Monitoring the honeybee hives' food supply is crucial in beekeeping. Firstly, by harvesting honey we are removing their food supply, which we need to substitute with a different food source, usually a sugar solution and secondly the amount of space they have available for brood and honey/pollen storage influences their behaviour as a colony. For example, swarming behavior is influenced and can thus be influenced by the beekeeper through regulation of the amount of available space in the hive.
Brown bee colonies with few overwintering workers rarely use up all their supplies and surplus sugar frames are usually removed in the early spring. In the last period of willow flowering, however, colonies can have expanded their brood nest considerably. After this, a week of poor weather, rain, or severe cold can be problematic for the colonies. During such periods without flying activity, emergency feeding might help the colonies survive and keep their brood alive. In general, the colonies should have two frames, or about five kilograms of food, at the beginning of spring. The reason for this is that the feeding of brood and the flying to willow flowers for pollen uses up a lot of energy. During the end of flowering, the food supplies are used up, and the cells are filled with either brood or pollen.
Winter feeding begins already when the last batch of honey is harvested. This usually happens between the last two weeks of August and the first two weeks of September. This timing will of course vary considerably with geographic location and vegetation type.
- In Finland, feeding might begin as early as the end of July, if the nectar flow ends very early. In South-West Finland, feed is given in three portions. The total amount of 66% sugar solution amounts to 22-25 liters for one Langstroth hive body colony and 27-30 liters for two hive body colonies.
- In Dalsland, Sweden 12 kg sugar are given to every overwintered hive.