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How long should I feed a new package of bees?

The answer to this question depends on whether you are starting the colony on new equipment or previously drawn comb.

If you are starting a package on bare equipment with no comb, almost no amount of sugar syrup is too much the first year. The first thing the bees have to do is build comb. Comb provides a place to live, a place for food storage, a place for egg laying, and a place for brood rearing. Without comb the colony cannot survive, and without enough food energy to build comb, colony build-up will be slow. A steady supply of sugar syrup makes the whole process quicker and easier.

But due to financial and time constraints, most beekeepers draw the line at some point and stop feeding syrup. So when is that? Unfortunately, every beekeeper will give you a different answer.

  • Some feed syrup until there are five or six fully-drawn frames and then let the bees take over.
  • Some keep feeding until they have two brood boxes full of drawn comb.
  • Some feed the entire first season.
  • Some feed until they bees have used five gallons of syrup per package.
  • Some feed syrup until the bees lose interest in it. This is variable because some bees will continue taking the syrup right through a nectar flow and some will not.

When to stop feeding is really a judgment call and, unfortunately, those starting a new package on new equipment are often new beekeepers who have little experience on which to base their decision. I suspect that most stop feeding too soon—new colonies need all the help they can get.

Packages started on pre-drawn comb have it a lot easier and can be weaned much sooner. Still, unless those frames have stored honey and pollen, the bees will need help in the beginning. Feeding a pollen substitute as well as sugar syrup is a good idea for new colonies.

Overwintered colonies do not need a lot of spring syrup, although many beekeepers feed 1:1 syrup in the spring as a “stimulant” to get the brood-rearing process started. If a colony is well-fed coming out of winter, they can do fine without the stimulant feeding.

The best advice I can give is this: buy sugar wherever and whenever it is on sale. Some places sell it in 50-pound bags which are often cheaper but harder to handle. Most stores have sales from time to time. If you stay in beekeeping you will never run out of a need for sugar.

The other advice is this: Never, never feed syrup with a honey super in place. The bees will store the syrup right in with the nectar and you will not get pure honey. Fortunately, a new package of bees will not produce enough honey to harvest the first year—so you can feed them as much as you like in year one.




Huh. The sorts of things you do when you don’t know better, I guess. 🙂

I have four hives that were stocked with wild-caught swarms. I’ve never fed any of them beyond a little dish of honey water with lemon balm, just to encourage them to stick around. And not only do I not start them with honey/pollen/brood combs, they start completely foundationless, in empty boxes, and have to build their own. With one exception, a hive which has struggled for a variety of reasons from the time they were caught and installed, I have never fed any of them to date, and two of the hives had four boxes full of built comb, honey, and brood from the time I installed in April or May until nectar stopped in September or early October. I harvested one mostly-full box last fall, and should have taken the top box off the other tall hive at the same time. I will be doing that as soon as the weather is stable enough to decapitate the hive briefly. (It’s a Warre, and there are no bees in the top box right now, they’re all down lower, so I literally just have to slice off the top box and take it away and replace the quilt and roof.)

I wonder if it’s partly because swarms aren’t starved in transit, storage, and shipping like packages? They’re only a day or two out of a hive, and probably still have mostly full tummies. Or that I live in an area that has tons of food for bees during the growing season. I mean TONS of forage, and a wide variety. Or partly because I literally don’t care how long it takes them to start up. I don’t *need* them to be productive in the first year, or the second year, or at all, really. I steal their leftovers as rent, but they’re not going to get evicted if they don’t pay up. 😉

I probably still won’t feed any new swarms I get this year. The one hive I have that’s faltering, I think would have benefited from a feeding. I didn’t realize how traumatic their capture and installation was to them at the time, though it was a classic case of “everything that can go wrong will go wrong”. They’re still hanging in, though!


