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Bee Feed Recipes for Beekeepers


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Bees depend on nectar and pollen from flowers in order to make honey and feed the colony, and when these resources become scarce, it can result in many challenges for the colony. Bees are essential pollinators, and providing them with supplemental food can be beneficial, especially during times of scarcity. Here are a few bee feed recipes that you can use to help feed your bees:

1. Sugar Water Bee Feed

Photo by Ralph Mayhew on Unsplash


Sugar water bee feed can assist beekeepers to help their colonies during food shortages and to stimulate brood production. It should be used sparingly and in combination with efforts to maintain a diverse and natural diet for bees. Beekeepers should always monitor their colony’s health and food consumption to avoid overfeeding and many other issues that can arise from relying solely on sugar syrup. Sugar water bee feed, often referred to as sugar syrup, is a common method of providing supplemental nutrition to bee colonies. While it can be beneficial in certain situations, it also has its pros and cons:

Pros of Sugar Water Bee Feed

  • Emergency Nutrition: Sugar water can be a lifesaver for bee colonies during periods of food scarcity, such as late winter or early spring when natural nectar sources are limited.
  • Ease of Preparation: It is simple to make by mixing sugar and water, making it a readily available and cost-effective option for beekeepers.
  • Quick Energy Source: Bees can quickly convert the sugar into energy, helping them maintain their body temperature, forage for food, and perform other essential tasks.
  • Customizable Ratio: Beekeepers can adjust the concentration of sugar in the solution to provide different levels of nutrition based on the colony’s needs.
  • Stimulates Brood Rearing: Sugar water can stimulate the queen bee to lay more eggs, leading to increased brood production during times when natural nectar is scarce.

Cons of Sugar Water Bee Feed

  • Lack of Nutritional Diversity: Sugar water lacks the diverse nutrients found in natural nectar and pollen, potentially leading to nutritional deficiencies in the colony over time.
  • Digestive Stress: Over-consumption of sugar syrup can cause digestive issues for bees, as they may struggle to digest sucrose as effectively as natural nectar.
  • Decreased Pollination Activity: Bees may become less motivated to forage for natural nectar and pollen when provided with a sugar syrup, which can impact their pollination services.
  • Potential for Fermentation: If not consumed promptly or if the weather is too humid, sugar water can ferment in the hive, leading to mold and other health issues.
  • Storage Space and Weight: Storing sugar syrup in the hive requires space and adds weight to the hive, which can be a concern, particularly for migratory beekeepers.
  • Attracts Robbers: Excess sugar syrup can attract robber bees from neighboring colonies, leading to potential conflicts and disease transmission.

Sugar Water Bee Feed Recipe

  • Mix 2 parts granulated white sugar with 1 part water.
  • Stir the mixture until the sugar is completely dissolved.
  • Place this solution in a shallow container with some rocks or marbles to prevent bees from drowning.
  • Make sure to change the solution every few days to prevent fermentation.


Never use brown sugar to make a sugar water feed for your bees. It will upset their digestive tracts and can result in death.

Buy Sugar Water Bee Feeders

2. Pollen Patty

Pollen patty feeding can be a valuable tool for beekeepers to boost brood production and provide balanced nutrition to their colonies, especially during times of pollen scarcity. However, it should be used thoughtfully to avoid overstimulating the colony and ensure that it complements natural foraging rather than replacing it entirely. Beekeepers should monitor their colonies and adjust feeding practices accordingly. Pollen patty feeding is a method of providing supplemental nutrition to bee colonies by offering them a mixture of pollen substitute and other ingredients. Like sugar water feeding, it has its own set of pros and cons:

Pros of Pollen Patty Feeding

  • Balanced Nutrition: Pollen patties can provide a more balanced and diverse source of nutrition compared to sugar water. They typically contain proteins, vitamins, and minerals, which are essential for the development of brood and the overall health of the colony.
  • Stimulates Brood Rearing: Pollen patties can stimulate the queen bee to lay more eggs, leading to increased brood production. This can help boost the colony’s population, which is essential for hive growth and productivity.
  • Supplement During Pollen Scarcity: Pollen patties can be particularly useful during times of pollen scarcity, such as early spring or late fall when natural pollen sources are limited.
  • Easy to Administer: They are easy to handle and can be placed directly on top of the brood frames in the hive for bees to access.
  • Longer Shelf Life: Pollen patties typically have a longer shelf life compared to natural pollen, making them a convenient option for beekeepers.

