There are times when beekeepers need to supplement honey bee colonies with extra food. Colonies are fed in the fall for over-winter hive set-up, and they are fed as needed in the winter for emergency survival. Throughout the year, weak or expanding colonies can be supplemented. We normally feed captured swarms, new packages of bees, and nucleus colonies to help them produce beeswax and draw out the cells on frames of foundation. When we raise queen bees, good nutrition is essential for producing long-lived and productive queen bees. To ensure queens receive everything they need, we provide supplemental food in the queen mating nucleus hives. When beekeepers expand their operations, they often make colony divisions which need supplemental feeding to stimulate the growth of the new colonies, building populations large enough to produce a surplus of honey or provide pollination service. Feeding bees assists the colony draw out comb on new foundation or on frames that have had old comb removed as a part of an integrated pest management program. Frames damaged by small hive beetle or wax moth larvae can be restored to use by feeding the bees.
Honey bees can be fed protein in the form of pollen or pollen substitute. Carbohydrates can be fed as sugar, high fructose corn sweetener, or honey. If frames or honey are available, they make for the most useful food for an expanding colony. A frame of honey can be placed in the brood nest to allow the workers to feed the larvae. If capped honey is being fed, there are times that the bees don’t open the cells and use the honey. The photo shows bees consuming a frame of honey that I have placed in a queen mating nucleus hive. I scratched diagonal lines across the cappings to exposes the honey. If the colony needs honey now, workers feed it. They may also move the honey into other cells or cover it with beeswax. Bees never leave honey unattended.--Richard