Lisa, lots of interesting issues here. Bees that escape into the wild are perfectly capable of starting up a hive from scratch, so it is definitely possible. But I think survival through the first winter is compromised if they don’t have enough stored food–and they can’t store it until they have a place to put it. The old adage “A swarm in July is not worth a fly” is based on the low probability of a late swarm getting everything done on time.

I have hived both packages and swarms without feeding them. But I don’t recommend it because of the high possibility of losing them the first winter. The amount of available forage would make a difference. Around here there is nothing in the latter part of July and all of August. Robbing gets really bad and weak colonies can end up with no stores at all.

I, too, am in no hurry for them to build up. I have more honey than I could use in several lifetimes, so that’s not the issue. I just feel better knowing they can comfortably make it through the winter.

Bees do fill up on honey before they swarm, so they have some reserves to get started. Packaged bees are fed continually, although they are not engorged the way swarming bees are. Maybe that makes a difference. Now that I think about it, the swarm that moved into my top-bar hive last year was a July swarm that I didn’t feed, but they did have fully drawn comb that they moved into–no honey or pollen, though. I didn’t feed them in the fall either and they are still going strong.

Another issue might be the money you put into the bees. Depending on where and how you purchase a package, they may be somewhere between $50 to $100 per package plus tax, plus shipping (maybe) and plus a cage deposit (maybe.) Anyway, it ends up being so much money that you would hate to lose them out of neglect! I certainly wouldn’t want someone to spend that much and then not feed them.

But, hey, if catching swarms and not feeding works for you, you probably shouldn’t mess with a good thing. I never see swarms around here (except my own) even though I always have swarm traps in place, etc. Even the one I caught last year is probably my own–I really don’t know one way or the other.

If I were in a swarmy area I would probably try to do it your way too.

John Eaves

I too used to catch swarms, and did not feed them. I haven’t seen a wild swarm in years. I feed my packages, to help them with a good start.

J.W. DeMarce

Must we feed white sugar or will other types suffice?


White refined sugar only. Other types of sweeteners (including brown sugar, maple syrup, and even evaporated cane juice) have too many solid particles in them that can easily cause honey bee dysentery.


Thanks for the advice, Rusty. I notice that my post is at least 2 years younger than these others, but bees don’t seem to care. I bought a nuc last week and just checked in on it today. They haven’t drawn out any new comb and there is not a lot of capped brood. Aside from that, the hive looked fine. It’s July here in Missouri and the nectar flow is starting to stall, so I’m going to feed them a 1/1 mix until they fill out two brood boxes. They’re Carniolans, so should take to the syrup pretty good. If this is not a good idea, I could use any advice you have to offer.




Generally, bees stop drawing new comb when the nectar dries up. So if your objective to to get them to build more comb, go ahead and feed. Most places in temperature North American have a fall nectar flow, so if you can get your bees to prepare some comb in advance, they can take full advantage of the fall flow, which will help them through their first winter. Carniolans overwinter with smaller colonies than Italians, so that will help as well.

Karen Pope

I feed many bees in the fall after sourwood harvest to build up their stores for winter (although I notice a big crop of goldenrod now). Last spring I had some of the sugar/syrup stores still in a good bit of comb when the spring nectar started to flow. I am wondering what to do with this capped sugar syrup winter food supply to empty the supers for capped nectar/honey. Is is something I could bottle for just my family and use as a syrup, not as good as honey? I want the supers empty of this to make room for honey. Have you ever had this thought/dilemma?



I would just save those frames for next year’s feeding and put new frames in the super.


I received my nuc package today and some of my beekeeping supplies have not arrived, such as my feeder. Is there any way to make a feeder at home with which to feed them the sugar water? Could I leave the sugar water out in a shallow bowl near the hive or on top of the hive? Thank you!



Punch some tiny hole in a jar lid, fill the jar with syrup, and invert it over the top bars. Place an empty super around it. Just make sure some of the holes are over the space between the frames so the bees can get to it.


Thanks for all your information, Rusty. I’m new to beekeeping and have enjoyed reading everyone’s comments.


