essential oils feeding bees honey bee nutrition

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[1] (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

Regardless of any health benefits, the essential oils also help retard mold growth and fermentation in the feeders—a real plus.


[1] These products contain lemongrass and spearmint oils with a soy-based emulsifier.


  • I read on another site that the chamomile is good for bee health & that the thyme helps with varroa mites. And on another site I read that they also add dandelion root tea to the mix which really boosts the immune system. In general the whole concoction is supposed to strengthen the bees immune system to keep them healthy & strong and then they are able to fight off disease…all in the effort to keep things more natural than all the chemicals that are usually suggested.

    BTW: I’ve gotten some great info from your site here, thx so much for sharing! Just starting out this year & there is SOOOO much to learn!!

  • This reference about bee tea in this article is NOT the “bee tea” I’m familiar with or use or recommend. I don’t use “white sugar” at all. The organic herbs I use are flowers of chamomile, yarrow, echinacea, leaves and stems of stinging nettle, leaves of peppermint, sage, rue, thyme, lemon balm (melissa) and hyssop. All ingredients are grown using organic/biodynamic methods from Spikenard farms. Although Spikenard Farms does offer the ingredients so you can grow your own. “This tea mixture is meant to be used to support the metabolic system of the honeybee as well as strengthen her immune system.” (copied from their site). The steeped herbs are mixed with bee’s own honey.”

    • You can feed bee tea anytime the weather is warm enough to allow bees to drink liquid, which is generally about 50 degrees F (10 degrees C) or above.

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