feeding bees how to

How to feed crystallized honey

Over the last few years, I’ve learned many interesting tidbits from Phillip over at Mudsongs.org. Several weeks ago he wrote something about feeding crystallized honey back to his bees by just leaving it in the jar.

Why did I never think of this? I usually try to do something to it, which is really silly since I’m the one always preaching “do less, not more.” I’ve tried mixing crystallized honey with water and putting it in feeders; I’ve tried mixing it with pollen substitute and making patties. Each of these projects was messier than the one before.

So Phillip comes along and says to just put the whole jar in the hive. It sounded brilliant to me. Since I have a newly captured swarm I’m trying to nurse along, I rummaged around until I found a pint mason jar full of crystallized honey. It was the rock-hard type. You would need a chisel to get it out, so I was doubtful.

Nevertheless, I got a shallow super and put it on top of an inner cover. I placed the jar on its side and closed up the hive. Two days later, I went back to see if they were making any progress.

I have to say, the jar was so clean I almost forgot to wash it. I could have stuck it back in the cupboard and no one would know. In two days those bees ate every molecule of honey and polished the jar as well.

So now I’m a convert. I rarely have crystallized honey, but now I can’t wait to try this again. Thanks, Phillip. Very efficient!



  • I had honey crystallised on the comb. Faced with not being able to extract (I built a warming cabinet since to solve that) I didn’t want to waste it. So I put it in the super interleaved with empty comb which I dunked in water first. They cleaned up the comb and took the honey down for winter stores.

  • After last year, which wasn’t my most enjoyable year of beekeeping, simplicity and efficiency is the name of the game for me. I’m glad it worked out for you too. I eventually placed all of my leftover honey, most of it at least partially crystallized, into this year’s hives. The bees ate it up in no time. Honey bees love honey, I guess.

  • My experience has been the opposite. Given a frame with crystalized honey, they sucked the liquid honey and let the crystals drop on the floor or carried out of the hive. So I ended up mixing the honey crystals with water and feeding it to my nucs with virgin queens. Virgins are encouraged by nectar flow to fly out to mate. So it worked out, but they did not like the crystals at all.

  • There is nothing wrong with crystallized honey. If you want to feed it to your bees great. But it’s perfectly good honey, just warm it up by putting the crystallized jar of honey (with the lid still on it) in a pan of water and heating the water on very low heat, no boiling preferably, about 110°F. Boiling kills the good enzymes in the honey.

    Also you can just use the crystallized honey and spread it with a butter knife on your toast. It doesn’t drip that way.

    • I absolutely agree, but some people think the bees won’t take crystallized honey, which just isn’t true.

    • I have nothing against crystallized honey. I know it’s still good honey. I like partially-crystallized honey the most because it’s easy to spread. But I had so much left over from last year, I figured the easiest way to clean up the bottles was give them to the bees. I was right.

  • If the bees didn’t eat the crystallized honey, perhaps they didn’t have access to enough water to liquefy the honey.

    I live in the middle of the ocean where there’s no shortage of rain, but maybe crystallized honey doesn’t work as well in a dryer climate. Maybe.

    • I also think it has something to do with the size of the crystals. Mine was really fine, but I’ve seen some honey go into big crystals like rock salt instead of like sand.

  • I have been putting in frames of crystilized honey above the inner cover with a super on top. Every day I give the frames a few quirts of water to provide moisture to allow the bees to dissolve the honey.

    I get two benefits; filling up the brood boxes faster and empty frames from this years splits. It’s a win-win in my opinion.

    • Jeff,

      The squirt of honey is a good idea. I love the idea that the bees clean up so well and nothing is wasted.

    • Neil,

      I think it is nonsense. It was a survey, not a study, so there were no controls. Many people think the results were due to exogenous variables. For instance: A colony is dying. In a last-ditch effort to save them, the beekeeping tries feeding them honey, hoping it helps to boost their strength. But it was too late and the bees die anyway. The survey then asks what you were feeding when they died. Answer: honey. From what I’ve read, this paper was thoroughly dissed.

  • I collected some honey from a feral colony (the tree they were in fell down). After processing the honey, I left some of the kitchen equipment and smushed honeycomb for my home-colony to clean. WIth all the rain, I decided to put the tins and spoons etc in the hive, covered by an empty box. In a matter of two days, I now have hundreds of dead bees.

    I thought maybe they were drowning in the honey, as they couldn’t climb out of the bowl for example, so I’m not putting in anything sloped again. I have some other theories (keep in mind I’m a first year beek). Are they gorging themselves to death? They look it, like they are turning black and bloated. Are these more of the robber bees from earlier in the season who now have easier pickings, but they’re also being killed off? Is there something on my equipment, like dish soap residue or even molecules of pesticide (a lot of this stuff road in the back of my truck which has also carried pesticides I use on rental properties. Is it possible that the pesticides I mixed/spilled in the back of my truck 2 weeks ago could off-gas “fumes” to permeate honeycomb?? I even washed the back of the truck with soap and water!

    I think this colony is allergic to honey, considering they have never put any up! I’ve never seen a single capped cell in this hive. They also quit drinking sugar syrup a few weeks ago.

    • JP,

      Honey bees don’t do well in containers of honey, even if it is very shallow. They get it all over themselves and then get stuck in it and die. However you feed it, just make sure they have things (like stones) to climb on so they can get out again.

  • Hi, can I feed crystalized honey in the winter? I’m in Pa and would like to supplement their food as we approach late winter/very early spring.

  • I am Kev from Runcorn, England. I have been keeping bees now for three years, started with one hive, tried adding a flow hive to see what they are about. The bees just stay in the brood box and do not bother with the artificial frames at all. I now have a third hive almost ready to populate. My first batch of honey was a very popular rich dark honey, cut to two years later as there was nothing last year and I got twice as much honey, a lot lighter in colour but within just two weeks every single jar has crystalised. I do not think this will sell as well so just read some good suggestions of putting the jars in the hives and giving back to the bees. My question is this, will doing this mean my next batch of honey will also crystalise?

    • Kev,

      That will depend on when you give it to them. If they are actively making and storing honey when you feed it to them, they may just re-store it. So it would probably re-crystallize. If you feed it to them in the winter when they are consuming their honey for survival, they would not re-store it.

      As a general rule, folks in the UK are more accepting of crystallized honey than North Americans, but you would know better than I. Did that light, fast-crystallizing honey come from oilseed rape? Sounds like it.

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