I have gotten several questions from different beekeepers about whether or not they should be feeding. There was a long and lively discussion at the January BONS meeting on this very subject. As with most things and always with beekeepers, there is no simple answer. Here is my take on this subject. The answer is it depends on the circumstances. In the simplest form the answer is to feed only when the bees need it. Feeding cost money and is not as good as honey that bees make from nectar.
Feeding is also dependent on the time of year and what he beekeeper wishes to gain. As I write this, it is the end of January so any feeding would, in my opinion, be limited to keeping the hive from starving. Therefore if there is ample stores, no need to feed. OK, so how would I determine there is not enough stores. As of a week ago (see post “First January Inspection”) the top box on most of my hives are still almost full of honey from last year. Lucky me, but I’m not in the clear because February and March can use up a lot of honey. Bees fly out on warm days, don’t find any nectar and come back with an empty tank. At this time (January and February) if I decided that the bees were running short I would make bee candy and fed them. Many good candy recipes are available from the internet. I don’t use HFCS. I pour the hot candy into good quality paper plates and place the plates candy side down over the brood nest. One other method is to place a sheet of newspaper on the frames above the brood nest (leave about 2 inches around it open) and pour sugar on the paper. It is quick and easy.
I would not use any liquid feed or top feeder now because for the most part they won’t or can’t use it. Liquid feed can also trigger egg laying if there are several warm days and without enough bees to cover the new brood they die creating a bit of a problem.
Feel free to add any suggestions you may have.