feeding bees

How long should I feed a new package of bees?

The answer to this question depends on whether you are starting the package on new equipment or on previously drawn comb. In truth, how long you feed a new package will vary with your climate, your bees, and your management style. Some beekeepers wean their new colonies as fast as possible, others feed much longer.

Beginning with no 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 each new colony one 50-pound bag of sugar.
  • 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.

Feeding is a judgement call

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.

Using syrup as a stimulant

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. Of course, you can also feed your bees with honey if you have a supply from a known healthy source.

Keep a supply of sugar nearby

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. Most often, 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.

Honey Bee Suite

Many types of feeders can be used. However, if robbing is a problem in your apiary, do not add essential oils. © Rusty Burlew.

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  • 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.

  • 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.

    • 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.


    • Conrad,

      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.

  • 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 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!

    • Lindsey,

      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

    • Simoneti,

      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.

  • 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.

      • 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?


        • Matthew,

          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…..

            • Matthew,

              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”?


    • John,

      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.

  • 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!!!

    • Karen,

      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.

  • 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!

    • Patricia,

      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?


  • 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?

    • Rob,

      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.

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • Hello,
    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!

    • PJ,

      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.

  • Hi,

    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?

    • Alma,

      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.

  • 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.

  • 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?

    • Don,

      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.

  • 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

    • Don,

      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?

  • 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… https://youtu.be/cVoBxU9kq8Y

    • Ryan,

      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.

  • Rusty,

    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.


    • Don,

      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?

  • 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?

    • Lynne,

      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.

    • Simon,

      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?

  • 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)

    • Chris,

      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.

    • Valerie,

      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.

    • Valerie,

      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.

  • 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.

    • Chuck,

      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.

  • 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?

    • Michele,

      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.

  • I suspect most beekeepers aren’t sending their harvested honey in for a pollen analysis at Texas A&M University. Without that, most beekeepers don’t know that their honey is actually just sugar syrup regurgitated by the bees. If they feed them sugar for too long.

    I planted 6 acres of yellow sweet clover and crimson clover, and then kept feeding my bees sugar water after those flowers were gone. When I analyzed my honey that fall, they could not find a single speck of clover in any of it. It was all sugar water honey. And it tasted just great. Just like honey. Nobody would have known. I wonder how much that’s really happening from overfeeding.

  • I installed a package of bees into a new warre hive (no previous comb – bare/new equipment) 10 days ago. I checked the hive today and found they are building comb on 5 of 8 frames. However, the comb that they have built is nearly completely filled with sugar syrup and a little pollen. I could not see evidence of eggs and no larvae. Is it possible that they simply need more time to get established, or am I expecting too much to see eggs and larvae at this point. Thanks for any input or insight… Regards

    • JC,

      You should see eggs almost immediately. Have you seen the queen? She could be missing. If she’s missing or not laying, you will need to replace her before you develop laying workers.

  • North Idaho-

    Welp. We are freaking out. Like new parents where everything is terrifying and means we ruined everything.

    Bought a package. Feeder can was empty when we got em. Some dead in package. It has been cold and wet here. When installed it was highs of 50’s. Did a gentle install (top bar). Pulled the cork, marshmellow put in.

    Couple days later pulled package box out, syrup barely gone. Took screen off feeder board in hopes bees could easily reach them. Few days later still very little syrup gone. Nothing checked into the hive big cluster of bees between bars 3 and 9.

    Ah! We did something wrong with the syrup! Ah! They aren’t building comb (we left the cluster alone but bars 1,2, 9 and 10 have nothing)! We are failures are beekepers is the new parent feeling.

    Thank you for the wealth of information. Oh and as far as native bees we have a orange ended bumble hanging around so we are happy!

    • Is the syrup in contact with the cluster? They may not be able to get to it. I would move the feed as close to them as possible. you can also get some pollen patties and put them on top of the bars. I love them. great supplement for if they can’t forage yet and will kick start brood production.

  • Total newbie here! I have purchased a flowhive (I know a lot of beekeepers hate them, but I’m invested now) and have done as much research as possible. I have an area in the yard ready for the hive and my bees will ship to me on the 29th. I have watched some videos on how to install the packaged bees. It’s my understanding that I need to feed them for a while and leave the honey super off for a while, if that is correct, how long should I feed them? The lower box / brood box has 8 bare frames, and the upper box / honey super has the flow frames. I’m in NE Texas and everything is in bloom here. Also, do I need to provide a water source, like a bird bath or such?


