Supplemental Feeding

Candy Boards – Feeding Bees

Candy boards are a great way to feed the bees in your hives without feeding all of the bees in the neighborhood.    The above video from Brush Mountain uses cooked fondant, which is what we have been doing successfully for two years now — we just poured the fondant into paper plates and placed those on top of the frames.  We had pollen patties in the fridge, not pollen substitute in powder form, and experimented with putting pieces of that in with the fondant, but the bees never seemed interested in eating that.   We were hesitant to leave the remaining pollen in the hive as pollen patties have a reputation for attracting small hive beetles.   While we don’t have much of a problem with SHB in the city, but we do in our out-yards.   Some of the blogs I’ve read about them attracting SHB state that they simply provide another place for the critters to hide.

Fondant is all well and good when cooking for a small number of hives, but when I don’t have time to cook for us, I certainly don’t have time to cook for our winged friends.   Hubby cut down some of the shallow hive bodies that we had and has started making candy boards as described in the video below.

The thing we like about this kind of candy board is, of course, not having to spend 30 minutes boiling syrup followed by another 30 minutes cleaning the kitchen.   The wire bottom also allows more bees to feed at one time.  We also know that every batch of fondant turns out differently — see previous blogs — and I’ve had one batch turn to rock while my back was turned and another batch turn into a gooey mess while sitting in the fridge.   Softer fondants are easier for the bees to digest but are also hygroscopic — hence the mess in the fridge.  With the humidity we have here in the south, we are concerned about sticky goo damaging the wood and trapping bees if we use the method in the first video.   We’ll let you know how these wire-bottom boards work out.
We’ll add some pollen to the candy board to get some brood started in our bee engines – our city hives.   The bees in the city and out-yards bring pollen in throughout winter, but they may need a little more to start producing brood.   With our crazy weather, it’s hard to know when to do this.  We don’t want to start too early as brood gives the bees one more thing to keep warm when temperatures drop, but we don’t want to wait too long either.   We really want to build up our numbers this spring and maybe have some queens to sell to offset some of the costs of starting up our apiary.   We’re going to use a Nicot System to get some queen cells started and hopefully save some time on getting new Nucs started as well as adding a revenue stream.
It’s still winter, but it feels like spring, and this is always a time of year that I find it almost impossible to be patient.   The daffodils are pushing up in the city and even some day lilies are sprouting new leaves.  It was below 20 degrees two weekends ago, over 70 degrees last weekend, and stormy this weekend.  Planting seeds this early is usually pointless, but I’ll probably do it anyway.  I usually do.  When the sun is shining like it is right now, I just want to hurry spring along and get those home-grown tomatoes started!   I’ll try, once again, to temper enthusiasm with some common sense and not bring more harm than help to the bees and trees in our care!