Cons of Pollen Patty Feeding

  • Cost: Commercially prepared pollen patties can be more expensive than making your own sugar water solution, especially if you have a large number of colonies.
  • Quality Variation: The quality of commercial pollen patties can vary, so it’s important to choose reputable sources to ensure the patties provide the necessary nutrition.
  • Stimulated Brood Production: While increased brood production can be a pro, it can also be a con in certain situations. Excessive brood production can strain the colony’s resources and lead to a higher likelihood of overwintering problems.
  • Potential for Overfeeding: Just like with sugar syrup, overfeeding with pollen patties can lead to issues in the hive, including crowding, reduced storage capacity for honey, and potential for pest and disease problems.
  • Attracts Robbers: Excess pollen patty can attract robber bees from neighboring colonies, leading to potential conflicts and disease transmission.
  • Timing is Critical: Pollen patties should be provided at the right time, as excessive feeding during periods of abundant natural pollen can disrupt the colony’s natural foraging behavior.

Pollen Patty Recipe

  • Mix 2 parts powdered sugar, 1 part water, and 1 part pollen substitute.
  • Knead the mixture until it forms a dough-like consistency.
  • Roll the mixture into small patties and place them near the beehive.
  • Replace the patties when they are consumed or become dry.

3. Honey and Pollen Mix

Photo by Danika Perkinson on Unsplash


Honey and pollen mix feeding can offer a natural and nutritionally diverse option for your bee colonies. It closely mirrors the bees’ natural diet and can stimulate brood production and also enhance their immunity. However, it’s essential to manage this feeding method carefully to avoid potential drawbacks, such as the spread of diseases and the expense of obtaining natural pollen. Beekeepers should monitor their hives and feeding practices to ensure that this method complements natural foraging and does not lead to over-stimulation. Feeding honey and pollen mix to bees can be beneficial in certain situations, here are the pros and cons for you to consider:

Pros of Honey and Pollen Mix Feed

  • Natural Nutrition: A mix of honey and natural pollen or pollen substitute provides a more natural and balanced source of nutrition for bees, as it closely mimics their natural diet.
  • Stimulates Brood Rearing: Honey and pollen mix can stimulate the queen bee to lay more eggs, which increases brood production and helps boost the colony’s population.
  • Enhanced Immunity: The diversity of nutrients in natural pollen and honey can contribute to a stronger immune system in bees, making them more resistant to diseases and parasites.
  • Diverse Micro-flora: Honey contains a wide variety of microorganisms that can contribute to the beneficial gut flora of bees, potentially enhancing their health.
  • Attracts Bees: The scent of honey and pollen can attract bees to the feed, making it more appealing and encouraging bees to consume it.

Cons of Honey and Pollen Mix Feed

  • Resource Intensive: Preparing a honey and pollen mix can be resource-intensive and may require the collection of natural pollen or the purchase of pollen substitutes.
  • Potential for Disease Spread: The use of natural pollen and honey obtained from other colonies can introduce pathogens and diseases into the hive if not properly managed.
  • Cost: Collecting or purchasing natural pollen can be expensive, making this feed option less cost-effective than alternatives like sugar syrup.
  • Fermentation Risk: Honey can ferment in the hive if not consumed promptly, leading to issues such as mold growth and potential digestive problems for bees.
  • Feeding Technique: Honey and pollen mix should be provided in a way that minimizes spillage and potential for contamination. Proper feeding techniques are essential.
  • Sticky Residue: Honey and pollen mix can be messy and sticky, potentially causing issues with equipment and attracting other pests if not managed carefully.

Honey and Pollen Mix Recipe

  • Mix 4 parts honey with 1 part pollen substitute or natural pollen.
  • Warm the mixture slightly to make it more liquid.
  • Place this mixture in a shallow dish or on a piece of wax paper near the hive.
  • Bees will be attracted to the scent of honey and the protein from the pollen.

