Like many creatures, honey bees spend the year building up their food stores for the winter. When the cold weather hits, your colony will rely on its supply of honey to survive throughout the season. Honey bees spend the winter huddled up in a cluster around the queen. The body heat that the worker bees generate keeps the entire cluster—and the hive—warm and toasty. However, this process takes energy, which means the bees must have a reliable food source within the hive. If honey supplies are getting low, you can place winter patties or a candy board inside the hive. Learn why winter feeds are important and how to make a candy board for beehives with this guide.
Why You Need Winter Feed
As your honey bees cluster up for the winter, you want to ensure they have plenty of food all season long. A strong colony should be able to make enough honey to last it throughout the winter, but there are many reasons why your honey bees might need a little help. Longer winters, harder summers, and other complications might lead to your honey bees going through their honey a little too quickly. That’s where winter feeds such as Bulk Pro Winter Patties or candy boards come in. Placing feed within the hive gives you peace of mind—the extra sugar will sustain them until spring, when your worker bees can get out and start foraging again.
Winter Feed Patties
Winter feed patties are the most beneficial option for feeding your bees during the winter months as they contain carbohydrates and other nutrients. Plus, feed patties are convenient and easy to distribute to your hive. Make sure to use a “winter blend” patty, because it doesn’t contain as high a level of protein as a traditional pollen patty. Extra protein in the middle of winter may encourage brood production and a population boom that will further dwindle your hive’s food stores.
You can find endless recipes for how to make a candy board for beehives online, but most fall into two categories: cooked and uncooked.
Cooked Candy Recipes
Cooked candy recipes work the same as any simple hard candy recipe. Bring a pot of water to a boil, and then stir in your granulated sugar. Continue to stir and heat the mixture until it reads 240 degrees Fahrenheit on a candy monitor. Remove the pot from heat and allow the mixture to cool slightly to around 195 degrees Fahrenheit. Next, pour your mixture into your candy board. You can use the interior of your inner cover or make your own candy board to fit inside the hive. For a little added sustenance, you can add pieces of pollen patties throughout the board. Once the candy has hardened, install the board in the hive and let your honey bees enjoy their treats.
Uncooked Candy Recipes
No-cook candy board recipes offer an even simpler solution to feed your honey bees. Instead of boiling your water, simply mix it in slowly with your sugar to create a sand-like substance. You can also add vinegar to your water before mixing it in. This will prevent mold from forming once you install the sugar board in the hive. Getting the balance of the mixture right might take some experimentation. You want your sugar to be moist and cakey, but not runny. Once the mix is ready, spread it across your candy board. Unlike hard candy, this mixture won’t do well hanging at the top of your hive. You’ll want to buy a candy board that supports the feed and contains entrances for your honey bees to reach the candy. You can also add extra nutrients by placing bits of pollen patties throughout the candy board.
Whether you use winter patties or a candy board, you'll be giving your bees a reliable food source to help get them through the colder months.