Thank you for so good information. I just got a package of bees and my question is : how many times a day should I feed them? I’m making a syrup with lemon, chamomile , water and sugar. I live in Oregon.
Thanks again



How many times a day? Sounds like you need a bigger feeder. I would draw the line at once per day (about a gallon at a time) until they’ve got some comb drawn out. That’s just an estimate. It will depend on how many bees you’ve got and what’s in bloom.


Thank you so much Rusty. I’m enjoying this page. Happy week to all.


How about feeding splits? I just split a hive and the parent hive is very strong so I will probably stop feeding it, however the new hive is raising a queen so would that be fed like a package? They do have a med super on with honey and pollen that they are raising the queen in.



You can feed it if you want, but with a supply of honey and pollen they shouldn’t need it.


Can I just ask a follow up? I have rehomed a swarm from an existing hive, into a new broodbox. So this has the old queen, a full frame of brood, and 2 full frames of stores. The rest of the frames are bare foundation. Do I need to feed this hive and if so how long?

Following on from that, the old hive now has queen cells in, 2 full frames of brood and 2 frames of stores. I have filled the rest of the box with bare foundation. Same question – should I feed sugar syrup, and if so how long?




Technically, I don’t think you need to feed either one since the honey gives them a leg up. However, a light syrup can encourage them to build new comb and raise brood, so I think it’s helpful to feed a few weeks to get things off to a good start. Start with two to three weeks, and then see what they look like.


Thanks for the reply. As it happens I looked again today. One of the split hives is roaring with bees and has filled 8 frames in their single brood box. This is because it is on the site of the original, pre-split hive, so all the flying bees are returning to that spot. I will stop feeding that bunch and give them an extra brood box!

However, the other half of the split, which is 10 feet away, isn’t doing so well, which is to be expected I guess. I will keep feeding them and hope the capped queen cells produce a queen which mates successfully! Fingers crossed for good weather…..



It will take a few days for nurse bees to evolve into foragers. That imbalance the first few days is to be expected.


I’ve been feeding my new brood from 8 oz Ball jars in my feeder. They rip through that in about 4-5 hours. I then put another 8 oz jar an its’ gone by early evening. There’s honey dripping already from the bottom of the hive so I have stopped feeding them more then 1 8 oz bottle per day. I’ve only had them about two weeks. You say a ‘Gallon’ of syrup. I see they are only capable of consuming 16 ozs’ or so. Where do you come up with a ‘Gallon”?




You say, “I’ve been feeding my new brood from 8 oz Ball jars in my feeder.”

Remember that the brood doesn’t eat syrup, only the adults.

You say, “There’s honey dripping already from the bottom of the hive”

Nothing should be dripping from the bottom of your hive. It may be syrup. You should go in there are figure out what is amiss.

You say, “You say a ‘gallon’ of syrup. I see they are only capable of consuming 16 ozs or so. Where do you come up with a ‘gallon”?

I come up with a gallon because that is what my feeder holds. But it’s pointless to compare the amount one colony eats with what another colony eats. A colony may have 8 to 10 thousand bees, or 15 thousand, or 30 thousand. Not only that, the outside temperatures are different, requiring different amounts of food. Since each colony is different, you can’t easily compare rates of consumption.

Karen Surber

Hello Rusty!

I ran into this site while trying to find an answer. I have read that a person has to wait five or six weeks after feeding syrup with anything in it before adding the honey super, to avoid contaminating the honey. Is that true? This is my first year. I am almost at seven weeks. I have been feeding syrup with Honey-B-Healthy. They have been working on their second deep brood box for about a week. I also have two closed small hive beetle traps, one in each brood box. Do I add that to my honey medium super as well? Thanks so much for this site!!!



If you wait five or six weeks, you will probably miss the honey flow altogether. Furthermore, “anything” is a vague instruction. I would just stop feeding the HBH and add the honey supers when you are ready.