4. Dry Pollen Substitute

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash


Dry pollen substitutes can be a life-saver in certain situations, particularly when natural pollen sources are insufficient. However, they should be used judiciously and not as a complete replacement for natural forage. Beekeepers should monitor the health and behavior of their colonies when introducing dry pollen substitutes to ensure they are benefiting the bees without causing harm. Feeding dry pollen substitute to bees can have both pros and cons, and the outcomes can vary depending on the specific circumstances. Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages:

Pros of Dry Pollen Substitute Feed

  • Supplemental Nutrition: Dry pollen substitute provides a consistent and easily accessible source of nutrition for bees when natural pollen sources are limited or of poor quality. This can be especially helpful during times of food scarcity, such as in early spring or during droughts.
  • Colonial Health: Properly formulated dry pollen substitutes can enhance the overall health and strength of the bee colony by providing essential nutrients, including proteins and amino acids, which are crucial for bee development and immune function.
  • Brood Rearing: It can stimulate and support brood rearing. Adequate nutrition is essential for the growth and development of bee larvae, and a pollen substitute can help maintain strong and healthy colonies.
  • Disease Management: Some dry pollen substitutes are designed with added ingredients that may help reduce the risk of certain bee diseases or parasites, providing a proactive approach to colony health

Cons of Dry Pollen Substitute Feed

  • Incomplete Nutrition: Dry pollen substitutes may not provide the full spectrum of nutrients and enzymes found in natural pollen. Some essential compounds may be missing or not present in the same proportions, potentially leading to suboptimal bee health.
  • Digestibility: The digestibility of dry pollen substitutes can vary, and bees may not be able to extract nutrients as efficiently as they would from natural pollen.
  • Economic Costs: The cost of purchasing and feeding dry pollen substitute can add to beekeeping expenses, especially for large-scale operations. It may be more economical to rely on natural forage when possible.
  • Overreliance: There is a risk of overreliance on artificial substitutes, which might reduce the motivation to preserve and enhance natural forage for bees, ultimately contributing to the decline of natural bee habitats.
  • Bee Acceptance: Not all colonies readily accept dry pollen substitutes. Some bees may be reluctant to consume them, which could lead to wasted resources.

Dry Pollen Substitute Recipe

  • 3 parts soy flour
  • 1 part non-fat dry milk powder
  • 1 part brewer’s yeast


  • 1 teaspoon of Vitamin C powder

5. Fondant Bee Feed


Fondant bee feed is a useful option for providing supplemental nutrition to bee colonies, especially during periods of food scarcity. Its slow release of nutrition and long shelf life can be advantageous, but it should be used thoughtfully in conjunction with natural foraging and other feed sources to avoid potential drawbacks, such as nutritional deficiencies and overfeeding. Beekeepers should monitor their hives and feeding practices to ensure they strike the right balance. Fondant bee feed, also known as candy or fondant icing, is another method used to provide supplemental nutrition to bee colonies. Like other feeding methods, it has its own set of pros and cons:

Pros of Fondant Bee Feed

  • Long Shelf Life: Fondant has a long shelf life, which makes it a convenient option for beekeepers. It can be prepared in advance and stored for extended periods.
  • Slow Release of Nutrition: Fondant releases nutrition slowly, allowing bees to access it over time. This can be beneficial during periods of food scarcity.
  • No Liquid Spillage: Unlike sugar syrup, fondant doesn’t spill or create a mess in the hive, making it easier to manage and reducing the risk of attracting pests like ants.
  • Provides Energy: Fondant is a concentrated source of carbohydrates, providing a quick energy source for bees when they need it.
  • Less Risk of Fermentation: Fondant has a lower risk of fermenting in the hive compared to sugar syrup, reducing the chances of mold and digestive issues for bees.

