A Question & Answer About Fall Feeding

I got a question yesterday from someone who entered an invalid email address into my Contact form. I responded but the message bounced back to me. So in case you’re reading this, Bob, this one’s for you.

Question:

I added sugar syrup feeders to my hives today. Have I waited too long? Would it be better to put sugar over the top bars instead? I plan to start winterizing my hives this week. Thank you. Your site has been a great help to me as new beekeeper.

— Bob

Answer:

Hi Bob,

I’m glad my site has been helpful. I care the most about new beekeepers. I know how important it is to get off to a good start.

Where do you keep your bees? Are you on the island of Newfoundland or somewhere else?

If you’re in Newfoundland where the temperatures are starting to drop fast, the bees might take the syrup down, but they probably won’t be able to cap it before winter sets in, which could leave them with frames of open syrup that will likely go moldy and increase the moisture content of the hive. That won’t necessarily kill them, and most likely they’ll eventually consume the moldy syrup if they’re hungry enough, but, in my experience, mold and moisture isn’t ideal.

Uncapped sugar syrup → moisture → damp → moldy comb. (Nov. 7, 2015.)

Uncapped sugar syrup → moisture → damp → moldy comb.

It’s difficult for me to say more than that without seeing your hives first hand. If you keep your bees in Langstroth hives with deep supers, the bees usually need at least one full deep (10 frames) of honey or capped syrup to get through a typical Newfoundland the winter. 12 frames or more are even better.

So if you think you’ve got that, then you’re probably okay and you don’t need to worry about giving the bees sugar until December or so (but I’d still keep an eye on them).

I hope that helps.

— Phillip
October 27th, 2020

I didn’t go into great detail in my response to Bob because, if you know me, I tend to ramble and I’m well aware how social media has obliterated the attention span of most people glued to their cell phones. So I keep my emails short. It’s also difficult to say if someone should do this or that when I really have no idea what their situation is. Bob might not even be in Newfoundland. He might have a top bar hive. He might only have a single deep, or maybe a hive with two deeps but barely any drawn comb on the frames (in which case the prognosis is negative).

Online answering of beekeeping questions is really tricky, but hopefully I gave Bob some good information.

By the way, Bob isn’t the person’s real name and I’ve slightly tweaked the wording of their question to preserve their privacy.

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