I wouldn’t add beetle traps to the honey supers unless you have a beetle problem.

Patricia Ratliff

New beekeeper. Set up two hives from packages May 12 in southeast Oklahoma (temps are now in the 90s with abundant rain). Feeding 1:1 syrup ever since we set them up and I just keep adding 1 gallon to each above-frame feeder every 4-5 days. Comb drawn out on 4-5 frames each, and they seem to be filling and capping the comb with the colorless sugar water. I’d say that < 10% has a brownish syrup, which I assume is nectar/honey. (There's pollen and brood in the midst of all that as well.) Is that okay that they're storing the sugar syrup? I thought they were going to EAT the syrup but STORE nectar, and all the books, web sites, etc., say they'll quit feeding on the syrup. Uh, not happening yet, but again, they're storing it! We're heading into the hottest part of the year, so I guess I need reassurance that the girls and I are doing the right things and I should continue to feed them. Thanks!



Your bees do not distinguish between sugar syrup and nectar. They treat them the same way, storing, drying, capping, etc. This is why you cannot put syrup on a hive once you put honey supers in place. If you do, you will end up extracting sugar syrup at the end of the year.

You ask if it is “okay that they are storing the sugar syrup.” Well, it’s okay if it is meant for them to overwinter on. It’s not ideal, however, because the best bee diet is honey with all its micronutrients and vitamins.

Most bees will choose nectar over syrup, but some will continue to store the syrup all summer long. It’s like kids: they’re all different. I would just stop the syrup feeding. If later in the fall you think they need more for overwintering, you can start it up again.


Thanks rusty for the advise! Now, I’m at two 8 frame boxes with an Engilsh cap:)

The colony is healthy and seemingly thriving. When I take a look, both under and over looks
Show them thickening up in population and health. They are now sucking down a quart of 50/50 in 8 hours:)

Taking em off.

What do they do in the late heat when they are almost swarming at the front of the hive when the temp spikes around 6pm here?


Big Rob

OK, here’s a question I can’t seem to find a clear answer for. Is it possible to feed bees through the summer to increase honey production? Here in central California, all the flowers have been dead since June and will be until late next February. The people advising me on getting my package going have recommended feeding. So, I’ve got my girls drinking 3 quarts a day of 1:1 syrup. There’s a lot of them hanging around outside the hive, so I added a separator and medium super to the two deeps I’m using for a brood chamber. Seems to me that a person could just keep offering more sugar water until the bees start filling up the honey super. Some people say that I’ll get sugar water in my honey, but do they actually store the unprocessed syrup?



You cannot increase honey production by feeding syrup. The honey bees do not distinguish nectar from syrup, so they store the syrup just as if it were nectar. What you end up with is a honey super filled with syrup.

Beekeepers often stimulate honey production by feeding syrup until the bees draw out some comb, but once comb is drawn the bees will continue to collect the syrup and store it there.

By definition honey is made from flower nectar, so syrup cannot be changed into honey, even by bees. However, if you leave the stored syrup on the hive for winter, the bees can use it for winter feed.

Big Rob

As an addendum to my first post: My bees have consumed almost a hundred pounds of sugar since I installed the package in May. That’s about 25 gallons of syrup! Does anyone think that’s a lot?



In my opinion, that’s about normal especially in dry conditions without a lot of flowers.

Big Rob

Thanks for responding, Rusty. I’m trying to get clear on the chemistry of all this. So you’re saying that although the bees convert nectar, which is sucrose, into honey, which is glucose and fructose, they won’t do the same for plain-old syrup? They’ll just suck down the three quarts I’ve been giving them every day, and seal it into the combs as-is?


Big Rob,

First off, nectar is not simply sucrose but a combination of sucrose, fructose, and glucose, along with many minor components. Honey bees invert the sucrose into fructose and glucose with enzymes while the nectar is in the mouth and honey stomach. You can do this too: just go to your local baker’s supply store, buy a bottle of invertase, a bag of table sugar, and knock yourself out. But what you end up with is not honey, just glucose and fructose in a messy bowl.