Cons of Fondant Bee Feed

  • Cost: Preparing or purchasing fondant can be more expensive than some other feeding methods, such as sugar syrup.
  • Limited Nutritional Diversity: Fondant primarily provides carbohydrates and energy but lacks the diverse nutrients found in natural nectar and pollen. Using fondant as the sole food source can lead to nutritional deficiencies over time.
  • Potential for Overfeeding: If not used judiciously, fondant can lead to overfeeding, which can result in overcrowded hives and other issues within the colony.
  • Sticky and Messy: While fondant is less messy than sugar syrup, it can still be sticky, and beekeepers must take care to properly handle and store it.
  • Storage Space and Weight: Like other supplemental feed options, storing fondant in the hive requires space and adds weight, which can be a concern for some beekeepers, particularly migratory ones.
  • Temperature Sensitivity: Fondant can become too hard or too soft in extreme temperature conditions, making it important to consider climate when using this method.

Fondant Bee Feed Recipe

  • Mix 5 parts granulated sugar and 2 parts water in a saucepan.
  • Heat the mixture over low heat, stirring until it dissolves.
  • Continue heating to a temperature of 235-240°F (113-116°C).
  • Remove from heat and allow it to cool.
  • Once it starts to thicken, pour it into molds or on wax paper.
  • Once the fondant hardens, place it near the hive.

6. Fruit Bee Feed

Photo by Nettie Lewis on Unsplash


Feeding fruit to bees is a great option, especially when using overripe or damaged fruit to reduce waste. It provides natural nutrition and encourages foraging activity. However, it should be managed carefully to avoid attracting pests and to ensure that the bees receive appropriate nutritional benefits. Beekeepers should monitor their colonies and feeding methods to make sure they are in balance with the bees’ natural foraging behavior and nutritional needs. Feeding fruit to bees can be a supplementary food source when natural nectar and pollen are scarce. However, as with any bee feeding method there are pros and cons you need to consider:

Pros of Feeding Fruit to Bees

  • Natural Nutrition: Fruits provide a source of natural sugars, vitamins, and minerals that can supplement the bees’ diet. They offer a more diverse range of nutrients compared to some artificial feed options.
  • Stimulates Foraging: Placing fruit near the hive can encourage forager bees to continue their foraging activities even when natural sources are limited.
  • Attracts Pollinators: Fruits can attract other pollinators, such as butterflies and other bee species, which can contribute to the overall health of your garden or local ecosystem.
  • Reduced Need for Artificial Feed: Feeding fruit can be a more sustainable option compared to sugar water or other artificial feeds, as it relies on natural, biodegradable materials.
  • Environmental Benefit: Utilizing overripe or damaged fruit that would otherwise go to waste can be an environmentally responsible way to feed bees.

Cons of Feeding Fruit to Bees

  • Messy and Attracts Pests: Fruits can be messy, attracting ants, wasps, and other pests to the bee colony. This can lead to conflicts and potential disease transmission.
  • Fermentation Risk: Fruits can ferment if not consumed promptly, leading to mold growth and potential digestive problems for bees.
  • Limited Nutritional Value: The nutritional value of fruit can vary, and not all fruits are equally beneficial to bees. Some fruits may provide limited nutritional benefit, especially when compared to natural nectar and pollen.
  • Limited Availability: The availability of fruit is seasonal, so it may not always be an option when bees need supplementary food.
  • Influence on Foraging Behavior: Feeding fruit may reduce the bees’ motivation to forage for natural nectar and pollen when these resources are available, potentially impacting their pollination activities.
  • Quality Control: When feeding fruits, it’s important to ensure that you’re not inadvertently introducing pesticides or contaminants to the hive, which can be detrimental to the bee colony.

What are the best types of fruit to feed bees?

It’s important to note that the quality and ripeness of the fruit matter. Overripe or damaged fruit is more attractive to bees because it has a higher sugar content and is more likely to ferment, creating an even more appealing scent. When feeding fruit to bees, be mindful of the potential for attracting other pests, such as wasps and ants, and try to minimize the mess by providing the fruit in a way that reduces spillage and contamination. Additionally, it’s essential to avoid introducing pesticides or contaminants to the bee colony when using fruits from your garden or local sources. Make sure to remove and replace the fruits regularly to prevent mold. When considering which fruits to feed bees, it’s important to choose options that are not only attractive to bees but also provide them with valuable nutrition. Bees are primarily attracted to fruits with high sugar content, especially those that are overripe. Here are some of the best types of fruit to feed bees:

  • Apples: Apples are a great option, especially when they become overripe and start to ferment. Bees are often attracted to the sweet aroma of ripe apples.
  • Pears: Like apples, overripe pears can be very appealing to bees. They can be cut into pieces or mashed to make them more accessible to the bees.
  • Grapes: Grapes, especially when they start to shrivel and sweeten, can be a good source of nutrition for bees. You can crush them slightly to make it easier for the bees to access the juice.
  • Watermelon: Overripe watermelon is a favorite of many bee species due to its high sugar content. Bees can access the juice from the flesh.
  • Bananas: Overripe bananas can be mashed or cut into chunks and placed near the hive. Bees are attracted to the sweetness and scent of ripe bananas.
  • Berries: Strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries can be provided to bees when they become overripe and start to release their sugars. Crush them to release their juice.
  • Peaches: Overripe peaches can provide bees with both a sweet nectar source and a rich aroma that attracts them.
  • Plums: Overripe plums or prunes can be a suitable choice for feeding bees due to their high sugar content.
  • Mangoes: Overripe mangoes are highly attractive to bees and provide a good source of natural sugars.
  • Figs: Figs, particularly when they are overripe and soft, can be a nutritious option for bees.


Remember that these feed recipes should be used sparingly and only when necessary, such as during times of food scarcity or in the winter when natural nectar sources are limited. It’s important to monitor the bee colony’s food intake and not overfeed, as excessive feeding can lead to other issues within the hive. Additionally, ensure that all feed is placed in a way that prevents bees from drowning, and maintain good hygiene to prevent the growth of mold or bacteria in the feed.

What happens to a bee colony when food sources are scarce?

When food sources are scarce for a bee colony, several negative consequences can occur. Bees rely on nectar and pollen from flowers for their nutrition, and when these sources become limited, it can lead to various problems within the colony:

  1. Reduced Population: The bee colony may experience a decline in the number of worker bees. This is because without adequate food, the queen may reduce her egg-laying rate, leading to fewer new bees being produced. This can result in a smaller workforce to perform essential tasks, including foraging and caring for the brood.
  2. Weakened Immune System: Bees rely on a diverse diet from different types of flowers to obtain the necessary nutrients. When food sources are limited, they may not get a well-rounded diet, which can weaken their immune systems and make them more susceptible to diseases and parasites.
  3. Decreased Egg Production: The queen bee may reduce her egg-laying rate in response to a lack of food. This can lead to a reduction in the colony’s brood, which, in turn, affects the future population of the hive.
  4. Increased Stress: Bees under nutritional stress are more vulnerable to environmental stressors, such as extreme weather conditions. This can result in increased stress on the colony, which may further impact its health and vitality.
  5. Forager Stress and Mortality: Worker bees that forage for food may have to travel longer distances to find food when natural sources are scarce. This increases their energy expenditure and stress levels. Some foragers may not return to the hive, leading to increased mortality rates among the foraging population.
  6. Aggressive Behavior: As resources become scarcer, competition among colonies for the available food sources can increase. This can lead to more aggressive behavior as bees from different colonies vie for the same resources.
  7. Reduced Honey Production: A lack of nectar sources results in less honey production. Bees require honey stores to survive during the winter when foraging is limited, and insufficient honey stores can lead to starvation during the cold months.
  8. Hive Absconding: Bee colonies typically do not abscond solely due to a shortage of food sources. Bees have evolved various strategies to deal with food scarcity. Absconding, which is the abandonment of the entire colony, is more often associated with factors like disease, pests, or adverse environmental conditions. However, if food scarcity is prolonged and severe, it could indirectly contribute to colony stress and make it more susceptible to other issues that might lead to absconding.

To help mitigate these issues during times of food scarcity, beekeepers may provide supplemental feeding, as mentioned in the previous response, to ensure the colony has access to the nutrition it needs. However, it’s important to monitor the colony’s food intake and avoid overfeeding, as excessive feeding can also lead to problems within the hive, such as honey fermentation or the spread of diseases. Beekeepers should aim to strike a balance between supplementing the colony’s food supply and allowing them to rely on natural forage whenever possible.

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