Time to fill the candy boards (and finally bust out that 25-pound Costco sack of sugar I bought for this months and months ago). Because there’s some controversy over whether serving the bees cooked sugar is chemically good for them, I chose instead to use a tip from Rusty over at HoneyBeeSuite.com. I filled these boards with her no-cook method and found it easy, quick and effective so far.
Oh yeah… put tissue under your boards before you start! I wanted something thin enough that it would give the bees no trouble at all if it didn’t end up peeling off completely. Some people recommend waxed paper but I was a little doubtful as to whether, if I had trouble peeling it off, all that paraffin would be good for the bees. It would certainly be stronger though, so if this tissue doesn’t hold up then I’ll try it next year.
The first thing I did was set loose blocks of wood in place to prevent built-up sugar from blocking the ventilation ports. Like Rusty, I decided to include some pollen patties in my candy boards. Not only can they snack on it whenever they want to (think of it like the protein of the bee world), but as soon as they’re ready to start brood production in the very early spring it’ll already be in place. In the past I’ve always underestimated just how early they really get going and have missed a critical point where I could have helped them out more.
Making the candy was fairly easy. After a little measuring, turns out my mixer can comfortably hold 7 pounds of sugar – any more than that, and… well, my vacuum cleaner saw a lot of work this evening. 7 pounds ought to be a good number for someone with mild winters. Rusty uses 10, but she’s in a much colder area than I am. I figure 7 is probably enough… and hey, it’s 7 pounds more than they had last year.
You mix your loose cane sugar (I’ve been told not to give them beet sugar) with 1-to-1.5 tablespoons of filtered water per pound until it reaches the consistency of moist sand – it holds its shape well without being squishy or wet. Just like you’d want when building a sandcastle. And then you pack it in, sandwiching the pollen patties in the middle. I made sure to squish the end of the patties right up onto those removable wooden blocks so it’d show through the sugar and the bees could find it.
Oops though – the boards are a bit small and especially with the pollen in place, 7 pounds of sugar doesn’t quite fit. More like 6. I hope that is enough – I’ll have to keep a careful eye on the bees, refill if necessary, and we’ll see if there’s any sugar left over in the spring. I can always expand the candy part next year.
Only a couple hours later and the sugar bricks are already quite hard! I won’t test my luck by flexing the boards or anything, but I am pretty impressed with how well they’re holding together. I’ll have to wait a while longer before they’ve dried enough to be ready, but it’ll be a big load off my mind when I can get these installed on the hives.