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.