Winter is coming and I’ve been augmenting my bees’ food supply with sugar syrup for the last few weeks. I lost my last year’s colony to starvation, I believe, so I’m trying to give them more than one back up plan this year, should they not have collected enough honey through the summer, hence also making some candy to tuck in the hive.
Over the summer I did not harvest honey from them, except when having to remove some comb to make room for them to prevent over crowding. I’m glad I kept up on thinning comb from the hive as there were no suggestions of them wanting to swarm this year, and I’m convinced overcrowding was the main issue last year when they did swarm (you can read about that here). If they do have honey left in the hive when spring arrives, I can take some then, and probably more in the height of the summer, since they will hopefully be a much stronger colony in their second year. We’ll see how that plays out.
Right now, the main concern is survival of Montreal’s brutally long winter.
The candy recipe I used is from beehivejournal.blogspot.ca.
Quick bee sugar cake
5 lbs sugar1 cup cold water with 1.5 tsp vinegar added and mixed inMix together in large pot well. Place mixture on a candy board or in another container. This will turn into a hard block of sugar much like when a bag of sugar gets wet. No cooking required
I took some tips from Beverly Bees and added some pollen into the center of the fondant. I happened to have some kicking around from one of the many times I had to remove comb to make more space for the bees mid summer (I try to take the least needed comb in the hive. Sometimes it’ll have pollen or honey in it). I simply broke the comb apart and flicked out the pollen pieces. Easy to do with comb from a top bar hive because they don’t have frames. Top bars are just bars that lay on top of the hive base and the bees construct their own shape, which usually follows the interior shape of the hive.
I have a large, wonderful dehydrator, so I spread the fondant on a frame over a non-stick tray liner that came with my dehydrator. I put it in the machine and made sure not to have the temperature set too high (or it would just melt the sugar). The point is to get rid of the moisture and create a kind of puck – the sugar equivalent to a salt lick for cattle. I left it in there for about 6 hours and let it cool.
You do not need a dehydrator for this, however. You can let it sit our for about 24hrs, as noted by Beverly Bees, and it’ll do the trick.
I decided to break up the bee candy and slide it along the bottom of the hive before my husband and I prepped the hive for winter. The explanation of how we did that is here, with the modification of using 2″ thick pink styrofoam insulation this year. The roof doesn’t fit on properly now, but it’s secured fine with help from a bungee strap.
Do you have a bee candy recipe to share? Add your link in the comments.