Since getting honeybees, we have had a few fails, but many successes. Through trial and error and research, we have found a great bee cany recipe to help winter over your honeybees. Make this in advance if you have early and long winters, as we do.
For those unaware, we reside in western Wyoming. It gets cold here over winter. Really cold. We are in agricultural zone 4. We do see -18 Fahrenheit over the winter, although not that often and we have snow on the ground until May most years. That means our bees will not have much food if we don’t give them some, especially because (thanks to circumstances out of our hands) we were unable to get our bees until the end of July. They won’t have much time to build up their population, let alone make enough honey to get through one of our winters without some assistance.
You could also ask local beekeepers how they winter over bees in your area. I have found that the beekeeping community is one of the most helpful! They simply want more beekeepers to love the hobby.
One of the biggest concerns when feeding bees the sugar syrup we made previously over winter is the excess water. During cold winter months, feeding sugar water solutions can cause deathly moisture build-up in your hive. Bees can be cold, but being both cold and wet is what can kill an entire hive. As water evaporates from the sugar solution, it condenses inside the inner cover. This then showers down onto your bees and can kill them. With candy boards, the dry block sugar not only provides a source of food but also absorbs any excess moisture.
We also made our bee candy boards to not only fit our hive but with aeration holes to allow any condensation that may form to escape. Because it gets so cold here, I wanted to be sure we used as little water as possible to make the candy boards. Once we actually put together the boards, we needed a recipe. Every single one you come across will be different and all beekeepers have their reasons for doing their candy boards the way that they do.
Some say you want the bees to have access to pollen over the winter because if they need it, they will use it and ignore it if the hive is not in need. Others say you don’t want brood to build up over the winter, so you should avoid using pollen. I decided to use it and trust my bees. They will know better than me what they need, so I made the decision to have it as at least an option for them. I am confident my bees know what they are doing with minimal management from me when it comes to what they need. If they do no use the pollen patties in these bee boards, we will refrain from putting them in next year.
This is all trial and error. But, we found what we think will work well for us in our hive this winter.
The downside of how I did this, is it is a sticky mess, so have your favorite all-natural cleaner on hand! But, the benefit is that even our 8-year old was able to help and enjoyed doing so. Kids have no aversion to sticky messes! Plus, this helps them learn about bees, why we need them, and how nature works. It also is a great learning opportunity on why we do the things we do for our animals. This bee candy does not require heat either, making it perfect for children to help with!
As of right now, this is what we used for the bee boards we made:
3 cups hot water
Pollen patties – click here to see how we made these
For this, we did weigh the sugar. This is what fits in our boards with minimal water. The vinegar acts as a preservative. Press the candy into the boards as hard as you can to compact it. We are going to let this dry for two weeks, then make another bee candy board with 25 lbs of sugar.
If you make your own bee cany boards, you will need to alter any recipe to fit your needs. Wintering over your bees is an important step to ensure the health and strength of your hive. All areas will be different, so make sure you look into what is being done effectively in your area and take your personal location into consideration when deciding on your bee candy recipe.