Feeding with Sugar Candy or Dry Sugar
Hard candy is a very good way to feed bees without overly stimulating
brood production, but it takes some preparation. Here are two recipes:
Microwave Candy Recipe
(feeds 1 or 2 colonies)
1. In a one quart ( or larger) microwave dish, mix thoroughly one and a half cups granulated sugar and one-half cup light corn syrup ( 3:1 ratio). No water.
2. Microwave on a high setting, stirring every few minutes, until the mixture is clear and
bubbles become larger (thumbnail size), about 10 minutes. Bubbles should be large, but is stop immediately if the mixture starts to brown. A wooden spoon is very effective for stirring, as it can be left in the dish during microwave cooking.
3. Pour into an inner cover without the vent hole (use duct tape to cover the hole). Use the inner cover upside down with the candy in the brood chamber. Or pour it into a mold made from cardboard, aluminum pan or a container lined with paper to cool. The candy will become brittle, and can be slipped on top of frames where the bees will consume it.
Stovetop Candy Recipe
1. Heat one pint (1/2 liter) of water to boiling in a large pot on stove.
2. Stir in as much sugar as can be dissolved. This will be about 5 pounds (2 Kg). More sugar is better.
3. Boil without a cover, stirring it near continuous until the mixture reaches 234 degrees F. It takes a while.
4. Pour into a mold made of cardboard or a container lined with waxed paper or butcher’s paper. The candy will harden as it cools. The candy will become brittle, and can be slipped on top of frames where the bees will consume it. Or pour it into an inner cover without the vent hole (use duct tape to cover the hole). Use the inner cover upside down with the candy in the brood chamber.
Granulated sugar is another good way to feed bees without overly-stimulating brood-rearing. Bees will eat the granulated sugar only if they don’t have enough honey. About a cup of granulated sugar can be poured on an inner cover, around the inner vent hole. You need to leave an escape route to the outer vent notch. You could also pour the sugar onto newspaper above the bees. If granulated sugar is poured inside the hive, sometimes the bees will carry it out of the hive and throw it away. That’s because they are using it to trap the moisture in it. Once you see the bees taking the sugar, you will know they are low on honey and depend on the sugar. You will then know you must keep feeding them. Replenish what they use in a timely fashion. Check from one week to the next.
Sugar Syrup Feeding
(Northern Syrup Feeding)
Sugar syrup is a good means of supplementing the bees nectar flow. The syrup is made of water and regular white refined table sugar. In the spring, the syrup wants to imitate the consistency of nectar. The syrup would then be mixed in a ratio of 1:1 In the fall, the syrup needs to be mixed in a more concentrated manor (2:1) because the bees don’t have time to fully process it into a honey. Sucrose syrup is a superior winter preparation feed, since it stays liquid and contains no solids that might cause digestive problems during a long confinement period, particularly in northern climate areas such as ours. However, if they don’t get the moisture content below 18%, the syrup will ferment. In the winter, this would mean the bees would require more cleansing flights then normal. This could create a Nosema problem in long cold weather spells. Sugar syrup is also an excellent means of administering some medications. When the medication prescribes being used with sugar syrup, use the appropriate mix for the season and always follow the medications directions.
Spring Syrup (1:1)
It is best to feed a mixture of sugar and water in a one to one ratio by volume in the spring. Half fill your container with sugar and add water to completely fill the container. You can mix the syrup by stirring the one to one sugar/water mixture for the spring feeding. The bees will use the sugar syrup mixture until natural sources are available.
16 oz (1 pint) = 1 pound
1 US cup = 8 US fluid ounces
2 US cups = 1 pound
1 gallon = 8.345404 pounds1
So, if you have a standard 5lb. bag of sugar from the supermarket, add 10 cups of water to it for 1:1 syrup.
