Bees need their own good honey for proper, balanced nutrition and health. When every drop of it is robbed after the nectar flow and the bees are then fed with sugar or high fructose corn syrup, the bees suffer and your honey crop suffers. Not only do the bees miss out on their own good food, you do too. Your honey contains stored sugar water and corn syrup, which alters the taste and quality and is NOT HONEY.
You need strong, healthy hives to produce a good harvest. Bees gather nectar, pollen, water, and propolis for their health and nutrition. Honey mainly contains fructose and glucose as well as 22 other complex sugars. But it also contains small amounts of enzymes, acids, minerals, and even vitamins. Although it contains some amino acids as well, the bees get most of their protein from pollen. Depriving them of all these nutrients is asking for them to get sick.
So how do you ensure your bees have proper nutrition and still get a good honey crop?
First, do not harvest all of their honey. Leave enough honey so they can use their own stores through a summer of little bloom and through the winter. When you remove your comb to store after the harvest, you’ll probably find some honey that has not yet been capped--store some of this in your freezer as emergency feed. I also leave all of the honey that the bees produce from the fall bloom on the hives for winter stores. If they produce a surplus, I freeze some frames for future use by the bees.
Second, take your losses in the fall and cull weak hives. If a hive is weak, rather than feed it, kill the poorly performing queen and add the bees to another, stronger hive. You can either freeze or give their honey stores to other hives. Your hives will be stronger, healthier, and produce more in the long run.
Leave a full super of honey on your hives at all times (this amount is for Middle Tennessee and will vary with your location and length of winters). Leaving this honey for the bees is not a loss to you by any means. The bees will more than make up for this in honey production each year. They will have proper nutrition for a good spring population buildup without the “stimulus” of sugar water. I save money and time by not having to feed hives AND they produce more, high-quality honey--pure honey. I consistently find that my hives produce more pounds of honey each year, not counting this ever-present extra super, than in the early years when we used to rob them dry and then try to keep them fed.