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Digital Subscriptions > Hobby Farms > Jan/Feb 2019 > Honeybees


Hobby farmers are accustomed to feeding and caring for animals, but sometimes it’s difficult to think of honeybees as livestock. After all, they’re basically wild creatures we give temporary shelter in exchange for honey and pollination. Yet, research has shown that even before they faced the threats of varroa mites, loss of native forage and widespread pesticide use, unmanaged colonies in the wild suffered losses as great as 50 percent a year. As caretakers, we can do better than that. Making sure that our bees have adequate nutrition at the proper times is one way to improve the odds.

1. Know When to Feed

More is not always better. Nectar and pollen provide not only the calories but also the proteins and minerals a colony needs to thrive. With natural sources available, we should avoid artificial substitutes.

In general, honeybees benefit from feeding in three circumstances. Newly installed packages benefit from feeding until they can draw out comb and begin filling it with nectar and pollen. This takes a few days to a few weeks. We also should feed when there are no stored resources in the hive, or when there nectar is not available for the bees to bring into the hive.

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