As autumn settles upon us and winter is at its heels, it is time to prepare food for the bees to give them another opportunity to create more stores for winter. Since it’s getting colder, the feeder must be placed outside of the hives otherwise it can cause condensation and that is a “buzz killer”. The condensation will get the bees wet which of course can kill them.
The feeder is filled with liquid bee food then placed about 30 feet from the hives. They must be at least 25 feet from the hives to prevent robbing. If the feeder is placed too close to the hives, a hive may claim it as their own and then we have civil war.
We also made sugar (or candy) blocks for the bees. The candy blocks are like emergency food for the bees in the event they run out of honey. Using a disposable cake pan lined with wax paper to hold the candy, the block is easily removed and placed across the top bars of the top box. Another candy block is made inside a frame using wax paper which will slide into the hive.
During our first attempt, the candy blocks were not setting and they were translucent and gel-like. Something went wrong. Looking online, there were some other recipes that called for fifteen or sixteen pounds of sugar rather than sixteen cups like the recipe we followed. There are other factors that can lead to not setting up well like heating too quickly. It is also important to ensure the sugar mixture is not scorched. Scorched sugar is poison to bees.
We scraped the thick gel back into a pot to melt it down again, added more sugar, brought it up to temp, then poured them back into the tins. They started setting up almost immediately. This looks more like it.
There are various recipes available online that use different ratios and temperatures as well as no cook methods.
This is the recipe we ultimately used.
Items: Large stock pot, candy thermometer, disposable cake tins, wax (parchment) paper. We also used a hive frame for one block.
16 pounds of pure cane sugar
2-1/2 cups cold water
1/2 cup of bee health (essential oil mix)
1 Tbs. lemon juice
In a stockpot heat the liquids and add sugar slowly and stir. The mixture will become very thick. Keep it on high and bring mixture to 240 degrees. Ensure the temp does not exceed 250 as this can scorch the mix and sicken the bees.
When you have reached 240 degrees remove from heat and carefully pour into parchment paper lined tins and allow to cool for approximately six hours. Store in a cool dry place until ready to use. Avoid moisture and humid areas.
For the wind block, we erected a 16′ x 4′ cattle panel to block the northwest wind from the hives. We arched the panel and attached two 4′ x 8′ tarps.