This is exactly what happens when you feed your bees sugar syrup: they hydrolyze the disaccharide (sucrose) into two monosaccharides (glucose and fructose). But it is not honey. Even honey bees, marvelous creatures that they are, cannot turn table sugar into honey.

By definition, honey is made from the nectar of flowers. Honey is a complex substance that contains mostly fructose and glucose but also trace amounts of a large number of compounds including vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, amino acids, phenolic acids, flavonols, antioxidants, pollen, as well as flavor, odor, and color-producing compounds.

As food for bees, sugar syrup can provide them the calories they need to keep going for a short time, but it is not the health food that honey is. In modern beekeeping, sugar has its uses, but it should not be the primary diet of a honey bee colony.

I like to think of sugar as emergency feed, something to tide them over in times of a honey shortage, but it cannot replace the balanced diet found in honey.

In the U.S. it illegal to sell sugar syrup in a bottle and call it honey. Even if only part of the bottle is syrup, it is considered adulterated and cannot be called honey.

PJ Mac

I’m new to beekeeping this year and obtained a swarm from a local beekeeper in June. Since then, I have been feeding a 1:1 ratio of syrup about 1 gallon per week or 10 days. The spring this year was so damp and cold and the blooming of practically everything seems to be 1 month behind. I looked at the hive yesterday and it appeared to have what I thought was capped honey in the super, but am fearing it is capped syrup now after reading your posts. I have had an excluder and a medium super up for 2 weeks, however the bees don’t seem to have done anything in the medium (top). Should I stop feeding syrup? We would like to some honey this year, but I’m more concerned they over winter well. Any suggestions would be much appreciated!



Remember bee colonies expand January through June, and contract July through December. The bulk of nectar flows were over in the spring, although you may have a fall flow, depending on what is growing in your area. Most first-year hives do not produce surplus honey simply because so much of their energy went into building a home from scratch. The bees can used the capped syrup, no problem, but I wouldn’t be surprised if you have to wait until next year for honey. Where I live, my honey supers go on in April, off in June. The season is earlier than you many think, although it does vary with geography.



I started two new colonies of bees this spring and have been feeding them sugar syrup all summer. When should I stop feeding? I am concerned that the queen will continue to lay eggs too late in the year. I think they will have stored enough syrup for this winter. (I am new at beekeeping). Also, is it alright to leave a honey super of capped sugar syrup for their winter stores?



You should stop feeding syrup when you think they have enough stores for winter. Don’t worry about the queen laying too many eggs—she knows what to do. It is fine to leave a super of capped syrup for winter; in fact, that is the whole purpose of feeding late in the year.

Big Rob

Yesterday morning I observed my bees trying to pull a yellow strand out of the hive. They’d cling to it and try hard to fly out with it. They pulled and pulled. It was kind of flat, like flat dental floss. I couldn’t find any references to anything like it. Was it maybe a strand of propolis?


Big Rob,

Maybe it was a stamen from a flower (the male part that produces pollen). See this photo. If it got stuck in a pollen basket, and then entered the hive, they would probably remove it.


I just wanted to add to this post my experiences as a new beekeeper. I was told to feed my bees that I installed on the package a specific maximum amount of sugar syrup. They swarmed about a month and a half later but the colony I was left with had some supersede cells and were able to recover and are doing fine just now I install the last April. It was after reading a post on Michael Bush’s website about bees just install from packages swarming the first year and he mentioned that feeding syrup for too long leads to them filling up cells are backfilling cells with sugar syrup and consequently running out of space triggering the swarm. I will be starting a second hive in late April of this year at this time I will not feed that maximum amount of sugar syrup mentioned by the place I got the package bees from. Instead I will feed you using one of the methods that Rusty mentioned regarding the number of cells and frames Now everyone has a different experience I know, but I just wanted to share mine with you because it sure was a disappointment for a new beekeeper to watch most of his bees leave in less than two months.

