This recipe from Chris Harp at honeybeelives.org is an excellent alternative to plain simple syrup to feed your bees and may help strengthen bees’ immune systems.
The water/sugar mixture listed below is for the fall; for the spring and summer make the mixture 50/50.
Note that this tea should be strained if you put it into a spray bottle. Otherwise the thyme leaves can clog your nozzle.
2 parts water
3 parts sugar** (have 10% or more of the sugar be honey if you can)
**the sugar must be labeled CANE SUGAR. If it is not labeled as cane sugar, it is probably beet sugar and can give the bees diarrhea
thyme--tsp. or more (a reduction of Varroa Mites has been noted using this tea)
Dash of salt
chamomile tea--organic if you can find it
dandelion root tea
(You can add other herbs like sage, rue, yarrow, peppermint, hyssop, anise hyssop, stinging nettle, lemon balm)
To Make Bee Tea
(FYI 5lbs. of sugar = 11 ¼ cups of sugar; use 7.5 cups water)
Add salt and thyme to water in pot. Heat water to full boil (water will take on an amber color w/the thyme)
Turn off heat
Add sugar, stirring well until dissolved
Add herbal tea (see below)
If you add honey, do so after temperature has come down to lukewarm, stirring well.
Let cool enough to handle and refrigerate unused tea.
Make Herbal Tea Separately
Make chamomile and dandelion root tea (one bag each) with thyme sprinkled in.
Make tea by putting ingredients in cup, adding boiling water, and steep covered for 10 minutes.
One large cup of herb tea is enough for 5 gallons of Bee Tea, so add amount according to the volume of Bee Tea you are making.
The Bee Tea should have a clear amber appearance, with floating thyme leaves.
The Bee Tea goes in mason jars w/lids that come w/Boardman Feeders. You can also use your own lids, making tiny pin-holes using a nail and hammer. Thyme floating in tea is just fine, and will not clog holes in jars as it settles. Leave thyme leaves in jar lid when refilling.
Note how fast bees consume the tea. If they don't empty jars (approx. 1 pint) for a few days (3 or more), then they probably don't need it. Only feed bees when they need it, and in early spring and fall to boost their immune system. Also check tea in warm/hot weather to make sure it does not ferment. If it ferments (smell it), then replace it with fresh tea. Also keep vessels in which you put Bee Tea clean. If you notice mold or cloudiness, clean jars before reusing.
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