Does Artificial Feed Impact Health and Survival of Honey Bee Colonies?

Project Overview

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2019: $22,695.00
Projected End Date: 09/30/2022
Grant Recipient: The Pennsylvania State University
Region: Northeast
State: Pennsylvania
Project Leader:
Dr. Robyn Underwood
Penn State Extension


  • Animals: bees
  • Animal Products: honey


  • Animal Production: animal protection and health
  • Crop Production: beekeeping
  • Education and Training: participatory research

    Proposal abstract:

    Each fall, most honey bee colonies have their honey stores removed and replaced with artificial feed. This feed, which could be sucrose syrup, high fructose corn syrup, or invert syrup, is a much-needed carbohydrate source used to sustain the colony over the winter. We aim to study the effects of these feeds at the colony and individual bee levels. We will determine overwintering survival and feed consumption rates of full-sized colonies that are allowed to keep their honey or have their honey removed and replaced by one of the three artificial feeds in the fall. In the spring, colony population build-up will be determined and two laboratory tests will be conducted to determine 1. honey bee digestive health and 2. pesticide resilience.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The objective of this study is to compare the effects of various artificial carbohydrate sources on honey bee health, overwintering survival, and spring population build-up. Honey bee worker digestive health and pesticide resilience will also be determined.

    Hypothesis 1: Honey bee colonies fed honey and invert syrup (ProSweet) will have higher overwintering survival than those fed sucrose syrup or high fructose corn syrup.

    honey = prosweet > sucrose = hfcs

    Hypothesis 2: Consumption rate of the four winter foods will be equal. honey = prosweet = sucrose = hfcs

    Hypothesis 3: Honey bee colonies fed high fructose corn syrup will have the smallest brood area of the four treatments.  Honey and invert syrup (ProSweet) will have the largest brood area, followed by sucrose syrup.

    honey = prosweet > sucrose > hfcs

    Hypothesis 4: The honey bee gut microbiome will be changed by all three artificial feeds as compared to honey. honey does not = sucrose or hfcs or prosweet

    Hypothesis 5: The resilience of worker bees to a pesticide challenge will be greatest in those fed honey for honey and less for those fed all three artificial feeds.

    honey > sucrose or hfcs or prosweet

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.