The syrup solution
I remember the first time I made sugar syrup. It was just after I purchased a new hive and was told to feed them 1:1 syrup. This seemed horribly confusing at the time. Books and beekeepers were brimming with sage advice such as “use weight, not volume” or “use volume, not weight.” Then there was “use only cold water” and of course “only use hot water.” Some said, “add vinegar” and some said, “add nothing.” Some said, “always boil” and some said “never.” If you did anything contrary to these mystifying instructions, you would kill every bee within a five-mile radius. Of course.
In truth, all these rules are made by beekeepers—not by bees, not by nature, not by divine instruction. Once again, let’s try applying logic to the situation.
The purpose of syrup it to supplement the bee diet with a high-energy food source when they have little nectar or honey available to them. It is far better for bees to eat honey, but there are times when there isn’t enough honey for the number of hungry mouths. One-to-one syrup is meant to simulate nectar, so it is watery like nectar.
But nectar doesn’t contain a fixed amount of sugar; every species of plant has nectar with a different sugar-to-water ratio. Even the very same flower may have a different sugar-to-water ratio in the morning than in the afternoon, or on a rainy day versus a dry day, or on a hot day versus a cold day. The ratio of sugar to water is infinitely variable and I suspect not a single, solitary plant has an exact ratio of 1:1.
The nectar collected at any one time may be 1.36 to 1 . . . 1 to 1.27 . . . or anything else. The bees don’t care. They collect it. They know what to do with it. So why are we in the kitchen fiddling with scales or leveling off our measuring cups with decimal point precision?
The point is that the 1-to-1 measurement is an approximation. It is a convenient way for us to come close to what we want, but it is not magic. So you put in a little too much sugar? No problem. Not quite enough? Don’t worry. Honestly, it makes no difference. Your bees will not stick little instruments in the feeder to test the specific gravity, trust me. They will simply be overjoyed to have something to eat.