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Feeding wild bees during Winter - how to do it?


Joined: Sep 25, 2010
Posts: 39
Location: Chapel Hill, N.C.
Feeding wild bees during Winter - how to do it?

I discovered that I have on my 6 acre property more wild bees than I thought (maybe they are those who swarmed from my hives and left for
new homes as forest dwellers). I poured out two quarts of honey that had ants in them onto a compost pile on a garden bed. Soon there were hundreds of bees foraging for the honey. I have done this many times but this is the first time I have seen any bees attracted to the honey.

Is it possible to feed wild forest-dwelling bees during the Winter? I am in central NC USDA zone 6/7.

Lawrence London
paul wheaton

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 17427
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
Interesting.  Well ... my first thought is:  what is your goal? 

My second thought is:  if you feed the bees, will they become dependent on you?  Will more bees die the year you stop feeding them?

Yes:  I'm pretty sure that feeding them honey is exactly the stuff to feed them.  I remember hearing recently that the one thing bees like more than making honey is stealing honey. 

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Travis Philp

Joined: Dec 28, 2009
Posts: 965
Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
It's not the best solution but you could feed them sugar. I've heard that some commercial bees refined sugar in the winter instead of leaving them a supply of honey. I could see that severely compromising the health of the bees though. Maybe it'd be better (though more expensive) to use unbleached/unrefined organic sugar?

Zone 5a in Central Ontario, Canada

Joined: Sep 25, 2010
Posts: 39
Location: Chapel Hill, N.C.
Kelly, in my permaculture list, has adequately answered my question, so for your benefit here's a crosspost:
There is no need to feed bees in the winter.  For the most part, they are in a semi-dormant cluster, are unable to fly anyway, and so would be unable to partake of your gift.  Bees cannot fly in temperatures below 50 degrees fahrenheit.  Unless your spring and summer have been unusually absent of flowering  trees and other plants, the bees will have put up more than enough food for the winter.  Wild bees have few needs that humans can supply!  How refreshing!

Bees are opportunists and if a food source is nearby and discovered before their winter dormancy, then they will definitely take advantage of the resource - hence the attraction of hundreds of bees to your compost pile.

If you are wanting to assist them, the best ways to do so are to protect the tree or cavity that they are nesting in, plant maple, linden and other flowering trees in their vicinity, locate a water source near their nest for spring, summer and fall that is set up to prevent them from drowning, and plant a variety of flowering medicinal plants such as catnip, mints, thymes and such so that they can self-medicate as they need to, and most especially lobby your neighbors NOT use pesticides and herbicides on their properties.

Hope this helps!

Boulder, CO

Joined: Sep 25, 2010
Posts: 39
Location: Chapel Hill, N.C.
Info on CCD causes:

Joe Cummins
Prof. Emeritus, Genetics
(some big university in Canada)
-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Re: [SANET-MG] Honey bee killer explained
...Date: Thu, 7 Oct 2010 19:43:03 -0400
From: joe cummins <jcummins@UWO.CA>

The evidence relating CCD and a virus along with the fungal parasite Nosema is very strong. However, the published studies have not looked at a thrid culprit the systematic insecticide. That chemical will reduce the bee's immunity to virus and parasite. The final answer to CCD is close but still does not say what weakens the bee's immunity to both virus and parasite. However, there is evidence that the insecticide is likely to be the final piece of the puzzle , what causes CCD?
Travis Philp

Joined: Dec 28, 2009
Posts: 965
Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
Anyone know about using thyme or oregano oil in place of the pesticide?
Josiah Maughan

Joined: Apr 28, 2010
Posts: 42
Location: wellsville, utah
i've only glanced down the thread. so..... maybe forgive me if i'm redundant?

honey is NOT a good thing to feed bee's. unless it's their own honey. even then it's risky.  the problem, even before this new huge problem that's killing bee's, is that they can easily transmit a disease from other bee's. everything i've ever read about bee's has said not to do it.

the second problem, in the summer or fall, is that they might get a taste for it ( i know it sounds funny) but much like chickens will eat their own eggs, the bee's will rob the hive of honey. in that way they will use up the food source for the winter.

also, if the winter is too warm, they will eat all of their supply. on an especially warm day, they will exit the hive, in order to get rid of their waste, since they store it inside themselves for the entirety of the winter.

if the winter is too cold, they're more dormant than usual, and might not move onto the next store of food, and starve that way.

the only real way, is to know where their hive is, and maybe feed them that way. the best way is to come up with a solid sugar mass.    like powdered sugar mixed with honey ( i know, i said honey was a bad thing to feed them, that's an example, like... if it was their own honey) but it would be difficult to place it appropriately if it wasn't in a box.

or a molasses or something, bu tyou'd have to put it in the right spot for them to actually get it.

a lot of studies that are recent suggest that honey bee's don't actually get the nutrition they  need from sugar water.

so it's hard to know really how to help them, except if you like them on your property, to provide a water source, maybe with sugar in it, but really only in the spring or summer. unless your winters are warm.
subject: Feeding wild bees during Winter - how to do it?