When should you stop feeding bees sugar water?

Bees gather their food sources, like pollen and nectar, from various flowers, especially during spring [1]. However, sometimes the supply in their foraging sites becomes less, or they can’t go out to get their food. When that happens, the bees are in danger of dying from starvation because of the limited supply they can get. 

So if you’re a beekeeper, you must know when to start feeding bees with sugar water and also when to stop.

Knowing that you don’t always need to feed bees with sugar water is essential. So it is important to avoid providing this artificial nectar all year round. After feeding your bees sugar water, you may stop if the temperature drops below 57 degrees and switch to solid sugar to avoid increasing the moisture in the hive. 

On the other hand, if you bought your bees, you could stop feeding them sugar water once they start making their own honey to avoid mixing sugar and nectar.

Why do beekeepers feed their bees with sugar water?

bee drinking nectar from a hand

Beekeepers feed their bees with sugar water during times of dearth or the period when there are fewer nectar-producing flowers, which can cause starvation for the colony. So, sugar water is one of the common alternatives to help the bees get the nutrition they usually obtain from natural sources. However, it is still incomplete [2].

During the Spring, beekeepers feed bees with sugar water to boost their energy during the start of the season. However, the sugar water is only an artificial solution for the bee’s food problem, which they can naturally resolve on their own soon.

The typical ratio of sugar to water is one-to-one (1:1) or two-to-one (2:1). For a one-to-one ratio, one part of sugar will be mixed with one part of water, which tries to mimic nectar. On the other hand, for the two-to-one ratio, two parts of sugar are combined in one part of water when bees need more sugar.

The best time to feed bees with sugar water is during the first two weeks of the Spring to jumpstart their energy, just as the queen bee starts to increase its egg production. 

To learn more about keeping bees, you should take a look at Why do beekeepers use smoke?

How much sugar water should you give the bees?

beekeeper taking out beehive

Bees are incredibly hard-working insects, which means they require enough energy to sustain them throughout the day. 

Worker bees typically need 11 mg of dry sugar per day, 22 mL of sugar water (1:1 ratio), or 33 mL of sugar water (2:1 ratio). This means a teaspoon of sugar water is enough to feed 220+ bees daily. However, tens of thousands of bees in a colony will need more than one liter of sugar water per day [3].

If you’d also like to learn something about wasps, I’d recommend checking out Do wasps have teeth?

When should you stop feeding bees sugar water?

Bees may sometimes need an external boost from beekeepers, especially when there is a food shortage in the hive. This is when feeding them with sugar water is helpful. However, bees don’t need constant nursing because they can find their own food. Here are some signs that it is time to stop feeding them sugar water.

1. When the temperature drops below 57 degrees.

You should change your bee’s diet to solid sugar, like sugar cubes or sugar boards, when the temperature drops below 57 degrees Fahrenheit (or 14 degrees Celsius). The reason is that it increases the moisture in the beehive, which is not easy to evaporate in the long run [4]

2. When the bees start making their own honey.

Suppose you purchase your bees from other beekeepers. In that case, the bees are relatively new and may need external help to jumpstart their energy requirements. However, once the bees start making their own honey, you may stop feeding them because they know how to provide for themselves and do not require constant reliance from their beekeepers.

What will happen if you feed bees with sugar water beyond what is needed?

Many people may feed the bees with sugar water out of good faith. However, it is not always beneficial for the busy bees. 

Feeding sugar water to bees, which is not their natural diet, is unhealthy for them in the long term. This is because sugar water does not contain the protein and enzymes necessary for the bees’ health. It is similar to feeding bees with junk food.

So, you must also know when to stop feeding the bees with sugar water because having a readily available food source for the bees may result in an abrupt increase in their population. When this happens before the nectar flow, your colony may start to split [5].

Remember that feeding bees with sugar water is only temporary when the time gets tough and the bees have difficulty collecting their own food. 

To expand your knowledge on bees, you should also read Are hummingbirds afraid of bees? and Do bees sting birds?


Sometimes bees may require some help when their food sources become insufficient, which can cause starvation. If this happens, beekeepers must ensure the safety of their colonies by giving artificial food sources to the bees. One of these food sources is sugar water.

However, sugar water is only a temporary substitute for nectar and should not feed year-round. So, how would you know when to stop feeding bees with sugar water?

The first is when the temperature drops below 57 degrees Fahrenheit. When this happens, you need to switch to solid sugar, like sugar cubes, to avoid increasing the moisture in the hive. Another reason to stop feeding the bees with sugar water is that they have already started making their own honey supply.


[1] Nectar source. (2022, July 9). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nectar_source 

[2] – Jones, J. (2022, October 17). 4 ways to make Sugar Water. wikiHow. Retrieved November 1, 2022, from https://www.wikihow.com/Make-Sugar-Water 

[3] – Feeding honey bees – Michigan pollinator initiative. (n.d.). Retrieved November 1, 2022, from https://pollinators.msu.edu/resources/beekeepers/feeding-honey-bees/

[4] – Reichhuber, S. (2022, February 23). Temps are dropping. Should I change the diet for my bees? OSU Extension Service. Retrieved November 1, 2022, from https://extension.oregonstate.edu/ask-expert/featured/temps-are-dropping-should-i-change-diet-my-bees

[5] – Honey flow. (2022, February 11). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honey_flow