When Bees Toss Out Sugar Feed

A problem with the Mountain Camp method of dry sugar feeding is that sometimes the bees toss out the granules of sugar like they’re garbage. Maybe the bees are less likely to do that if they’re starving. All I can say for certain is that I use the Mountain Camp method — pouring dry sugar on newspaper over the top bars and sometimes spraying it with a bit of water — only when I can’t do anything else. Only when I don’t have sugar bricks available.

Although I’ve never used it, my semi-educated guess is that moist fondant is the best feed for honey bees during the winter because:

1) Fondant doesn’t trigger the hygienic behaviour in the bees because it’s too damn big to grab hold of and toss out like debris. Anything that’s small, no bigger than a bee, and isn’t recognized as something useful (i.e., food, wax or propolis) is usually tossed out of the hive by housekeeping bees. Small granules of dry sugar seem to fall into that category. Even when the sugar could save their lives, the housekeeping bees just can’t seem resist the urge to clean up. I should add that I’ve seen the bees chew up and toss out protein patties, which are similar in consistency to fondant, but it still seems less likely the bees would toss out fondant.

2) Fondant is wet, which makes it easier for the bees to digest. Even though water is crucial for digestion, I’ve never ever noticed a lack of moisture in my hives — hives that are too dry in the winter. But hey, I guess it can happen. Furthermore, any food, such as fondant, that requires the heating of sugar can produce hydroxymethylfurfural, what I call hydroblahblahblahblahblah, which can be bad for honey bees. I believe it increases mortality rates under laboratory conditions. But I doubt fondant would be a commonly accepted practice if it was that bad for the bees.

I would probably use fondant if I could afford it, but for now I’ll either: 1) Stick with sugar bricks or 2) Harvest honey in the spring instead of the fall so I don’t have to feed my bees in the fall or over the winter. I’ll probably try both.

This video was taken from my Reducing a Spring Colony post.