    • Katie,

      Okay, here are some things to remember. The Flow hive is basically no different than any other Langstroth hive. Basically, you have the brood area and you have the honey storage area. All Langstroth hives work like that, only the harvesting method is different.

      Establishing a new colony of bees in a new wooden hive can sometimes be a bit tricky because honey bees don’t feel at home on new wood. If they are not at all happy, they sometimes leave and go elsewhere. However, a ready supply of feed often convinces them to stay.

      You should feed at the very least until the bees begin to build comb in the brood box. Once they begin to build comb, the queen will have a place to lay her eggs, and the colony settles in. At first, all the stores the bees bring in, both pollen and nectar, will be used to raise new bees. Eventually, they will also begin storing honey for the winter.

      It is important to remember that your bees will need plenty of honey to overwinter. I don’t know what the numbers are in Texas, but I suspect at least forty pounds. Up here in the north, it’s closer to 90 pounds. In any case, beekeepers don’t always get a crop of honey the first year because by the time the bees build all their combs and put enough away for winter, the end of the season is close by. Again, I’m not sure how your seasons run, but be sure to leave enough honey for your bees.

      An eight-frame deep may not be big enough for your bees to overwinter. If it were me, I would add another box between the lower brood box and the honey super to give them more storage space. An eight-frame medium may be enough. To be on the safe side, I would ask some local beekeepers—ones that have the very same climate as you—how much honey they need for overwintering. In any case, once the lower boxes are about 80% full of bees and honey, you can put on your honey super.

      You don’t need to provide a water source as long as you are feeding, but when you stop feeding I would put out a pan of water for them. Add lots of rocks or marbles so they have something to stand on so they don’t drown.

  • Hi Rusty,

    I’m new to bee keeping, so please forgive my question if it shows ignorance. It’s slightly off topic, but I think germane to the other posters who are also feeding new packages.

    I installed a new package of Italians on May 9th in my backyard in CT. I have been feeding simple syrup – a quart is lasting 2.5 days. The bees appear to be actively foraging, and about 1 in 5 returning with pollen in their baskets. So, I think they are off to a good start.

    There current home is a single 10-frame deep. On inspection this past weekend, comb was drawn out on 40-50% of the foundation. I have both an additional 10-frame deep and medium in reserve, as I understand at least 2 deeps are required to survive winters in New England.

    How will I know when the bees have sufficiently expanded their brood space? I assume they will fill the second deep with brood (at least that’s my goal). Will they do the same if/when I later add the medium on top of the stacked deeps w/o an excluder? I do not have any expectation of honey surplus this first season. In fact, I don’t have any expectation of honey surplus ever – I’m more interested in the hobby, biology, challenges, and stewardship of beekeeping. Should I use a queen excluder? By not using one will I have a better sense of what the bees have determined to be their required brood space? Will they fill supers infinitely with brood if allowed to do so?

    • William,

      It’s a question of timing. As a rule of thumb, honey bee populations increase from the winter solstice to the summer solstice, and decrease from the summer solstice to the winter solstice. You can give them ten brood boxes, but they will only fill what time and resources allow.

      If you are not harvesting honey, there is no reason for a queen excluder.

  • Rusty,
    Thank you so much for sharing your wealth of knowledge! Such a valuable site for all of us! Including seasoned bee keepers who can also respond with additional information! What a great site you have! Thank you!

  • Thanks so much for your platform and to the many contributors here! I am a BK (20 years experience in the tropics) in Cambodia, where the industry is just starting.

    I get lots of insight from this site!

  • Hi Rusty

    I have 4 small hives reared from nucs and swarms this year. I am a beginner. All my equipment was new so it was all foundation and no drawn comb at the start.

    My little bees are working away madly and I am feeding constantly. 3 of the hives have 9 frames drawn.

    When should I add the super over the brood box so they can begin to draw the foundation in the super or should I wait until after the winter….but then it will be all foundation in the super. I wouldn’t add a super to the 4th hive as there are only 6 frames drawn…correct?

    Hope my question makes sense.


    • Zoe,

      Since I don’t know where you live, it’s hard to answer. If you’re in North America, especially a place with a cold winter, your bees won’t be drawing any comb now. Instead, they are getting ready for winter. I would wait until spring to add supers.

  • Hi Rusty and Ryan,

    Thanks for your help and comments. I live in Ireland where daytime temperatures are 17C or 62F at the moment.

  • When I kept in Alaska it was feed feed feed. My bees started and stopped flying around 40 F. Then again you don’t have 40 below F winters either. As rusty said I wouldn’t add supers as it makes the heat go above the cluster.