Don malcolmson

Last year I started a beehive. I had two boxes and the top box was almost filled and capped. I did not feed them through the winter and they starved. The bees never drew from the top box and the frames in the bottom box were empty and dark in color.

My plan this year was to put a nuc (queen) in the bottom box with 3 or 4 frames that are full and capped (from last year’s top box) along with the feeder and 4 frames that have empty combs (from last year’s bottom box). Wait till they fill the first box, add second box and wait till they fill that then put excluder on and the third box to collect honey from.

Will I be able to collect honey this year? When can I take the feeder out of the box?



1. How do you know for sure that they starved? Just curious.
2. The frames turn dark from brood rearing. That is normal and harmless.
3. Your plan is fine. That is the way it should be done.
4. With all that honey, you don’t really need a feeder. But in any case, remove it when the nectar flow starts because they will lose interest in it at that point.
5. Whether or not you can harvest honey depends on how much they store, which depends on colony health and size, weather, the strength of the flow, and timing. Sometimes it’s hard to catch a good flow when starting from a nuc because you don’t have a lot of bees to do the work.

Don malcolmson

Some bees were dead with their heads inside the comb. I imagine some flew away. I am not sure why they did not use the honey they stored in the top box. A silly question but when is the nectar flow? Is that regarding flowers? Should I scratch the capped comb to make it easier for the bees to get at? Thanks



The nectar flow occurs when the flowers bloom. Large nectar flows are made by the nectar plants that are common in your area. Nectar flows usually occur in spring and to a lesser extent in fall. No, do not scratch open the comb. The bees are perfectly capable of that.


Hi Rusty,

We installed a package last week Wednesday. At installation, the can that they came with (about 24 oz?) was still half-full, so we placed it with the holes downward-facing and accessible in an empty top super. Today, the can is lower, but still is about 1/4 full, perhaps a bit less (just going by feel). This seems a MUCH slower rate of consumption than you’re citing in other comments above. Should I take this as dis-interest and stop feeding for now, but maybe re-evaluate in late summer/fall?



That’s what I think. They found something they like better and lost interest in the syrup.

Ryan Griffiths

I’m a new keeper and my hives took 2 quarts plus of 1:1 syrup the first two days and stored it all in the 4 frames of drawn comb I got from a local keeper to help them get going. I’ve confirmed both have their queens. It’s been 4 days since install and most of the cells are full of syrup and I see no eggs. Should i be concerned? I’ve stopped feeding for one day. What are your recommendations?

Here’s a video I made of the inspection if it helps…



It’s been a week since you wrote this. Have you finally seen eggs? My guess is they just needed more time to get established.



I opened the one box I have and the bees had made their comb at the top of the hive attached to the lid and in-between the old combs. It seemed like they were not using the old empty combs. I decided to place another box on top, with mostly filled comb. I was planning to feed them for a month and then let them go on their own when it got warm. Maybe 2 months. If I put an excluder in-between the middle box and top box, will they build new comb on the new frames? Can the queen come out of the bottom box and lay eggs in the top box? How do the workers get in and out of the bottom boxes?

I am new to this.




Honey bees are hard to predict, and sometimes they just do what they want to do. I wouldn’t worry about the comb; just cut it away if it interferes with inspections.

The bees won’t begin building comb in the top box until they need the space. They might need it this year or they may not. A lot depends on how large the colony becomes and how good the nectar flow is.

The queen won’t come out of the bottom box to lay in the top box; that’s why queen excluders work.

I don’t understand your last question. Don’t you have an opening for them to come and go? Aren’t they going in and out now?

Lynne Lindsey

I have two new packages of bees and have been feeding them 1 to 1 syrup. It has been getting down into the 30s here at night and up to 50s during the day. I suspect the syrup is too cold but don’t want them to starve as they have no stores yet. What should I do?



