What Do Bees Usually Eat?
The natural diet of fully grown bees normally consists of pollen and nectar. Pollen and nectar are usually collected from flowering plants and some fruit trees.
Pollen is produced by many plants and is a dust-like powder in flowers. It’s one of the richest and purest foods available for the honey bee. It contains protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, sugar and everything a honey bee requires that is of nutritional value.
Nectar, on the other hand, is the sweet fluid found in flowers. This is what honey bees collect and convert to honey.
Honey is also a natural food source for bees, although mostly for larvae. The only honey bee larvae that don’t consume honey at all are the larvae chosen to be future queens. These larvae get the princess treatment, eating only ‘royal jelly.’ This is a white secretion of pollen and chemicals from the worker bee glands. It’s produced by young, female worker bees.
Royal jelly is fed to the other larvae only during the first few days of their development before being reserved for the future queen. The queen needs it more as it contains all dietary supplements and fertility stimulants. These allow her to double in size, live for up to five years and lay as many as 2,000 eggs a day.
How Do Wild Bees Survive the Winter?
It’s not unusual for one to wonder why kept bees need to be tended to during the winter, while wild bees somehow manage to fend for themselves. The answer is quite simple; honey.
In other species of bees, winter is a time for hibernation. Sometimes, in fact, only the queen survives the winter, coming out in the spring to begin a new colony.
With honey bees, the whole colony survives with the use of their special weapon, honey. During the warmer periods of the year, honey bees are always working, making more and more honey.
They don’t do this just for fun; they’re like ants storing food for the winter. During the winter, honey bees stay in the nest. They survive on their supply of honey for both warmth and food until the winter is over.
If they don’t have enough honey, the entire colony could freeze to death. To reduce the chance of this happening, the queen stops laying eggs, controlling the number of mouths that need feeding.
Thus, it becomes clear why kept bees need to be provided for in the winter. There’s no way they will have enough honey to survive when their honey is being collected.
The Bee Sugar-Water Recipe
Without the extra combs of honey, you’ll have to make a syrupy sugar-water for your bees. This will be a supplement for survival until spring comes around:
- Fill up a large pot with one part water and two parts cane/beet sugar
- Put the pot over a fire and heat the water until the sugar is completely dissolved
- Do not allow the water to boil
- Once the sugar is dissolved, separate the solution into gallons
- Add half a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to each gallon of syrup to prevent it from freezing
- Serve your bees sugar-water daily
Bees are amazing little creatures, and in the winter, it falls to us to care for them. The bee sugar-water recipe gives us an easy way to do this.
Remember not to let the water boil, and don’t forget to add the apple cider vinegar to prevent the solution from freezing. This is especially important since you’re providing sustenance to your beloved bees in winter.