Having fed my bees last winter I am now at a loss as to how to distinguish between stored sugar and honey so as not to spread sugar on my toast. Any ideas?
Good to see you are aware of the topic. When I kept frame hives in the conventional way, I took much of the late summer honey and fed sugar syrup. Concerned about sugar adulterating the honey, I put red food dye in the syrup for one hive. The following year after the spring honey-flow the super was full of pink honey(?) I presume the colonies had used some sugar to survive winter but had fed developing brood on fresh nectar. It seemed to me that room for the developing brood and new stores had been created by moving 2nd rate stores up into the super.
Demeter beeks are supposed to stop feeding 2 weeks before the honey flow so all the old stores are exhausted; but how do they really tell?
Recently, I heard a person buying honey ask for confirmation that it did not contain fondant. He was a beekeeper.
John H, Stockbridge Hampshire
You don’t want sugar to eat instead of honey. What makes you think the bees do?
This blog is not for putting people in their place. It is intended for constructive communication. If you wish to develop the theme of NEVER feeding and allowing bees to starve, you are welcome to start a thread on the subject. The responses might be informative.
In the meantime, please respect the fact that others come to conclusions that might differ from yours. We can all learn from each other.
Excuse me? I guess that will teach me to join a forum! I don’t think my bees want to eat sugar instead of honey, but I thought they might like sugar instead of nothing so I fed my bees last year because they had not managed to make enough honey during the summer to last them over the winter. I could have let them starve but there are moments when I decide I will do more than “leave alone” and starvation prevention was one of of those moments. I had not taken any honey from them for two years. If you want to allow your bees to starve if they don’t have any stores then I understand as that is total “leave alone” beekeeping and I respect that. I keep my bees in Warre hives and as a rule I don’t fiddle around with them. I think I’ll come off this site now.
I think I’ll come off this site now.
Don’t do that just because of one comment. I think you know the poster and her views.
The crystals might have been crystallised rape or ivy honey, these are notorious for crystallising rapidly. Why not taste them? Ivy is meant to taste bad.
I don’t understand the comment about “you don’t want sugar to eat instead of honey”. I’ll eat it!
Given the ubiquity of the practice of feeding to be able to extract the maximum ‘yield’ from ones bees, I suspect that the reality is that much shop-bought honey is adulterated to a greater or lesser extent with sugar these days. Feeding only to avoid starvation, as Shortwoodbees has done, should minimise this risk but it will never fully eliminate it. It is always a difficult balance to achieve between risking starvation and over-feeding. None of us can predict the future and many of us err on the side of caution when it comes to winter stores, preferring to feed rather than risk food shortage. We see starvation as a dereliction of our duty having taken these wonderful creatures into our care. The situation might be different if the bees were in a truly natural state, but they are not. So we do our best to care for them. If we are lucky enough to be able to share in some of their bounty, questions might arise in our minds as to what we are putting on our toast. As John H says, the presence of sugar in one part of the hive can result in contamination of honey in other parts, as the bees move their stores around. It would be nice if we could get a summer that required no feeding of any sort. I recall such summers from years ago, when one could happily harvest 60lb of honey from a hive and still leave ample honey (yes, honey, not sugar) for the bees to overwinter. But changes in farming practices make such a situation unlikely today.
On a practical note, sugar does not crystallize and, apart from being sweet, is pretty much colourless and tasteless. In contrast, honey comes in different hues, often crystallizes and has complex aromas that are discernible to the human palate. Some who go for cut comb honey deliberately isolate honey of different colours as they cut the comb. I imagine they have a little taste or two on the way, which should allow any sugar to be spotted. On the other hand, one might be glad of a little bland dilution if the honey being harvested is from oilseed rape, the sickly sweet aroma of which currently fills the air around my hives. 😉
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