How to feed bees in the Fall

A single bee hive can have a population of tens of thousands of bees during its peak during the Spring to Summer. However, the bee population will begin to plummet when Fall comes, and the weather will get colder. One of the reasons for this decline is the significant reduction of available pollen and nectar from foraging sites [1]

So, should you intervene and feed the bees when the bees’ food sources begin to go down and the bee population starts to decrease? If so, how would you feed the bees?

During the Fall, you must first continuously assess the bees’ current needs, especially their honey reserves. So, if you notice that they need an external intervention, you may provide them with a sugar syrup mixture. You may use the 1:1 or a ticker 2:1 ratio of sugar and water.

Some beekeepers prefer an equal part between sugar and water. In contrast, others prefer a thicker concentration of two parts sugar and one part water. You can add a bee top or frame bee feeder in your hives to ensure that they are adequately fed to prevent them from dying of starvation. You may also use pollen substitutes to feed your bees.

Let us learn about the life of bees in the Fall and how to help them during this season.

Do you have to feed bees in the Fall?

bees flying into a beehive

Bees are some of the busiest animals in the world as they work tirelessly daily, collecting nectar and pollen from flowers miles away from their hive. In return, they pollinate them during the better parts of spring and summer climates. However, things start to change as the Fall comes in, and fewer nectar-secreting flowers are available [2], commonly referred to as dearth. 

So, when the usual source of nectar and pollen becomes scarce, the bees will begin to use their honey as the emergency food supply [3]. However, their supply may not last too long. When that happens, the bees will be more prone to dying from starvation, so human intervention may be needed.

To learn even more about bees you can read Can bees sting through a bee suit? and At what temperature do bees die?

What are your options when feeding bees?

When you realize that your bee colony needs external intervention to avoid dying of starvation, there are some options you can choose from to ensure that they are adequately fed with the proper nutrition that they need.

Like all animals, bees also require proper nutrition that they can typically get from the nectar and pollen that they forage. These foods include carbohydrates, amino acids, lipids, vitamins, minerals, and water. However, it should also come in proper proportion for their survival.

beekeeper taking out bees in a beehive

1. Nectar Substitute for Bees

One of the bees’ primary sources of nutrition is the nectar they get from flowers. So, when there are limited sources of nectar-producing flowers, you can create some nectar substitute for bees using water and sugar.

A good sugar-to-water ratio for your nectar substitute must mimic the real thing, about 1:1, or one pound of sugar to one pound of water. However, other beekeepers prefer feeding using a thicker ratio of two parts of sugar and one part of water.

You can place your sugar syrup in bee top feeders or frame feeders in the hive to ensure that your bees get the food you are preparing.

2. Pollen Substitute for Bees

Some beekeeping suppliers sell collected pollen which you can use to feed your bees. However, there is a risk of also bringing pests and diseases from commercially-available pollen. One alternative is to collect your own pollen by using a pollen trapper. You may also create a pollen patty out of pollen substitute and sugar syrup. 

3. Honey

Another way you can provide food for the bees is by placing honey inside their hives. However, you must be careful to use honey from unreliable sources, including contaminants that may lead to bee diseases. If possible, use your own honey supply from your other bee hives to be sure.

4. Water

Another crucial part of the bees’ food consumption is water, so it is important to place water accessible to bees. Ensure your water is not too deep, as bees can’t swim and may drown from the water you set for them [4].

How much sugar do the bees need?

bee drinking nectar from a hand

According to research, a colony of 50,000 honeybees needs about 1.1 liters (or two pounds) of 50% sugar syrup daily. This is almost equivalent to one teaspoon (5 mL) of 50% syrup for every 227 bees in a day [5].

So, based on these findings, we can prepare the proper ratio of sugar and water to the syrup. This will be the basis of how we will make the concoction to feed the bees to help them store enough food for the winter’s colder days and prevent them from dying of starvation.

You should also take a look at Do bumble bees die after they sting?

How and When should you feed the bees in the Fall?

When feeding your bees, you must be careful not to carelessly place your sugar syrup or pollen in the open. This avoids attracting other bees from other colonies, including robber bees and other insects, which can steal your sugar syrup.

However, it would also be best to place their food late in the afternoon to ensure that your bees are already home and the other bees will not steal the food you prepared for your bees. 

Another consideration when feeding the bees is the temperature because bees prefer warmer sugar syrup than 50 degrees F.

What are the challenges of feeding bees in the Fall?

Aside from the natural challenges of feeding the bees, like the little nectar and pollen, it makes feeding harder due to competitors, which can steal and consume the food you prepare for the bees.

There is also the risk of feeding contaminated honey and pollen from external suppliers that can harm the colony. So it is better to prepare them from your own storage.

To learn more about bees, you should also read How are bees getting in my house?

What happens to the bee population in the Fall?

beehive on a field

The Fall is the start of another cycle for the bees because many of them will not survive. However, there are things you need to know about what happens to the bees during the Fall.

1. The bees’ food source starts to dwindle in the Fall.

During Fall, the number of nectar and pollen-rich flowers commonly foraged by the bees is also called dearth. Since the source of nectar and pollen is diminished, the bees’ honey supply will also reduce and may run out before the end of the winter.

If the honey supply is depleted before the end of the winter, your colony may die from starvation. This is why you need to intervene with the bee’s food supply by using nectar, pollen substitutes, and even honey to increase food storage.

2. Fewer eggs are laid, and the bee population is diminished.

During Fall, the bees change their priority from increasing their population to survival. As a result, the queen bee starts laying fewer eggs, and the bee population diminishes, leaving only a few worker bees.

3. The older bees will gradually die before Spring.

The worker bees’ life is only about one or two months. This means that they will eventually die out before the Spring starts. Then after the winter, the queen bee will lay more eggs and become new worker bees.

4. The drone bees are kicked out of the hive.

Drone bees are dead weights in the hive because they absolutely have no responsibility in their colony besides their role in reproduction. However, when the food dwindles, the worker bees know what to do: remove the unnecessary drones.

So the worker bees will kick the drones out of the hive and let them die from starvation or freezing.

Also read: Will an empty beehive attract bees? and Will wasp spray kill bees?


Bees need proper nutrition to survive, especially during the Fall when their food sources, like nectar and pollen from flowers, are limited. As a result, the beekeeper is responsible for ensuring their survival by carefully intervening and providing them food.

However, it is essential to assess the bees’ needs by continuously checking their honey reserves. When you know their supply wouldn’t last, you may give them the supply, like sugar syrup, pollen substitutes and commercial pollen, honey from your own storage, and water.

It is crucial to ensure that the food you supply gets to the proper recipients and is not stolen by other bees, like robber bees and insects. To be sure, you can place them directly into the hive.


[1] – Seasonal cycles of activities in colonies. Mid-Atlantic Apiculture Research and Extension Consortium. (n.d.). Retrieved October 26, 2022, from

[2] – Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions. (2022, October 21). Feeding honey bees to prevent starvation. Agriculture Victoria. Retrieved October 26, 2022, from

[3] – Honey. (2022, October 20). In Wikipedia.

[4] – Bees need water: Establish water sources in late winter to keep them out of the pool in summer. ANR Blogs. (n.d.). Retrieved October 27, 2022, from 

[5] – Feeding honey bees. Site Name. (n.d.). Retrieved October 26, 2022, from