The secret of bee tea . . . remains a secret
A sidebar in the August 2010 Bee Culture created a lot of buzz about bee tea. The article claimed that bee tea boosts the immune system of honey bees, but it doesn’t say what in the tea helps the bees. It also doesn’t cite any studies that show a beneficial effect from its use.
Bee tea is given to bees as a feeding supplement in late summer or fall if a hive doesn’t have enough honey stores to take it through the winter. It is basically 2:1 sugar syrup made with brewed chamomile or thyme tea with the addition of mineral salt.
Now mineral salt is known to be beneficial to bees, but I’ve never read anything about the health effects of brewed leaves of any sort, so I remain skeptical.
However, the optional formula includes the addition of lemongrass and spearmint oils which have been shown in laboratory experiments to enhance honey bee health. But if you use just the sugar, salt, and tea without the essential oils, I’m not sure you are getting anything you wouldn’t get with just regular 2:1 syrup and a little mineral salt.
Nevertheless, here is the recipe that appeared in Bee Culture:
- 16 cups white cane sugar
- 6 cups hot tap water
- 2 cups brewed chamomile and/or thyme tea
- ½ teaspoon mineral salt
- 4 teaspoons Pro Health or Honey-B-Healthy (optional)
- Dissolve sugar and salt in 6 cups hot water and stir until dissolved
- Boil 2 cups water, pour over tea, and let it steep (covered) for 10-15 minutes
- Strain tea and add to sugar solution
- If using, add 4 teaspoons Pro Health or Honey-B-Healthy
- Mix thoroughly
- Fill feeders and refrigerate any leftovers
 These products contain lemongrass and spearmint oils with a soy-based emulsifier.