If they aren’t taking the syrup, you can lay a piece of newspaper on the top bars and pour some granulated sugar on top. They shouldn’t need it for very long.


Yeah I’ve found eggs in both hives as of the 23rd. I’ve bee feeding them a quart then taking it for a few days when they finish it then giving it back. They’ve slowed down taking the syrup, from a quart a day to about 1/3 a quart.


I just insalled two packages of bees in warre hives. I do not have feeders, but put 2 to 1 mixture syrup in one gallon buckets, with straw and corks for bees to walk on and drink syrup from without drowning. So far very few have drowned and they are taking the sugar.

The problem I had was that I put the bucket in an empty box over the one I dumped the packages into. Two days later all the bees were in the top box and had started building comb on the bucket rim. Now I was scared the queen was up there- I gave the bucket a good shake to dump the cluster on to the top bars below, swathed off the comb and placed the bucket in front of the hive. All the bees still on the bucket formed a conga line and went back into the hive, so I believe I was lucky the queen did not get pulled out.

Is it ok to feed them outside from now on? I haven’t seen to many wasps or other competition around.



You can feed them outside but be careful about drawing predators to your hive. This time of year they may not need feeding if nectar is plentiful. Just monitor carefully if you decide to feed outside.


Hi Rusty, This has been great help to me. I am a new urban beekeeper and just caught my first swarm (my first hive as well) June 4th in Arizona @ 110°) and got them into a single large box last night. I gave them a quart of 1:1 sugar water of which they consumed in 24 hours. I plan to keep feeding them. My question… What will (should) happen next if all goes well in the next week, months ect. as far as production of combs onto the frames and with me running past the spring flower season and this being Arizona, will they build what they need between now and winter?

Chris Mason

Rusty, you the man of knowledge!

New beekeeper like everyone else here and have a question. I fed the bees that I got a week ago (nuc) and they really did not drain it like so many of these post indicate. I have taken the feeding tray out and want them to collect nectar as the flowers are out now after a late start in new England. When do I put on the next stack and when should I use the excluder?



Yup, that’s me. Man of knowledge. Not exactly a compliment?

I don’t know what you mean by “next stack.” Do you mean the honey supers? If so, I add supers at the beginning of the nectar flow, assuming the brood boxes are pretty much full. You can add the excluder at the same time, or you can wait till the bees draw some comb and then add it. Either way is fine.


You said brood boxes plural. I only have one. What is difference between brood box and honey super? Same type of box right, just diff terminology? And what is draw some comb mean? (Sorry, real newbie)



The function is different. Brood lives in brood boxes. Honey supers are only used during the honey-making season for the storage of surplus honey. To draw comb means to build comb.


If I am reading correctly, with my brand new bees (installed on brand new equipment April 20, 2016) I need to be feeding my bees right now. I have both the brood boxes full, and have just added a medium (honey super). Because it has no drawn comb I need to feed the bees until the winter, and let them store it all for winter consumption in the honey super? Next spring, do I just start from scratch with new medium frames for honey collection? Thanks for your time.



I’m not sure what you mean. If your brood boxes are full I don’t see any reason for continued feeding. It sounds like your bees are doing fine. We usually refer to “honey supers” as those supers that are used to collect surplus honey for harvesting. If that is the case, you wouldn’t put on a honey super while feeding bees, because they will store the feed like nectar, and then you end up harvesting sugar syrup.

If you just want a box for the bees to store honey for themselves, that is fine but many folks wouldn’t consider that a honey super, but more-or-less another brood box. So, for example, you might overwinter your bees in a deep and a medium.

One of the reasons for thinking about it this way is that if you leave that box on for winter feeding, your whole colony will probably have moved into by spring, which usually means it is unavailable for use as a honey super until you move the bees out of it.

I find it helpful to keep so-called honey supers for short-term use and brood boxes for long-term colony use. I realize the boxes (and the names) are interchangeable, but when you start using a box for a certain purpose, it sort of defines it.

