Saturday, January 26, 2008

Making Invert Sugar Syrup

There are times when you may find it necessary to feed your bees some sugar syrup. Feeding syrup can be done for different reasons. You may need to feed syrup to administer fumigiln to help your bees combat nosema disease. You may want to continuously feed syrup to new package to help in the production of wax and to provide an easy source of food to help the colony get established. Some beekeepers feed in the early autumn to help a colony gain extra stores for overwintering. Some beekeepers will start feeding two or three brood cycles before the spring flow to help stimulate the queen into laying eggs. Pollinators need to feed their bees to help maintain strong populations of bees so they can fulfill the obligation of their contracts. These are just a few examples of why beekeepers feed sugar syrup to their colonies.

Different ratios of sugar syrup are fed depending on what you wish to accomplish.

A 1:2 mixture, one pound of sugar to two pints of water is used by some beekeepers as a stimulative feed to get the queen laying eggs.

Some beekeepers prefer to use a 1:1 mixture, one pound of sugar to one pint of water, for stimulative feeding. A 1:1 mixture more closely resembles nectar and stimulates the bees to build comb and provides food for the larvae.

A mixture of 2:1 , two pounds of sugar to one pint of water, is typically fed to administer medications and fed to help build winter stores.

I'm currently in the process of making 1:1 invert syrup for stimulative feeding. The reason I like to invert the sugar in the syrup is that it breaks down the sucrose into glucose and fructose, the two main components of honey. Since it closely resembles honey by being made up of the same two components it is more easily digested by the bees and larvae and can be more readily consumed. Opposed to regular sugar syrup, invert syrup is less likely to crystallize, it retains moisture longer when used in pollen patties, helps to prevent mold, and robbing is less prevalent when invert syrup is used for feeding. Invert syrup is easy to make by simply adding some cream of tarter or lemon juice to the sugar syrup.

To make some inverted syrup to get a 1:1 ratio I simply put eight pints of water into a large pot and bring to a boil.

I then slowly add eight pounds of granulated sugar to the water and stir the mixture to completely dissolve all of the sugar.

Once dissolved cream of tarter is added to the mixture. One teaspoon to one gallon of syrup is sufficient to invert the sugar in the syrup.

When using eight pints of water and eight pounds of sugar you need to add one and a half teaspoons of cream of tarter because you will end up with a gallon and a half of syrup.

When making your invert syrup it is important that you boil the mixture for twenty minutes to invert as much as the sucrose as possible. Be sure to stir the mixture a lot and don't let it sit or it will carmalize in the bottom of the pot. When done properly the invert syrup has a shelf life of up to six months so don't worry if you make extra because you have six months to give it to your bees.

For stimulative feeding my favorite way of feeding invert syrup to my bees is in a one gallon paint can. When placed over the cluster the bees can remain in contact with the feeder when it is too cold to break the cluster and can continue to eat from the can.

If you click on the picture above you can see that the can is close to eight inches tall. When placed on a couple 1/4" or 3/8" sticks on the top bars over the cluster the lid provides a large are for many bees to feed at. Also since the can is eight inches tall it will fit nicely inside of an empty deep hive body.

I like to use jars for feeding as well.

The quart and half gallon jars work well with boardman feeders. There is also an inside feeder that works well with quarts. Half gallon jars are too tall for an empty deep hive body the work well with two empty shallow supers. The gallon jars work well with two shallow supers.

Hopefully this info helps out those of you who have wondered what invert sugar syrup was and why it is more beneficial to you and your bees as opposed to regular sugar syrup.


Timothy said...

very informative, thanks! I will probably invert my next batch

Edd said...

Very useful post! I'm currently keeping Bumblebees over winter and am looking into cheaper sources of invert syrup than some of the commercial products available. It has been suggested by some people that you can also add 1 tsp lemon juice per 2lb sugar to invert, so I'll be trying that approach.

Joe B said...

Very useful. I fed sugar to my bees last autumn and found that it had crystallised in the combs when I inspected the hives this April. It had set so hard that the bees couldn't remove it and I had to cut out the comb.
I notice that granulated sugar sold by supermarkets in the UK has a notice under ingredients:
Sucrose - 100%
I know that sulphites are used in the refining process for both cane and beet sugar, but would it affect the crystallisation?

FL said...

Is it possible to use lactic acid in making inverted sugar syrup?

tom said...

How much lemon juice should I put to invert the syrup(I don't have tartar
)? Is sucrose good for winter stores.

Joe B said...

Since my last comment, I contacted the British Sugar Foundation. One of their scientists replied and wrote an article for the BBKA. To summarize: the sulphite is used to bleach white refined sugar and only a miniscule amount is left in standard granulated sugar. Unrefined sugar is bad for overwintering bees, it affects their digestion. There is no need to invert sugar fed to the bees, they do it themselves with their own enzyme.
The crystalised honey left in my overwintered hives was mainly ivy honey. It can only be recovered by cutting out the comb and melting it and the wax in the oven at about 90 deg. C. Higher temperatures will denature the honey.

Jessica said...

Making invert sugar at home is a great idea. I have read that commercial invert sugar manufacturers usually mix Hydroxy Methyl Furfural in limited quantities (ex here). At least we are sure what is being made at home, no additives, thanks for your wonderful recipe.

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