Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Candy Board for Hungry Bees

Bees can starve over the winter.   Even if they've got a hive full of honey, they can still run out of stores and if there's nothing in bloom outside, they'll starve.

We left our hives plenty of honey for a regular cold winter.   In a cold winter, the bees stay in a tight cluster and move as little as possible except to get to the next row of honey cells.  Little movement requires little food. 

If the fall lasts for a while, or if the winter is warmer, then the bees are more active.   When the bees are active, they use more food.

Since this is our first winter with the bees, we left them as much honey as we could.   We were confident that they'd have enough honey.   

But since we really have no idea what we're doing, we weren't sure and when it warmed up after the big snow, the bees were active, so we thought we'd better prep some emergency food for them and then go in and check them.   I'd hate to lose my hives over something that we could fix so easily.

The easiest emergency bee food is sugar.     When it's warm, you feed them syrup.  When it's cold you feed them either dry sugar or a candy board or sugar bricks.  

I thought I'd try making some sugar bricks. 

Confession:   It was supposed to be a candy board type of thing.

My friend, Chris, posted a great recipe for a candy board on his blog and somewhere in translation, I screwed something up. 

In the end they were too soft.   Probably because I stirred at the wrong time during the boil.   Or because I mixed it too much at the end.   Or because this is the humidity capital of the universe. 

At any rate, they broke apart really easily.   Fortunately, the bees won't care.   

The big question is this:  Do I want to spend time doing one of these for every hive every year, just in case?    

It's a good question.     The bricks were easy to make and didn't take any longer than a batch of jam.   You can make them early and store them in a ziplock until you need them.  They are super fast to lay in a hive.  If you don't use them, you drop them in water in the summer and make syrup with them to feed that way.  

The jury is still out - I can't decide.   I made one batch of sugar bricks.  Enough for one hungry hive. 

The other option I seriously considered is using dry sugar.    We decided to try that for the other hive in case they needed food, too.    Stay tuned.


  1. Everything you post about bees is fascinating stuff! When you say "dry sugar" in the last paragraph, do you mean just plain sugar from the bag?

    1. Yep, just dry right out of the bag. Wild, huh.


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