Dry Sugar Feeding

It’s April 2019. I’ve deleted the original post from 2012 and I’m rewriting it right now on the spot to keep things short and simple. So basically my bees seemed to be running low on honey. So I gave them some sugar by laying newspaper over the top bars and pouring dry sugar over the newspaper. This is often referred to as the “Mountain Camp method,” but really it’s just a variant of sugar feeding that’s been around for a long time. There are many ways to feed bees sugar in the winter. This is just one of them. Here’s the video:

The advantage of dry sugar feeding is that it’s easy. Lay down the newspaper and pour in the sugar and you’re done. The tricky part is adding more sugar later on in the winter (if necessary). The newspaper is often chewed to pieces and the sugar is off in small piles around the top bars — and then of course the bees are often crawling all over the sugar or clinging to the underside of the inner cover or the moisture quilt. And that’s when things can get complicated.

And that’s why I eventually switched to sugar bricks instead. It’s a mix of 12 parts sugar and 1 part water (always highly processed white granulated sugar for low ash content). It’s much easier to slip a brick under the inner cover than it is the expose the hive to cold weather while pouring in dry sugar. And it’s much easier to add additional bricks when necessary.

The only minor complication is that both dry sugar feeding and sugar bricks require a rim to create space for the sugar, but that’s a pretty minor complication.

If I had to feed bees dry sugar again, I would probably cover over the back two-thirds of the top bars, not the entire area as shown in the above photo. Having a third of the top bars clear of sugar allows me to look down through the frames and see what the bees are doing, which is always a good thing.

13 thoughts on “Dry Sugar Feeding

  1. Hey Phil,

    I have some colonies that are high up in the top too. Even though they had good stores going into winter and candy boards added to the top.

    I think they are on top now because I added honeybee healthy to the candy boards.

    If we get a break in March I will take a look again to see if I need any feed to get them through winter.

    I’m curious to see how your small cluster is going to fair. Major differnece in size between colonies.


    • That small cluster is the foundationless hive that has a nice collection of dead drones on the bottom board. But at least they have a lot of honey on top. I noticed all the hives have plenty of honey in the top brood box. The added sugar is just a precaution.

      Carniolans do well through the winter in a small cluster, so that foundationless hive might be fine. If it survives the winter, I’m curious to see how quick is comes back to life in the spring. That queen will be two years old in the spring, which means she’s the first one in line to be replaced when I requeen.

  2. I’ll take her, don’t squish her. I’ll put her in a nuc and graft some eggs. I’m looking for bees with smaller clusters for my stock. Those colonies will have a better chance of making it through winter and build really fast in the spring.

    • I wasn’t planning on squishing her. I was going to do the nuc thing too. But you can have her if you want. I know the Italians produce more honey, but I’d rather have a breed like Carniolans that are better adapted to cold climates like NL.

      I wish I could secure the land behind my house so I could set up more hives and experiment in my backyard. It’s only the lack of secure land that’s holding me back. It’s annoying.

  3. First off I will have some capped queen cells for you this year.

    Second, an electric fence goes a long way. Keep the charger in the shed. I have some tech cable you could bury where you want to set up camp and set the Fencing up around the new colonies with cleareance an signs warning the bees are there and a few good tie straps just in case some one gets brave and jumps the fence. Just make a loop 6′ high so no one can jump or climb over it.

    If you tie the electric fencing in with some buried tech cable they are not going to try to dig it up. I highly doubt they will carry insulated cable cutters to get through the fence.

    Then if you have some tie straps as a backup just to make sure if they tip a colonly over they will survive.

    just thoughts

    • All that sounds like something I probably can’t afford. I’m not getting rich working freelance in film and tv. But it’s something I’ll definitely consider as soon as I can find a more normal job (I’m looking).

  4. I’d say for about $150 you can get a plug in type electric fence to address your problems and the mats to go along with it.

    Not much is required. Like I said I think I have some tech cable to suite you. Assuming you have some sort of power to your shed.

    • Thanks for the info. I’ll consider it, but I’ll probably just expand my hives to another property for now and see how that works. At least until we move out of the city.

  5. Merhaba Phillip bey.Türkiyeden selamlar.Bende sizin gibi bir arı sevdalısıyım.
    Blogunuz oldukça ilgimi çekti.Paylaştığınız bilgiler harika.Benim sormak istediğim ;arılara kuru şeker ile besleme yaptığımızda, arılar kışın uçma isteği duymuyormu.Kışın seker ile beslemeyi bütün kovanlara mı uyguluyorsunuz?
    Şimdiden teşekkür ederim.Bu arada unutmadan yeni yılınız kutlu olsun.

  6. Can anyone translate Turkish? This is the best I can get out of Google:

    Greetings from Turkey. I like you sevdalısıyım a bee.
    I’m intrigued by your blog is pretty. The information you share is great. I want to ask: When we feed bees with sugar, dry, winter flying bees duymuyormu request. Do you enforce all the hives in the winter feeding with sugar?
    Thank you in advance. By the way Happy New Year.

    I’ll try to respond (in Turkish) as soon as I have a more accurate translation.

    • I can’t find a more accurate translation, so here’s my best response:

      We feed all our hives sugar at some point in the winter. This is only our second winter of beekeeping, but so far, yes, we feed them sugar.

      I can’t accurately translate the rest of the comment, so that’s all I can tell you. If you have any further questions about dry sugar feeding, here’s a Turkish translation of a page that may help you. Kuru ÅŸeker beslenme ile ilgili herhangi bir sorunuz varsa, burada, size yardımcı olabilecek bir sayfa bir Türkçe çevirisi:


  7. I just fed some raw sugar to my hidden hive in the city. No wind. -1°C. That’s the warmest day we’ve had for weeks, so I took it. I love this method of feeding. I don’t see how it could be quicker and easier. I’d say it took me less than a minute, and now the bees should have enough sugar to make it into the spring.

    It looked as if the bees were getting hungry. They were covering most of the top bars. I have a feeling I may not have given them enough honey before winter (I didn’t feed them sugar syrup).

    I plan to check on my six hives out in the country next weekend. I wouldn’t be surprised to find one or two starved colonies. I also wouldn’t be surprised to find some of them vandalized. I haven’t seen them since before Xmas and I don’t think anyone on the farm is keeping an on them.

  8. Something I love about this method of feeding: I loaded up my hives with a boatload of sugar in November (before winter weather made it too difficult). It’s April 16th now, the last of the snow is melting, and most of my colonies are still chowing down on the sugar I gave them November. That’s what I call low-maintenance. It sure beats messing around with fondant and candy cakes.

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