Carbohydrate Honey Bee Feed: National Management Survey 2011-2012

Responses to questions about carbohydrate and protein feed, and their supplements, from the 2010-2011 survey are reviewed here. Average winter colony mortality is compared among beekeepers who reported they used or did not use various products and methods in feeding their colonies. More responses and detail in dose and practices are needed in future surveys to make more clear comparisons. However, one result that stood out is that beekeepers who fed colonies by adding frames of honey to colonies reported 4.4 MORE over wintering colony deaths per 100 managed colonies than those who did not report feeding colonies frames of honey. As with other survey reports, numbers of respondents using a particular product, or feeding method, is reported here along with the number of colonies managed. This gives some impression of the commonality of practices or products used by responding beekeepers.

Carbohydrate and Protein Honey Bee Feed and Feed Supplements

Carbohydrate feed

Carbohydrate sources fed to bees include sugar (sucrose) syrup , sucrose candy (i.e., fondant ), high fructose corn syrup, excess extracted honey, honey in the comb (added unextracted frames), and wet honey supers. Most beekeepers in our survey reported applying at least one of these forms of feed to a majority of their colonies, at least once, between April 2011 and March 2012 (2,883 feed carbohydrate vs. 726 who did not). There was not a significant difference in average winter mortality between groups. However, carbohydrate feeding is clearly an essential part of honey bee management and we do not discourage using carbohydrate feed.

When examining the responses for carbohydrate feed use by the specific products, beekeepers who feed colonies by adding frames of honey to colonies reported 4.4MORE over wintering colony deaths per 100 managed colonies than those who did not report feeding colonies frames of honey (Figure 1). This result warrants more investigation. It could be that beekeepers who lost more colonies simply had more frames of honey to feed. Or, there could be an underlying effect of feeding frames of honey on colony survivorship.

carbfeedingproduct

Figure 1: Beekeepers who feed colonies by adding frames of honey to colonies reported 4.4 MORE  over wintering colony deaths per 100 managed colonies than those who did not report feeding colonies frames of honey.

For all other carbohydrate feed products (candy, dry sugar, High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS), honey, sugar syrup or wet supers), beekeepers using those specified products did not suffer fewer or greater losses when compared to beekeepers who did not report using that product. We do not know how much feed or the concentration of feed that was fed to colonies. This information may have an effect on survivorship. The number of beekeepers using each product and the number of colonies they manage are reported in the Table.

Table: A comparison of average winter colony mortality among beekeepers who reported they did not feed and those who did feed specified carbohydrate feed products to a majority of their colonies, at least once, between April 2011 and March 2012
Total Number of Respondents Providing Valid Responses
Total Number of Colonies Managed
Average Number of Colonies Managed
Average Colony Loss
Mean
Standard Error
Mean(%)
Lower 95% CI
Upper 95% CI
Candy Board
Product Used
794
13,462
17.0
7.9
20.6
18.6
22.5
Product Not Used
2,815
219,796
78.1
14.8
24.3
23.1
25.4
Dry Sugar
Product Used
23
552
24.0
16.9
16.3
7.0
25.6
Product Not Used
3,586
232,706
64.9
11.8
23.5
22.5
24.5
Frames of Honey
Product Used
895
65,495
73.2
30.5
26.8
24.7
28.8
Product Not Used
2,714
167,763
61.8
11.9
22.4
21.3
23.5
HFCS
Product Used
182
159,604
876.9
214.4
24.1
20.3
27.8
Product Not Used
3,427
73,654
21.5
3.5
23.4
22.4
24.4
Honey
Product Used
390
6,605
16.9
6.1
25.1
22.1
28.1
Product Not Used
3,219
226,653
70.4
13.1
23.3
22.2
24.3
Sugar Syrup
Product Used
2,819
145,090
51.5
10.8
23.3
22.2
24.4
Product Not Used
790
88,168
111.6
37.1
24.0
21.9
26.1

Disclaimer

This information is for educational purposes only. References to commercial products or trade names do not imply endorsement by the Bee Informed Partnership or its members. The results presented here are the summary of the population who responded. The sample may not be representative of the beekeeping population at large. These results simply highlight differences in the sample population. The results cannot be considered conclusive, causative, protective, or attest to product efficacy or lack of efficacy

Methods

Management Survey 2011 – 2012

How average losses were calculated and presented  |  Watch a vlog here

Appendix Items

Download the complete reports in the list below

Carbohydrate Feed

All survey reports listed here: Bee Informed National Management Survey 2011-2012 

Written By: The Bee Informed Team

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The Bee Informed Team regularly announces the release of results at beeinformed.org. The Bee Informed Partnership is an extension project that endeavors to decrease the number of honey bee colonies that die over the winter. A listing of all project activity reports can be found at the 'Results' tab above. Results published in scientific journals are included as links. Who's on the team? See the Team Pages.