If you want to use your current boxes for winter stores, that’s fine, but I would go ahead a get new honey supers for next year to use in addition.


Thank you very much for the quick reply. I’m sorry for the confusion, as my use of terminology is growing. I added the medium because my two lower boxes appear full of bees, comb, honey, eggs. All the frames in both of those deeps are fully drawn out and filled with bee stuff. I added the medium since space is needed. The equipment is all new so this is where my confusion lies. I keep reading I need to feed my bees for them to draw out comb. Does this also apply to new bees in new equipment filling up the first medium for the first time ? Again I apologize if this seems redundant in asking to you. I just don’t want to spoil honey production for the spring and I especially don’t want to stave my bees in the winter.



Based on your description, you do not need to be feeding your bees now. I would just add an excluder and put on the honey super. Sounds like they are doing great.


Understood. Thanks again for your time Rusty, I truly appreciate you settling this for me once and for all since I keep getting conflicting info. Being new at this there are many questions ! I’m happy to say so far so good with this first hive. Takes all I got to not go poking inside the hive more to see what’s up, but I know better. Take care !


Rusty, I have two new hives. One was a nuc and one was a package (one Italian, one small bees). Set up in April. I fed them for a month or so. They were doing great at first . The last few weeks the hives seem depleted, there are eggs but many less bees. Unfortunately, no flowers around any longer. Should I buy flowers to put around the area? Should I start feeding again? Salt too? I am worried. Many thanks.


If the summer nectar dearth has begun in your area, you should probably feed sugar syrup, but be careful not to spill any as it could attract robber bees. No salt, just sugar water should be fine. Planting flowers won’t really help. The bees need millions of blooms which they will find or not, which is the reason for feeding syrup.

Chuck J.

Hello Rusty. I installed 2 packages this spring on drawn comb. I have been feeding both hives syrup in top feeders. The first hive has done very well and has filled the initial deep box plus a second deep box. That hive continues to consume a gallon of syrup every couple of days. The second hive is not very robust compared to the first hive. The second hive has filled the bottom deep super but has not moved up into the second deep super. That hive also has completely quit feeding on syrup no matter what feeding stimulants I try. Any thoughts on how to stimulate feeding (or whether I should) in the second, less productive hive? Thanks.



Some colonies develop faster than others, just like kids. I wouldn’t worry too much about it as long as everything appears normal inside the hive, i.e. the queen is present, there is brood in all stages of development, and there is no sign of disease. Since fall is fast approaching, you probably should monitor for mites if you haven’t already, just to know where you stand. Also, you may need to protect the smaller hive from the larger one if you notice signs of robbing.

Michele Peterson

Hello and thank you for keeping up this wonderful site. I am sorry if this question has already been addressed, but here goes. I started with a new package and undrawn combs the first of May. After some advice, I have continued feeding through the spring and summer, and now we are heading into fall. I’m not sure if feeding through summer was correct or not, but now that I’ve done it, should I start giving them 2:1 sugar syrup until they stop taking that?

Also, since they’ve had so much sugar water, and most likely stored it as reserves, what do I do with the “not-really-honey” stores in the spring? Should I just keep it in the hive for them or take whatever is left after the winter and get rid of it so they can start over with “real” honey reserves?



I would try to estimate the amount of stored syrup/nectar you have now to decide if you need to continue to feed. Depending on where you live, you will need 40 (warm areas) to 90 (cold areas) of stored “honey” to get you through till spring. In any case, most of the “not-really-honey” will be gone by spring, so I wouldn’t worry about it. If any is left over, just let them keep it. I would never get rid of a resource like that because there will always be a use for it somewhere along the line.


Thanks Rusty, that makes sense. I appreciate your help!

James Cruz

I just like the caring information and good advice you provide to your articles. Thanks for sharing the package of bees information is very useful for me. Thanks!