It is a good practice to feed your bees solid sugar in the winter as a back-up to their honey stores in case you did not leave them enough honey stores to last the entire winter. After mid-autumn, there in not enough warm weather to reduce the water content in even 2:1 syrup down to 18%, so the bees will stop taking syrup for their winter stores. It is just cheap insurance to provide them with solid sugar for their emergency feeding. There are several ways to do this. Here we will list several methods in no particular order to provide sugar for winter feeding. (Remember, always use white sugar, brown sugar is harmful to honeybees.)
1. The Mountain Camp method
This is perhaps the easiest method to provide winter sugar. You simply place newspaper on top of the frames in the top box, cut a few slits into the paper to provide a place for the bees to get started, then simply pour sugar on to the newspaper. The natural moisture in the hive from the bees breathing will cause the sugar to form a solid chunk, so after the bees cut away the newspaper the sugar will not simply fall through to the bottom board. It may be useful to add ¾” shim above the sugar to allow space below the inner cover or quilt box
2. Sugar Cakes sometimes referred to as Fondant
Sugar cakes are fed similar to the mountain camp method, but they are created very differently. Usually, they are made by mixing a small amount of water with sugar, then pressing the mixture into a shallow container and either heated or just set aside to allow the cake to harden. These cakes can then be stored and fed either on top of the frames as with the mountain camp method or placed on top of the inner cover or a queen excluder. Again, a shim will be needed to allow space for the sugar cake.
3. Candy Boards Option 1 (Cooked Candy Ceiling)
This method requires building solid candy boards to hold the candy. This will require both air vents along the sides of the board to allow the moisture to escape the hive and some screening stapled to the board to hold the candy up as the bees consume it. It also takes the most amount of time to make the candy, but has wintered hives for many years successfully. The advantage of this method is that the candy forms a ceiling above the cluster of bees, so that they have constant easy access to the candy with little or no travel time away from the cluster.
Cooked Bee Candy Recipe:
3 cups water
10 pounds sugar
Large (12 quart) pot
Long metal spoon
Bring water to a boil, then slowly add the sugar stirring constantly. Return to a boil and continue boiling on high heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture reaches the hard ball candy stage (260°F) or starts to resemble the consistency of apple sauce. Keep stirring at all times throughout the process, be careful not to burn or scorch the sugar. Burned sugar fed to bees can kill the bees.
Once the mixture has reached hard ball candy temperature, quickly pour it out into the candy board and let it cool.
This recipe makes enough for a two 8 or 10 frame candy board ¾ inches deep.
4. Candy Boards Option 2 (Uncooked) This method is just like making sugar cakes. You can use the same candy boards as shown above with the sugar facing down if you use the screening or with the candy facing up if you do not have the screen to keep the candy from falling out of the board. Just like the sugar cake recipe, mix a small amount of water into the sugar, then pack the sugar mixture into the candy board and allow it to harden.
5. Pouring Sugar into Honeycomb This method works well late in the winter if you discover that your bees are out of food. Simply lay an empty drawn frame of honey comb on its side and slowly pour sugar into the comb. This needs to be placed immediately next to the cluster for easy access by the bees
An empty candy board. (Note that hot pads are visible through the 1.5” air vents on both sides of the area to be filled with candy
The same candy board filled with bee candy.