This question always pops up with new beekeepers who don't seem to know why and what we feed bees. most of the summer months bees are happy collecting nectar and storing it in the supers but if we have an absolutely dreadful summer and bees are unable to collect nectar for long periods of time then they can run out of stores rapidly and need to be fed with a mixture of 1 pint of water and 1 pound of sugar which represents the sugar content of nectar which bees can digest readily, this emergency feed mixture can also be applied in a spray bottle and administered directly onto the bees.
This frequently happens in what beekeepers call the "June gap" this is the period when all the spring flowers have gone and waiting for the summer flowers to bloom.
Winter feeding is a mixture of 1 pint of water and 2 pounds of sugar, this is a stronger mixture so bees don't need to evaporate so much water to enable them to store it. Bees need around 40 pounds of stores for them to survive the winter in a normal year, insulating a hive will reduce the consumption in a colony so less feeding is required. Emergency feeding in the winter is done with bakers fondant as this strength of sugar represents the same water contents of honey. Some beekeepers only feed fondant for winter stores.
Spring feeding is done to encourage bees to get going but if the weather turns cold you can get a situation where there is too much brood and not enough nurse bees to take care of the brood. The timing has to be right.
Remember when inspecting your hive you should always check for stores and probably more important than finding your queen.
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