Mar 9, 2012

How To Make An Essential Oil Mixture To Supplement Your Honey Bee Feed

Johnny Mason, March 9, 2012: 

Before I begin, I know that what and whether or not to even feed your bees can be a big debate for some people. That's not what this post is about. Let's just assume that you do feed your bees and everyone else  is cool with it. Ok? Ok.

If you want to give a big boost to your colony when feeding, a great way to do that is to make an essential oil mixture/additive that you can sploosh into your syrups, pollen patties, etc. The oils that are in it will naturally inhibit mold growth and stimulate feeding. Remember, a well-fed hive is a happy hive.

The stuff we're making here is like the commercially available product, Honey-B-Healthy, but being homemade, you can make a ton of the stuff for far cheaper than buying the pre-made liquid. What do you need to kick off this cook-a-thon? Well, I'll tell you!
  • 5 cups of water
  • 2 ½ pounds of sugar (5 ⅝ cups if you don't have a scale lying around)
  • 1/8 teaspoon lecithin granules 
  • 15 drops pure spearmint oil
  • 15 drops pure lemongrass oil
A few notes: 

Make sure to use cane sugar. Not beet sugar, or even the raw stuff. I know not using organic or unprocessed sugar seems counter intuitive, but the fact that it has not been processed may leave behind spores that can potentially be harmful to your bees. Certain pesticides are also used on sugar beets that are not used on sugar cane. I know we can debate the whole, "Well, you shouldn't give any sugar to the bees" argument all day, but it is what it is.

You can find the lecithin granules at just about any health food or vitamin store. Since you only need 1/8 teaspoon for a batch, maybe you'll want to split a bottle among 1 or 15 of your beekeeping friends.

Essential oils; Get the purest stuff you can find. You do not want fake or mixed with alcohol candy flavoring. Get 100% pure essential oils that you can find at most health food stores.

Ok...let's go! It's pretty simple.

Bring the water to a boil and integrate the sugar until dissolved (not cloudy). Once the sugar is dissolved, turn off the heat and quickly add the lecithin and the essential oils to the mixture. Stir until everything is evenly distributed. (The lecithin granules may take a while to fully dissolve, but they will dissolve. Try smushing them against the side of the pot with your spoon. You can even just shake the container up periodically after bottling.) Once cooled, poor it into an airtight container. Don't leave it sitting around open unless you want more than honey bees invading.

How much to use:

1-2 teaspoons per quart. It takes 4 quarts to make a gallon, so you should use 4-8 teaspoons of this mixture per gallon of sugar syrup made. I think you can do the math beyond this. Keep some of this in your pre-made syrup batches and you'll have it ready to go for feeding and for making goodies such as pollen patties.

I hope this helps the health of your bees and aids your wallet in holding on to a few extra bucks. Enjoy!