Bee Scientifics

Making Sugar Syrup

In theory, making sugar syrup is not hard, mix water with sugar and you’re done.  The challenges really lie in the equipment needed to make the quantity you need in order to successfully feed bees. If you only are feeding a few hives, this task is easily done in a home kitchen.  Feeding tens or hundreds of colonies requires a bit more thought, space, and equipment.

We are not experts in all the ways to make sugar syrup, but thought helpful to show you the process we use to make syrup and some of the tricks we have learned along the way.

The basic ratio for heavy syrup we use is 60% sugar.  So this translates to 1 kg (litre) water to 1.66 kg sugar or 600 ml water to 1 kg sugar.  

We make 60 litres of heavy syrup at a time in a really clean 100 L wax melter from Quality Beekeeping Goods in Queensland. We prefer to use Sunshine Sugar that we buy in 25 kg bags from Campbells Wholesale partly because it is a good price, and partly because we LOVE to support Australian businesses with sustainable growing, processing, manufacturing, and social practices.

Equipment

  • Something to hold and heat double the amount of water you are adding
  • something to stir with (A paint stirrer with hand drill works great on a large scale)
  • Sealable containers to transfer syrup

Ingredients

  • 30 litres water (rain/tank water is great)
  • 50 kg sugar

Instructions

Heat the water up to a boil and add half the sugar.  Stir until the sugar is completely mixed in and the solution becomes clear.

Heat sugar water up again until very hot but not boiling.  Once hot, add the second half of the sugar and repeat process.  Mix until clear.  Let cool and transfer to storage container(s)

IMPORTANT NOTE: Don’t boil the syrup.  When sugar syrup is boiled, HMF (5-hydroxymethylfurfural) is formed and can be toxic to bees in high concentrations.  Read more about HMF

Storing and Using Syrup

We don’t have any pumps to move syrup around so we keep everything liftable.  For that reason, we prefer to store the syrup in 20 l food grade plastic cubes that we get from People in Plastic.  

MASTER HINT: STORE SYRUP AS HEAVY SYRUP AROUND 60% SUGAR.  THIS WAY IT WON’T FERMENT.If you intend to feed light syrup 50/50, add water to the heavy syrup AS YOU USE IT. To make light syrup out of this stock, add approximately 200 ml water per litre or as you like it. Light syrup does not store well and will ferment on you.  Feeding fermented syrup to the bees is not good for them.

We are developing a feed supplement that you add to sugar syrup to delivering  essential oils that act as an attractant and support honey bee health.  We also add Bee Boost to deliver vitamins, amino acids and protein to the otherwise nutritionally poor sugar syrup. 

We hope this little post helps those interested in or needing to feed bees sugar syrup.  Best of luck and skill out there!  We’ll post another article on the benefits of Bee Boost in the near future.  Thanks for reading.

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