It is necessary to feed bees during the rainy and dry seasons, as well as in the early stages of a young colony.

At the peak of the rainy season, it can rain continuously for more than three days with only a few short breaks. There is no sun and the atmosphere is always misty, bleak and cloudy. Bees never go out. The nectar in the fields is diluted so much that the bees cannot recognize it. Pollen is washed away, and flowers generally stop blooming. Plants produce leaves instead of flowers. Bee’s food becomes scarce, as honey and pollen stores in the hive are also depleted.

The beekeeper must remember that the bees intended the honey they produced for their own consumption during the rainy season and if he has taken it away, then he must provide something else to keep the colony alive and strong.

Some honey must therefore be left for the bees during the honey harvest: at least seven to ten combs containing honey and brood. Do not deplete the hive of every drop of honey.

Natural feeding of bees

Plant which matures very fast and can help the beekeeper is the sunflower. Apart from providing edible oil from the seed and rich nectar and pollen, the sunflower attracts swarms of bees that the beekeeper can hive in the same apiary.

Water for bees 

An apiary sited near a regular fresh-water supply can build up quickly during the honey –flow season which coincides with the beginning of the dry season.

Water is very important for honeybees. They use large quantities to dilute brood food and to cool the hive by evaporation.

Water dripping gradually from a stand pipe is ideal for feeding the insect. Any water meant for bees should contain landing boards so that they will not drown.

Nutrition of honey bees

The bees evolved from their carnivores ancestors and are now herbivores collecting pollen nectar

Pollen: contains protein, minerals, vitamins, lipids and fat

Nectar: is the main carbohydrates source and provide all the energy requirements

Water: Required by bees for their body physiological activities

 Dilute food for their young ones

 Control temperature in the hive

During the honey flow period there is plenty of nectar. The bees collect the nectar and process it into honey

  • The nectar has moisture content of about 65% and should be lowered to 17-20% in the honey form
  • This is done by storing the nectar in the honey stomach where enzymes hydrolyse complex sugar substances to simple sugars
  • Main sugar in nectar is sucrose
  • Bees produce the enzyme invertase which convert sucrose into fructose and glucose
  • The processed content is then stored into the combs and more water is withdrawn by wing fanning
  • When the moisture content is around 17-20%, the combs cells are then sealed using bee wax, the end product being ripe honey single
  • Bees require at least 17 amino acids that cannot be found all in pollen from a plant
  • Bees pick pollen from several plants to be mixed with nectar to form brood
  • The pollen can be stored for long since honey is antibiotic
  • Bees can’t reproduce without pollen since pollen provide bulk of food needed by the queen (without which she shrinks)
  • In absence of pollen, the worker feed on eggs and the drones.
  • Bees can last for long without water but watering points are very important for bees survival
  • Bees migrates regularly during dearth period (when food is inadequate). Bees should be replenished with source of energy to avoid this.
  • The best source is sucrose (main sugar in nectar)
  • Use feeder box and dilute the sugar with water at the ration of 1;1
  • Sticks like floaters are used to avoid drowning of the feeder box
  • Mix the supplement with additive drug called fumidil B to avoid bees diarrhoea.
  • Only done during the cold weather
  • Pollen can be replaced with pollen substitute and pollen supplement

Pollen supplement

Pollen is harvested from the bees using pollen trap when in plenty

The pollen is added or mixed with other proteinous feed e.g. soya bean flour.

Water is then added to make a paste or cake

The paste is then introduced into the hive.

Only done when pollen is scarce

Pollen substitutes

The main diet is soya flour which does not have all the nutrients that pollen has. The following can be added

  • brewer’s yeast
  • dry skimmed milk
  • egg yolk

Add little water to make a paste or cake and introduce this in the


Judy Vanessa

Judy Vanessa is an accomplished explorer,a passionate animal health extension practitioner and author. She loves writing about farming articles in various sectors.

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