Are you looking for an easy way to make bee candy boards to feed bees this winter?
Make bee candy boards easily and effectively. This topic may be complicated depending on which beekeeper you talk to. Many beekeepers are very adamant about not using sugar to feed bees. Other beekeepers will tell you to feed the sugar no problem.
And other recipes for bee candy contains a hodgepodge of special ingredients. It can be mind boggling looking at all of the possibilities out there for making bee candy!
But I definitely wanted to make sure my bees were going to have enough food to get them through winter. Yes, they had plenty of honey in the hive going into winter. BUT, who knows how long winter will last? That’s right. No one.
Feeding bee candy is a security blanket. The nice thing about bees is that they will consume what they need. So, if they have honey, they will eat it first. This bee candy is entirely for a prolonged winter, if we have it. The bees will eat their honey first and then the candy will be there if they need it.
So, when I was searching for answers for keeping bees fed through the winter, I came across this video that gave me plenty of answers. After watching this video and attending my local bee chat group, I decided to make candy boards for each of my hive.
What You Need to Make Bee Candy Boards
Next, I’ve given you a tutorial for how to make bee candy boards. I must mention that I learned how to make the frame via Beverly’s blog. Everything we already had on hand except for the boards for the frames.
How to Make Bee Candy Boards
First of all, you’ll need to measure the boards to fit the frames of your hives. For example, I use 10-Frame Langstroth hives and measured accordingly. I want the feeder frame to sit right on top of the box frame for the bees to come and enjoy anytime they need it.
Next, make the frame by nailing the pieces together. Make sure you have the pieces even because you want them to sit well on the hive all winter long.
Cut a large square out of the chicken wire. Use the staple gun to attach the chicken wire securely to the boards. Then, trim the excess chicken wire.
Finally, drill one entrance hole into one side of the frame. And now you’re ready to make your bee candy!
Making Bee Candy
As I said before, there are a million concoctions out in the world for making bee candy. Is any way better than the other? I don’t know but the video I linked to was easy. Cheap. And from a source who had been keeping bees for 35 years.
So, I decided to try this method. Here’s the ingredients needed per candy board:
Poor all the sugar into a large bowl. Mix vinegar and water together. Slowly pour in the liquid and stir. Don’t dump it in all at once.
Because you want the consistency of your sugar candy to be very thick so it can set well. The harder the better. I found that by dumping the water in at once, you can make it too soupy. And then, you have a mess.
Installing Bee Candy Onto the Candy Board
So, to prevent mess, use just as much water as you need. The mixture will need to be very thick to spread onto the board, just like in the video.
Another way to have less mess is to wrap with wax paper completely around the sides to hold it in. Grab a board to protect the entrance and back corner from being covered. You definitely want to make sure your entrance hole stays open!
I simply used a board bottom of the photo tree because it worked. It’s about the same size of the little board used in the video. Then, pack the sugar around and let it sit a while.
Once the sugar is packed into your board, just let it sit for at least a day or longer. Mine sat for 2-3 days while I was at a conference. Then, I installed them when I came home. They were hard candy by then and perfect setting for installation.
Word of Caution: Messy Candy!
So, you’ll find this out when you make yours. This bee candy was a mess to make – I didn’t make it thick enough the first time. The wax paper helps a lot to hold it in. But there will still be leakage not matter how thick you make it.
So, use the wax paper. Make sure it’s taped well up and around the sides.
Also, feel free to take a spatula and scrape any sugar candy that fell to the bottom. Once the candy on top is hard, you can just put that runaway candy on top during installation. It can all be used. Never wasted.
Keep in mind, though, that you’ll still have some mess when you go to install the candy boards. There will still be some candy that escapes. That’s ok – Just put it back on top during installation.
Installing Bee Candy Boards onto the Hives
Once the candy boards are hard and set, you can install them into the hives. If they are not hard, you have the risk of the 16 pounds of sugar falling down into your hives. Tragic death by candy.
So, I also used the 1/4 inch strips like he used in the video to help support the candy boards. Here are the steps for installing bee candy boards once the covers are off:
* Set the wood strips on the frames. You want it to be in about the middle so that the center of the candy boards can be supported.
* Then, set the candy board on top. Fit the frame of the candy board to the frame of the hive. Make sure the entrance hole is in the front.
*Put the Inner Cover and Outside Top Cover back on securely.
Now, you should be installing this candy board on a nice 40-50 degree day. And if the weather is decent, you’ll see the bees start to come out from the bottom box where they were snuggled in and enjoy some of the sugar you’ve prepared for them.
What I Will Do Differently Next Time
There are a few things I will do differently next time when I make bee candy boards.
First of all, I will mix the sugar with very little liquid. I want the ending mixture to be thicker when I spread them onto my candy boards.
Next, I will find a better way to wrap the wax paper around. I started using tape but ended up using clips because the tape came apart. The clips worked beautifully.
Thirdly, my original plan was to let the candy boards set overnight. I will allow more time since it took several days this first time. And in order to plan for all the other things I need to do to get ready for winter, scheduling things out is key.
Other Winterizing Tips
Here are some other things, besides make bee candy boards, I do to prepare my bee hives for a Kansas winter:
- Place entrance reducers in to prevent rodents from slipping in.
- Put in windbreaks to prevent snow drifting.
- Take super boxes off and store them in a safe place.
- Check for Varroa Mites or Parasites
- Look at the amount of capped honey in the housing boxes. This is what the bees will be eating through the first part of the winter.
After this checklist is complete, it’s time to close up the hives for the winter. And when you do this, make sure there’s plenty of ventilation, or air flow, coming through for the bees. Otherwise, they will not be able to breathe.
Good ventilation is always in your entrances. And here’s another thing that just intrigues me about bees.
An Interesting Thing I’ve Learned About Bees
So, I was initially worried about the bees staying warm in their hives. I thought maybe I should cover them with something. However, I learned differently from my mentors that I would not need to do that.
You see, bees keep themselves warm. They snuggle together inside their hives and hum and move around all winter long. And while they are in their hives all winter long, they will need to maintain their calories they spend while moving around. Hence, the need to supplement in case they would run out of honey.
The main thing to watch out for is too much moisture getting into the hives after a snow or ice rain. The work is far from over through the winter months. You should still make time to check on your hives through the winter.
Winter Maintenance Plan
Yes, it’s work. But it is very simple. After a big snow or ice rain, moisture could drift into the hives.
My maintenance plan is simply to check my entrances. I will not close them, but I will check them regularly. Especially following a big snow. I will need to make sure they stay open for proper ventilation.
Simple, right? My yearly goal to keep the bees going through winter should not be destroyed by one snow storm just because I could have gone out and wiped snow from the entrances.
The truth is, bees are very low maintenance animals to care for. But they still should be watched closely through the winter. And though you can’t see them, you can make sure their homes are open to ventilation and closed for warmth. They should have plenty of food to get through the long winter ahead.
Bees Should Have Everything They Need
They will have their honey to consume for as long as they can. But if they were to run out of honey for any reason at all, they will need sustenance to pull them through. So, the reason to make bee candy boards is to allow them that security.
It will be there if they need it. So, provide them with what they will need for the long winter. Make bee candy boards using whatever recipe and ingredients you desire. Talk to your bee mentor about what works well for your area.
Finally, ensure your bees will be comfortable and satisfied all winter long.