  • Hi Rusty,

    Enjoy your website and column in ABJ immensely.

    Although I did the same routine last summer/fall as the one previous my bees didn’t make it through the winter. There was a fair amount of capped honey but a lot of uncapped, do I need to extract the uncapped in case it is fermented and gives the bees diarrhea?

    Thanks in advance.

    • Dave,

      I always just give it to them. If you want, you can hold the frames upside down and shake hard. The very liquidy stuff will fly out. The stuff that remains is very close to capped as far as moisture goes and won’t likely ferment. I never heard that fermentation causes diarrhea, (source?) but it does cause loopy bees.

  • I forgot to add that I’ll be getting new bees, also I put half the frames in my basement where there is a dehumidifier.

  • Hi Rusty!

    Love to read you.
    Got some questions for you.
    What if there’s no queen?
    What should I do, if I create a new bee colony only with queen cells?
    Is there need of feeding trough the queenless period?
    If no, when I have to start feeding? When the queen appears, or when starts laying eggs?
    Apologies to all readers about my grammatical.

    • Sgan,

      You should probably feed the bees who are caring for the colony until the queen emerges and while she mates, and probably for the first month of so of egg laying unless you already have honey stored in the hive. Most of it depends on what you’re starting with.

  • Thank you Rusty.

    I realized, that my question was incorrect…
    I saw what I was looking for in your answer. Thanks again.

  • Hi Rusty.. I love your site. I have read every question and every reply. Thanks for the knowledge.

    I’m hoping I did the right thing here, so if you would, would please confirm or advise me.

    My hive is a 10 frame.
    I acquired a nice size swarm about 3 weeks ago. Went into my hive today and found 3 frames full of nice capped well patterned brood on both sides but only a hand full of drones. 1 more frame is full of eggs and larvae. 2 frames are full of a combo of nectar and sugar water. 3 frames are being built out with comb. The last ( outer frame) has nothing going on. It’s mid June here in Texas and the temps are in the low to mid 90’s. My bottom board is solid. I’m feed 3 to 1 sugar water outside the hive about 50ft away from their hive and the feeder sits on top of a bird bath filled with stones and straight water.

    I also found several (7 or 8) supersedure cells which I removed.

    Here’s my question after my summary of how I’m set up.
    Today, after inspection, I decided to add a medium brood box with 2 screened vent holes. All the frames in this box are wax coated plastic foundation (all new).
    With the ratio of capped brood/eggs/larvae/honey store and comb production, would you please advise if I’m being premature in adding the second box for brood?

    • Sandy,

      You have a problem, but it has nothing to do with adding a second box. Your problem is you destroyed your supersedure cells. Unless you are planning on buying a replacement queen, you will be left queenless if you keep removing them. The number of brood boxes won’t make a bit of difference without a queen.

      You said this was a swarm, and that makes sense. Swarms leave with the old queen. After she gets the colony going in the new location, she is usually replaced within the first few months. It sounds like everything was going according to plan, except now your bees have no one to replace her with.

      I consider destroying queen cells an “advanced” skill; one that I’m still hesitant to do. Please read “Should I destroy extra queen cells?” which is mostly about swarm cells. In any case, I would never destroy a supersedure cell unless I was planning to bring in an outside queen.

      Depending on the health of the current queen, the colony probably can still raise more virgins, but the course of the replacement has been slowed down. Feel free to add another brood box, but keep an eye out for more supersedure cells and protect them. If the bees don’t raise more, you will have to buy a queen in time to avoid laying workers.

      Please trust your bees and don’t micromanage them. They know much more about the colony trajectory than you do.

  • Hi Rusty,

    Thanks for that input. The existing queen is a young queen who hatched [emerged] a couple of days after I got the swarm and placed them in their new hive, plus I left one fully-developed queen cell intact that has developed since my colony moved here. Does that change the narrative? The swarm I acquired was placed in an 8-frame hive with one frame of brood which hatched [emerged] 4 days later and a queen cell close to hatching [emerging], which she did, two days after I got them. The other frames were empty except for the swarm bees. I transferred all to my 10 frame hive and returned the 8 frame I transported them in, back to its owner who gave me the swarm.

    I was told, or…did I misunderstand, that with a new laying queen already laying, to remove any sup [supersedure] cells to prevent swarming. Is this the wrong information considering my hive?

