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Feeding your Honey Bees in the Winter with a Candy Board

12/4/2012 1:31:34 PM

Tags: winter, honey bees, feeding bees, candy board, sugar, Melissa Caughey, Melissa Caughey

Honeybees work.  They work all spring and summer to store up enough pollen and honey for their colony to survive the winter.  However, sometimes, their best efforts are not enough and they can end up starving to death if their supplies run out.  As you have read, in the early spring and late fall when the nectar and pollen supplies are low, we feed our honey bees sugar syrup as a supplement.  They can take this honey syrup or leave it.  The choice is up to them and it provides them with access to extra food if need be.  However, sugar syrup and freezing temperatures do not agree, thus those keeping bees in colder climates must feed their bees another way.

I have researched this very topic quite a bit.  The good news is that there are options.  You can make fondant that sits on top of the frames, that they bees can eat as needed.  You can use the Mountain Camp Method with some sugar poured directly on newspaper, or you can create a candy board.  To me the choice is clear.  The candy board once made requires little maintenance   It is easy to refill.  It can hold up to 15 pounds of sugar.  The sugar itself, helps to absorb moisture and humidity from the hive.  It is accessible to the bees from all the frames in the upper deep.  It does not require the beekeeper to open the hives frequently to check and replenish the food.

I set out on my journey.  I am lucky enough to have wonderful friend whose boyfriend made two frames just for me.  They are the 2" high and the width and length of the hive's body . Think spacer-beekeeping friends. Drill a 5/8" hole into the center of one of the shorter sides.  Then I spray painted them and allowed them to dry overnight.

Next, I added hardware cloth to the bottom.   Wear long sleeves and work gloves.  It can take a real good bite out of you! 

 The candy board frame is fitted with hardware cloth 

Place these flat onto a piece of plastic or as in my case the children's art mat.

Line the bottom with one layer of black and white newspaper, or in my case, I used some plain packing paper. (newspaper without any print.)

Next I cut an easy access entry hole in the bottom of the paper lining near the outside access hole.  This would serve as a pathway for the bees to easily gain access instead of having to chew through the paper.

 A square access hole is cut into the paper lining the candy board 

I placed a small square plastic container right side up to keep the integrity of this hole.

It was time to mix the sugar and the water together.  In a very large cooking pot, I mixed by hand two cups of water to 10 pounds of sugar.  Once combined, it will appear clumpy.  Dump that into one of your candy boards. You can also add a pollen patty into the bottom of the candy board as well prior to dumping out the sugar.

 The water and sugar mixture is ready to be spread in the candy board 

Smooth it out using the spoon and then transitioning to your hands.  The candy board can accommodate 15 pounds of sugar for areas colder than Zone 6.  15 pounds of sugar will combine with 3 cups of water. If using 15 pounds of sugar, to ensure uniform sugar placement flush with the inner cover, try using a small piece of lumber or a ruler to smooth the top flat.

 The sugar in the candy board  is level and smoothed out now waiting to dry 

I set the candy boards aside to dry.  Inside during winter weather, they should dry within 24 hours to a very hard consistency.  Once dry, remove the plastic container.

Place the finished candy board between the upper most deep and the inner cover.  This emergency food source should last the bees through the entire winter.  I will be placing these on the hives tomorrow and will probably not take a peek at the hives again until February.  My fingers are crossed that the bees survive the winter. It is entirely up to the strength of the colony now.

Some benefits to using a candy board 

1. Less frequent entry into the hive by you.

2. Less exposure of the bees to temperatures outside the hive as you open to replenish their stores.

3. The candy board's sugar will help to absorb excess moisture inside the hive, helping to keep humidity low.

4. The entry/exit hole in the side of the candy board will allow excess moisture to escape the hive.

5. Ease of use. Less mess.


A huge thanks to  for sharing the candy board technique with her readers, including me, on her wonderful beekeeping blog.  To read more about my first year beekeeping adventures from the beginning, click here. 

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12/5/2012 12:54:34 PM
Melissa, huh, I didn't know that bees needed help to get through the winter. I guess it makes sense if we (humans) steal their honey then we should replace it with some thing for them to live on during the winter months. Someday I'll have bees next to my garden but in my case I really don't want to be the one to take care of them. Hopefully, I can find someone to plant a hive on my garden property and take care of it. Have a great candy board bee day.

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