Fall Syrup (2:1)
Use a two part sugar to one part water sugar syrup mixture if the bees do not have adequate winter stores. Fill your container to the half way mark with water. Pour the water into a pan to place on the stove to warm up or boil. Completely fill your container with sugar. Add sugar to hot water and stir. Hot or boiling water will help to dissolve the sugar better. Allow mixture to cool before feeding your bees.
A Note on Mixing Sugar Syrup2
Here are the figures explaining the difference between 1:1 sugar syrup and 2:1 sugar syrup. Always use granulated cane sugar when making sugar syrup.
1:1 sugar syrup, by weight: If you dissolve 5 pounds of granulated sugar in 5 pounds of hot water, you will have 10 pounds of syrup that is 50% water, by weight. The bees will dry this to about 18.6 % water, by weight, before capping. This means that the final product will contain 5 pounds sugar and about 1.14 pounds of water. To achieve this, the bees must remove 3.86 pounds of water from the original mix. The final volume of ripened syrup will weigh 6.14 pounds.
Translated into gallons, 1 gallon of 1:1 sugar syrup weighs about 10.3 lbs (5.15 lbs. water and 5.15 lbs sugar). This will dry to 6.33 lbs of syrup with 18.6% water. This is a bit more than one full comb of capped honey.
2:1 sugar syrup, by weight: If you dissolve 10 pounds granulated sugar in 5 pounds of very hot water, you will have 15 pounds of syrup that is 33.33 % water, by weight. The bees will dry this down to about 18.6 % water, by weight, before capping. This means that the final product will contain 10 pounds of sugar and about 2.28 pounds of water. To achieve this, the bees must remove about 2.72 pounds of water from the original mix. The final product will weigh about 12.28 pounds, the equivalent of 2 full combs of capped honey.
Translated into gallons, 1 gallon of 2:1 sugar syrup weighs about 10.98 lbs (3.66 lbs. water and 7.32 lbs sugar). This will dry to 8.99 lbs of syrup with 18.6% water. This is equivalent to 1.5 full combs of capped honey.
Candy Boards 3
Candy boards are constructed from 1/4 inch plywood or Masonite cut 16 1/4 X 19 7/8 with a 3/4 to 1 inch wood rim fastened to the perimeter. The candy board looks like an inner cover without the escape hole. The candy slurry is poured directly into the candy board and once hardened is fed to hives by replacing the inner cover with it (sugar side down) beneath the outer cover. The candy slurry can also be poured into molds such as pie tins or cookie sheets 1/2 – 3/4 inch thick that will fit into the inner cover rim after hardening.
Grease the tin with vegetable shortening and line it with wax paper before pouring the candy slurry for easy removal and storage. Hives that are fed candy should be rechecked every 10 days to two weeks and fed as needed.
Following are several recipes for sugar candy:
- Boil 1 pint of water, add 5 lbs granulated sugar and heat to 240 degrees. Stir the solution frequently in order to prevent burning or caramelizing the sugar. The solution will eventually clear during the boiling process when the temperature approaches 240º. Remove the sugar solution from heat and cool to approximately 180-200º and pour into the prepared molds or candy boards.
- 12 lbs sugar, 1 1/2 lbs liquid glucose, 1 1/4 quarts water, 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar. Boil to 238º, cool, pour.
- 15 lbs sugar, 3 lbs glucose or white corn syrup, 1quart water, 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar, boil to 240º, cool and pour.
Note- Higher boiling temperatures result in a harder candy.
Brown’s Bee Farm: Easy Candy Boards
“Candy boards can be a messy job in the kitchen. Boiling, checking temperatures, getting it just right so it will set up solid in your board, then you also have to pour that hot sticky liquid and contain it so it doesn’t end up on the floor. For years now I have used a simple method that doesn’t require cooking. I mix one ounce of water to each pound of sugar, this gets the sugar damp. I put this damp sugar in my candy boards which are made from equipment I already have in my apiary, no need to purchase a specially designed board or to boil sugar and water.”
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