    • Sandy,

      It’s wrong in the sense that swarm cells and supersedure cells are built for different purposes. Swarm cells are built so the colony can swarm and leave behind virgin queens. Supersedure cells are built in order to replace an existing queen. So you see, removing a supersedure cell has no impact on swarming. You have to determine, as accurately as you can, the purpose of the queen cells in order to know how to manage the colony.

      Also, I made notations in your comment because eggs hatch, pupae emerge. If you use the wrong word, the timing is different. So brood can hatch and it can emerge, depending on its age. Again, to do the right thing, you need to know (or the reader needs to know) which one you are referring to.

  • Rusty,

    Ah, I see now. Sheesh! I’m a dope!

    This is a “the strong survive” in the bee world. I must have completely misunderstood what was explained to be early on. It’s mid-June here so I will keep an eye out for more and leave them alone. If by chance my mistake has messed things up, I will pick up a new mated queen from BeeWeaver. The young queen that hatched after they were moved here is laying beautifully and there is another capped queen cell that will hatch within the next 10 days.

    Thanks so much for your advice. I know what NOT to do now. Whew! Glad I found your site and contacted you.

  • I feel like I’m being a menace but after reading your reply, I called my mentor. He came over and looked at what I’d done and I showed him the cells I removed. They were not supersedure cells. All of them were removed from the bottom third of the frames and none of them had larvae in them. He said they were empty queen cups and the building of swarm cells with no larvae in those either. I have 6 supersedure cells on the frames right now. I didn’t touch those. He said I didn’t do the damage I thought I did but in the future, refrain from removing cells. LOL …. I was really concerned! He said my hive is in good shape. Thank you for bringing my attention to a possibly bad situation. Just thought I’d let you know.

  • Great site, great information. I came wondering about feeding and I think I got my answer. The first year at least I will continue to feed as long as they’re drawing out the brood boxes and are still storing. If they fill those stop feeding and add a super (unlikely this year). Or until they stop taking it.

    Again thanks!

  • Rusty, I’m sorry if I confused anyone. I’m terrible about using wrong terminology. My husband calls me on that all the time.
    Thanks for clarifying. 🙂

    • Sandy,

      No, I don’t blame new beekeepers for the terminology problem. I blame the mentors and experienced beekeepers who know better but who use sloppy language and confuse the new ones. It’s one of my pet peeves, but it’s not your fault.

  • Hey Rusty, I’ve got a weird situation.

    I purchased two nucs probably about 2 weeks ago. Unfortunately, the man I bought them from was having issues with the EZ nucs and taped the ventilation. As a result, these bees got very hot and we had some losses in transit. A lot of the capped brood was lost. On Wednesday, I inspected and was excited to see that they had been clearing out brood, and saw some new larvae, so the queen was laying up until last weekend. Today during my inspection, some of the old brood was still viable, but I have not seen any more new brood.

    The other issue I’m having is it’s almost as if they are wanting to go honey bound with a queen. But they’re storing all the sugar water I’ve been feeding them (1:1).

    So my questions are:

    1. Could the heat have damaged the queen, and do I need to requeen? Or hold out and see what happens…

    2: They are building new comb, but I’m worried they are working on storing the sugar water instead of using it, should I quit feeding ?

    • William,

      I think the queen could have been damaged, but I’m not sure that is what you are seeing. If your bees are backfilling the brood area, perhaps they are getting ready to swarm. If it were me, I’d probably continue watching for a few days.

      If bees are building comb and storing sugar water, then they are doing what they are hard-wired to do. If there is excess sugar water available (in the form of nectar or sugar syrup) they will store it. So, if you don’t want them to store syrup, stop feeding it. Remember that your bees don’t readily distinguish between syrup and nectar.

  • Rusty,

    I am, just this year, trying to build up an apiary. I have created a number of hives from removing bees from walls, fences, and water meters. I am always able to get almost all of their brood by rubber banding some of their old comb into frames. So, I essentially have several nucs now.

    They have all aggressively taken 1:1 sugar syrup, but have drawn little new comb with it. Here it is late July in Texas and I’ve got colonies with 5, 6 and 7 frames and no stored honey to go through the winter. There has been little rain, so no resources are available for them. I am considering putting on a second deep and putting several jars of syrup and pollen patties on each. I’m hoping that they can use this big feeding to draw out the second box and build a population and put on some stores before winter. What do you think?

    If I aggressively supply syrup, will they just plug up their brood nest with it at this time of year and actually reduce the population?

