they survived in the wild without our intervention so why can't we allow them to forage for their own food?  I understand why you might want to supplement in the colder months. 


 If you wait for the cold months to come  you are to late


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Offline Michael Bush

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Re: Why feed bees?
« Reply #3 on: July 02, 2012, 09:58:51 AM »
First, all bees are gamblers.  They have to be.  They have to raise brood at a time when there is no flow in order to have bees to gather the flow.  Sometimes that flow fails.  Then if you don't feed they starve.  It's not their fault it fails.

Second, we beekeepers steal honey.  Bees can't plan on that.  Sometimes we steal based on reasonable expectations (like a fall flow) and those expectations do not materialize.  It's not the fault of the bees but if they don't have enough for winter and you don't feed them, they will starve.

Certainly you can manage bees so that feeding is the exception and not the rule, but if you don't feed them you will be buying more bees eventually...

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Offline chefgian

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Re: Why feed bees?
« Reply #4 on: July 02, 2012, 12:59:10 PM »
Thank you all for your input.  I did put some organic sugar water in with them, but they don't seem to be using much of it.  I will probably let that run out and see how things go.

Online SerenityApiaries

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Re: Why feed bees?
« Reply #5 on: July 03, 2012, 04:06:50 AM »
JP and Michael both are wise in the way of bees as is Jim. I myself can agree that even though feeding may not be a desirable option, it is sometimes necessary. This comes from personal experience. I bought 10 colonies. I figured a similar thought, that they could build on their own accord and do fine. Problem was, I was starting them out foundationless which I find to be more natural. At that time of receiving the bees the nectar flow was minimal and after a few weeks of them building their comb I began to notice dead bees. I looked in the colonies and saw they were stuffing themselves in their comb. The comb was dry and it was a matter of time before they would starve. The nectar flow was not there. The next flow wouldn't start for a week or 2. I quickly made some "ghetto" feeders, filled them with sugar water and the colonies quickly made full recovery and I only lost 1 colony. The thing to remember is that it takes about 10 pounds of nectar to make one pound of wax which is a lot of work for the bees to accomplish. I now have 16 thriving colonies and check their stores regularly to see if feeding them may become needed. Right now blackberry and white clover nectar is flowing so no need to feed.

As a "cheap" note, the "ghetto" feeders were clean 20oz soda bottles with pin holes in the bottom, filled with sugar water and suspended near their entrance to reduce distant flights and help increase in production during the time of building their comb. Worked great and was a quick fix. 
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