How long do bees live without food?

When doing regular work like gathering pollen and foraging, bees are rarely too far from their hive.

Since worker bees can harvest nectar and pollen and only fly in close proximity to their hives, they rarely experience severe starvation. They cannot, however, survive for more than a day without water or pollen if it is winter and food is scarce. When a bee experiences extreme hunger, the lifespan of a drone bee is only a few hours, that of a worker bee is up to 24 hours, and that of a queen bee is between 24 hours and 2 days.

bee landing on a flower harvesting nectar

Can bees starve to death?

A bee can indeed starve to death if it flies for an extended period of time without food or water.

There are fewer nectar-secreting flowers throughout the winter, and because of the extremely low temperatures, bees cannot excrete nectar from flowers.

As a result, they focus on storing honey in their hives when their nectar supply is limited. To make sure that each hive has enough food, a beekeeper must regularly examine the amount of honey that each hive has stored.

How to tell if bees are starving to death?

Bees usually steal honey from nearby colonies and behave aggressively. Additionally, you’ll see that a lot of bees are leaving their hives in search of food.

In a desperate effort to survive, bees would also feed on their own larvae. Due to an insufficiency of nectar and honey, bee workers and the queen will start eating the undeveloped larvae.

Bees will resort to eating their own brood in order to survive.

Within 24 hours, bees will also begin to exhibit indications of starvation, wherein they’ll start to fly in circles and crawl around.

It’s critical to keep an eye on a dying bee’s symptoms to detect it. 

Disorientation, loss of balance, lack of coordination, and abnormal buzzing are a few typical symptoms.

Bees that are close to death will fly for a long period of time, cling to flowers, and appear lethargic. Eventually, these bees perish and fall off the flower.

What to feed bees when there’s no nectar or honey?

When colonies are short of worker bees while it is winter, nectar and honey shortages are common.

When feeding bees, there are numerous considerations to keep in mind.

You can temporarily feed your colony sugar and sugar syrup if you start to notice a nectar or honey scarcity.

Sugar syrup as an immediate source of food

A colony should be fed sugar syrup rather than dry sugar when it is on the brink of starvation. Bees that are starving lack the energy needed to melt sugar crystals.

Beekeepers choose a 1:1 (1 part sugar & 1 part water) ratio when preparing sugar syrup to stimulate brood rearing.

Beekeepers use a 2:1 (2 parts sugar & 1 part water) ratio for food storage. This ratio is used to preserve food for the winter but is unsuitable for brood rearing. When the honey supply in the hive is low, stronger syrups should be used.

Put water in a container and bring it to a gentle boil to make the sugar syrup. After taking the container off the heat, add the sugar and stir until the crystals are completely dissolved.

Never boil the sugar mixture since it might caramelize and become harmful to bees.

Let the syrup cool to room temperature before giving it to the bees.

Using dry sugar as feed

It’s vital to remember that when using dry sugar as a feed, you shouldn’t feed it to small or weak colonies because they still can’t extract sufficient water from the sugar.

However, as dry sugar is easier to melt in high humidity seasons like fall or spring, you can feed small colonies with it. Don’t feed it during the dry, scorching summers.

Only feed dry sugar to medium to large colonies by positioning them on mats or trays beneath the hive lid. Regardless of the strength of a bee colony, beekeepers frequently use water to dissolve the sugar crystals.

What are different methods to feed bees?

Boardman feeders, Mason jar feeders, hive top feeders, frame feeders, and open feeding are the feeders that are used the most frequently.

Boardman feeders, usually referred to as entrance feeders, let you check on the bees and supply food without having to enter the hive.

The beekeeper can easily detect when the clear glass jar needs to be refilled and should be cleaned.

However, one of the biggest problems with this feeder is that it causes other bees to steal your hive’s food because it’s left out in the open, which forces you to place it in the hive.

This is also a problem because a hungry colony can easily drain it, meaning you would need to open the hive several times simply to refill the jar.

Mason jar feeders are widely available and not too difficult to make. Except for the absence of a wooden holder, it is identical to the boardman. Beekeepers use Mason jars as their feeders by making tiny holes on the lid.

Additionally, you can create numerous mason jar feeders and set them inside the hive.

This feeder’s basic design is a shallow box with a lot of syrup storage space.

Since they don’t need to often refill their feeders, this feeder is ideal for beekeepers whose hives are far away from reach.

If you use a hive top feeder, it’s crucial to choose the right size feeder to prevent other bees from stealing your hive’s food.

Frame feeders are placed within the brood nests. Frame feeders are ideal for mimicking how bees normally consume and produce honey.

Since bees don’t have to leave their hive to eat, frame feeders are also excellent for the winter. Since bees can drown, it’s crucial to monitor how much food you put in the feeder.

Open feeding is not advised, especially if honey is being used as food. It is prohibited to leave honey out in the open for insects to feed on.

Open feeding during the winter is not suitable for bees since the cold could cause their wings to freeze and damage their health.


Bees require food to survive, just like every other living thing. Bees are highly susceptible when winter approaches because there may be instances where a colony fails to store nectar and honey in their hives, resulting in a food shortage. At this point, beekeepers must step in and provide their colony with alternative food sources. In order to keep your bees healthy throughout the winter, it’s crucial to understand how and what you feed them.