    • Lynn,

      If they don’t have any stores you will have to feed them. But don’t expect them to draw out comb at this time of year. Yes, they will backfill the brood area but that won’t reduce the population. The population decreases this time of year regardless of the food supply. Colonies will start to increase in size again sometime after the winter solstice in late December or early January.

  • Thanks, Rusty. If they are not going to be raising brood, should I forgo feeding pollen patties? I fed some patties a few weeks ago and they ate them.

  • Hi rusty, early october in northern Quebec. I am feeding my four hives (new colonies that I got mid july). All seems well in all 4 hives but in one of the hives the syrup is not going down as fast as in the 3 other hives. I have been feeding quite a bit to make sure they have enough for the long winter. Could I have fed too much and that this hive can’t take anymore (more or less 75 lbs of honey in the hive). What do you think?

  • Hi…. like many new to this…. we are in NE Ohio….just started two packages…. I saw on an above post… rusty you mentioned when you stop the sugar water to keep a pan of water out with marbles and stuff so they don’t drown…. makes sense but would a pond count for a really big o pan of water? Also how often should one go out and feed and check a new hive? I’m guessing it’s an everyone is different question but I’m curious… thanks in advance and thanks for this site….

    • Serena,

      If you have a natural water source, you don’t need to supply water. New beekeepers generally check more frequently than experienced beekeepers because that is how they learn. When you’re new, every couple of weeks is fine.

  • Hi Rusty,

    I responded to a swarm report on August 14. Late in the year, but likely not an abscond, because I saw them exit and congregate out of a conference center with a years-old attic colony.

    It was a very small swarm. Though defensive at first when I’d go near the hive, they became quite good-natured when they realized every time I opened up, they got a boost: a quart of syrup with Vit C & Zinc, or a frame of fresh pollen, or some neighboring nurse bees, or frame of emerging brood.

    This apiary is in my front yard. I’m outside a lot in the late afternoon. Up to now, I thought bees see me as some kind of (veiled) astronaut floating past, sometimes moving their house around. While gardening, I’m just another object in motion. But…I kid you not, I think the bees from this swarm are actually begging at me when their feeder is empty. I think that THEY think they have me trained. A few will hover and whirr around me but don’t buzz loud, then fly to the hive, then fly back to me. As if they are “pointing.” I obey by going over to the hive and refilling the feeder. This has happened a few times.

    Have you ever heard of such a thing? Are these bees problem solving by getting my attention? Or am I imagining it? I hope they don’t think I am a giant honeydew aphid.

    • Gardener,

      I’ve read similar reports, but I don’t know what to make of them. I’ve read that wasps can recognize human faces, so I suppose it’s possible that bees can too.

  • Since the thread is about feeding and here we are in the SW Interior of Washington State, temps at night have taken an unseasonably cold turn coming close to teens at night. Daytime temps just touching 50. Add to that the unique challenges of feeding top bar hives. Fondant board feeding requires opening the hive however briefly in order to pull one and drop new board in. And so, when do I just cross my fingers and hope they’ve got what they need to overwinter? It’s a smallish hive with 18 bars. 15 have comb, 7 brood combs. First year hive. PS, they’ve been coming in with pollen at 30+% of the bees when weather was warm enough as recently as last week AND they are/were building new comb closest to the fondant board. Window view shows what I am assuming is just uncapped fondant converted in some comb cells, if that’s the right way to describe it. Long way of asking a question, sorry.

  • Hi Rusty, I just conducted my first inspection of both top bar hives installed with bees just 10 days ago. The first hive I inspected looked perfect to me with larvae and eggs. The other hive’s comb was filled with syrup and fondant (it was really cold right after I installed the packages but has since warmed up and trees and spring flowers are now blooming here in Salt Lake City). I did not see any eggs in the hive with the comb full of “honey”. I’m trying to figure out if the queen is defective or she just can’t find anywhere to lay because the bees are overly sequestering the syrup and fondant. Do you think I should remove the syrup/fondant? Can you remind me how long to wait for a queen to lay (new package scenario) before making a plan to replace? Thanks for your help!

    • Rhonda,

      A package contains a mated queen, so she should begin laying within a day or two of installation. If she wanted to lay, the workers would make sure she had a place to do it, but if they are filling all the cells, it may mean that the queen’s pheromones are too low and the workers are ignoring her. I would replace her. Alternatively, you could give them a frame of eggs and young larvae from the other hive, delete the unsuccessful queen, and let them build their own.

      I think the syrup/fondant is a red herring. In other words, I don’t think it’s the cause of the problem but you can take it out if you think they have enough food stored to get them through any cold nights. It’s just a management choice.

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