The Art of Winter Candy Feeding of Honey Bees – 2017

Candy board feeding of bees in winter is a valuable tool in extending the life of the colony to the spring nectar flow.

Winter inspection without opening the hive. Weight tells how much the colony has consumed.

A challenge for most beekeepers is “how much honey do I take from them, and did I take too much?”  A couple years back Bella Donna from Arizona showed how she filled drawn comb with candy instead of either leaving it empty or removing it.  Adding a candy board horizontally on top a hive is a plus for extending the life of a colony that does not have ANY food stored.

Over the last few years Albert Chubak has acquired bees from beekeepers in late fall, to see if he could keep them alive until spring.  The challenges were:

  • no honey stores
  • small colony
  • some were queenless
  • removed from original hive
  • winter feeding
  • keeping the bees away from the upper area of the hive
The problem with adding a candy board to a hive in fall is it often promotes the bees to prematurely migrate to the top of the hive.  This method of candy frames promotes a progression of consumption and promotes the natural upward migration within the hive.
If the candy frame is large, it is suggested to poke holes through the candy while still moist.  These holes allow bees to rejoin a cluster once temperatures drop, avoiding isolated areas where bees find it difficult to leave.
Photo by Stacey Schmid Casper Wyoming
Photo by Stacey Schmid Casper Wyoming
Our recipe for candy frames or boards is:
  1. 12 cups granulated cane (C&H) white sugar
  2. 3/4 cup water (don’t be tempted to add more)
  3. 1 cap-full of Complete by Complete Bee
  4. Optional, use a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar to prevent mold
  5. mix thoroughly until uniform
  6. press into desired board or frame
  7. leave over night, solid in 24 hrs
We don’t use inverted sugar.
Another way to help your colony store food for winter in the later fall months is as follows:
  1. Get a syringe (free at any pharmacy)
  2. Buy a jar of Caro Syrup (dark or light)
  3. You may add a drop of food coloring so the beekeeper can differentiate this from stored honey in the hive.
  4. Use the syringe to place small droplets in a drawn empty frame
  5. Place the frames above the colony in fall
  6. The bees will either relocate it or cap it
  7. Add more as needed prior to winter
The corn syrups will not ferment and do not have detrimental moisture issues.  Sugar water feeding in fall and late fall can generate moisture in the hive during winter feeding causing death to your colony.  Candy boards and frames aid the bees more than just providing a carbohydrate for energy, it also absorbs moisture.
Overwintering bees is an art, and each area will require some variations.
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Eco Bee Box LLC produces modern cedar beekeeping beehives for honeybees made in the United States (US). These hives are made with a patented hive box design which prevents box breakdown. Modern hives include the Mini Urban Beehive (MUB), Langstroth Horizontal Hive, Comb Box Hive, Observation Hive (Luminary), Vintage Hive, and more.

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