As my mentor list grows I am always asked about feeding the bees, when should we feed, for how long, etc. I have always planned on writing something about feeding or not feeding but someone beat me to it online so I won’t reinvent the wheel and borrow what someone on Beemaster said… From Brian D. Bray:
I don’t mean to be rude but joebrown seems to be in need of education like many other newbees. Feeding is so over done that it has become one of the biggest errors beekeepers make. Anyone who recommends feeding without specifics is creating a disaster in their/your hive. They also don’t understand beehavior or the way bees build a hive from nothing to a fully developed unit.
It is okay to feed bees when and only when:
1. They are a package, split, or swarm and must draw out enough combs for the existing bees to occupy.
2. To stimulate brood production early in the year.
3. To top off winter stores if the honey crop has been over harvested.
It is not okay to feed bees when:
1. They have drawn enough comb for the bees to occupy but haven’t reared enough brood to increase the hive population sufficiently to crowd said population unto new frames.
2. They were hived on drawn combs and have been in the hive more than 14 days.
3. The beekeeper wishes the bees to manufacture more combs without the necessary manipulation of frames to force the manufacture of new combs.
4. Feeding is done to substitute for what the beekeeper might think is a inadequate honey flow or source.
5. Feeding just because someone recommended it.
In ALL of the cases of when not to feed what happens is that the bees back fill the brood area with nectar, reducing the ability of the queen to rear sufficient population to grow the hive. This is called being Honey Bound.
Bees will only draw combs on frames on which they occupy, if there are not enough bees to occupy another frame they will not draw comb until such time as the population increases sufficiently to occupy additional frames, then they will draw combs on those newly occupied frames only. This can be corrected by moving the outside frames (storage frames) outward one space and replacing them with undrawn combs. The reason this works is because bees will leave storage combs but will not abandon brood combs, so by moving the storage combs outward and replacing them with undrawn frames the bees will drawn comb on those frames because they will move off of the storage combs unto the undrawn combs to keep the cluster intact. The new combs will use some of the stores in the making of combs and creates additional space for the queen to lay eggs while at the same time freeing up previously nectar filled frames for brood production.
Honey Bound bees will swarm because they are crowded before they will move over onto undrawn combs that the population isn’t large enough to occupy.
Honey Bound bees don’t have sufficient population to prevent robbing. Continued feeding exacerbates the problem.