Winter Feeding

Hardin County Kentucky Beekeepers AssociationFeeding Bees During the Winter

If you have any questions or if in doubt, do not hesitate to call. If I can’t help, I’ll refer you to someone who might be able to.

David Shockey

Supplemental feeding of  your bees over the winter months is very important and should be considered. One of the primary causes of hive losses during the winter is starvation even if there appears to be adequate stored honey and pollen in the hives.  Below are several methods—there are others that can be found online.

Feeding Bees with Hard Candy

The hard candy method is more work but reduces moisture problems associated with syrup feeding during the cold weather.

Preparing the candy

Ingredients:

  • 12 pounds table sugar
  • 1 ½ pounds honey
  • 1 ¼ quart water
  • ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar

Heat the water while adding the sugar and honey. Stir continuously until the mixture is liquid. Remove the spoon; do not stir, but continue to heat the mixture. Heat the boiling mixture to 238° F. Do not stir while cooking. When the temperature reaches 238° F, remove from the heat source and add the cream of tartar. Cool the mixture to 125° F and stir vigorously until the mixture becomes cloudy white. Pour the mixture into a rectangular cake pan or candy feeder box.

Candy molded in cake pan can be wrapped in wax paper and placed in the hive.

A candy feed box can be constructed from a piece of one-half inch plywood the size of an inner cover. A 1 ¼-inch rail is nailed around the perimeter of the plywood to make a tray. Nail 12 roofing nails into the inside bottom of the plywood tray to anchor the candy after it hardens.

Place the tray, candy-side down, over the bees. Cover the tray with the inner and outer covers.

David Shockey’s Recipe:

Need a deep pot and a candy thermometer.

  • 11 lbs. of sugar
  • 4 cups of water
  • 1 pint of old honey or corn syrup
  • ¼ cup of Honey B Healthy
  • 1/3 teaspoon of cream of tartar

Heat water to boiling and add the sugar. Stir until sugar has dissolved.   Continue to heat to 238 degrees. Be careful not to let mixture boil over. Remove from heat and let the mixture settled down, foam has settled, this usually only takes a minute or so. Then add the old honey or corn syrup and Honey B Healthy. Quickly stir into mixture. Now let the mixture cool down to 125 degrees. This may take an hour or two. If it is cool or cold outside, I move the pot to the back porch to cool. Then add the cream of tartar and stir vigorously until the mixture becomes cloudy. The mixture is now ready to be poured into a candy board box, cookie sheet, cake pan or other. Let the mixture cool and harden over night before placing on the hive.  I normally move them out to barn or garage.

I use this mixture for each candy board for each 10 frame deep hive—during a normal winter this will last from early/mid-December until early February. I also make up this mixture and pour into 2 large cookie sheets covered with wax paper and store in the refrigerator. In February, if the bees have consumed the candy board and need a little more supplemental feeding, I usually cut 4” x 4” or 4” x 6” squares from the cookie sheets and place one square on top of the top frames of the each hive and leave the candy board box on. Around mid-February, I also add ½ of a spring pollen/protein patty to each hive. I leave the candy boards in place until the weather warms up enough to start feeding 1:1 sugar water to the hives—weather dependent.

I add a 1/2” to 5/8” hole in the front for added ventilation and provides a top entrance/exit for the bees.

Joe Taylor’s Recipe

Feeding Bees with Hard Candy         (From www.hivetool.com)

My notes are added

The hard candy method is more work but reduces moisture problems associated with syrup feeding during the cold weather.

Preparing the candy       (January 8, 2007 - Now that's been a while!)

Ingredients:

  • 16 pounds table sugar
  • 1 pint honey
  • 1 pint light com syrup
  • 1 quart water
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Heat the water while adding the sugar and honey. Stir continuously until the mixture is liquid. (Just don't let it bum!) Remove the spoon; do not stir, but continue to heat the mixture. Heat the boiling mixture to 238 F. Do not stir while cooking. When the temperature reaches 238 F, remove from the heat source and add the cream of tartar. Cool the mixture to 125 F and stir vigorously until the mixture becomes cloudy white. Pour the mixture into a rectangular cake pan or candy feeder box. Candy molded in cake pan can be wrapped in wax paper and placed in the hive. A candy feed box can be constructed from a piece of one-half inch plywood the size of the inner cover. A 1-1/4 -inch rail is nailed around the perimeter of the plywood to make the tray. Nail 12 roofing nails into the inside bottom of the plywood tray to anchor the candy after it hardens. Place the tray, candy-side down, over the bees. Cover the tray with the inner and outer cover.

My notes:

(I found out that, Walmart com syrup can be used for honey) This will makes two candy boards, about one inch thick. I place this candy on all my hives about Dec 1. In January we have 3-4 days that the temperature is 50 degrees. This allows for a very quick 30 second inspection. Check to see how much candy is left. If they need another board have it ready. If they bees haven't touched the candy, something is wrong. It should be about gone. I leave this board on the hive until mid - March. When I remove the empty board there will be some drone comb in it. This lets me remove the mites with these drones. First mite treatment. Formic acid could be put on this hive if needed, before temperature rise too warm for treatment.

Joe Taylor

Another Supplemental Feeding Method—the Paper Plate Method

There are some beekeepers that use this method because of its simplicity.

  • 5 lb. of sugar
  • A little water
  • 1/2 lb. of old honey or corn syrup
  • 2 Tablespoons of Honey B Healthy
  • This recipe will make more than is needed for fall feeding but you can adjust of suite your needs.

Combine the mixture in a large bowl. The consistency should be such that you can pack the mixture reasonably solid. Using a large pie pan with a “very” little Pam sprayed on it or maybe covered with wax paper, very firmly pack the mixture into the pie pan.  Let this set over night to dry out some; and/or place in refrigerator or freezer then take the pie pan and turn it upside down on to a paper plate or wax paper (I prefer wax paper in most cases) and remove the pie pan. Place one paper plate of the mixture on the top of the frames of the top deep hive body. Provide a 1”x2” spacer, then the inner cover and the top outer cover. Will need to check each hive each month starting to see if more needs to be added to each hive.

Alternative: Mix the ingredients as above, but instead of using a pie pan, use a 1/2” to 1” deep cook sheet or pan covered with wax paper to firmly pack the mixture. Then cut 4” x 4” or 6” x 6” or such squares and place one of these on top of the frames under the enter cover or use a 1” x 2” space.  It’s really whatever works best for you.

There are many variations of the candy recipe which can found online.  There are also other methods on how it may be placed on or provided to the hive, for example; some use the bottom ½ of a gallon milk jug turned upside down over a larger hole/opening in the inner cover or directly in the center on top of the frames of the top hive body and then use a medium hive box as a spacer and then the top cover.

Winter/Spring Patties

If patties are used, DO NOT remove the wax paper wrapping—leave it on the patties when placing then on the hives. CAUTION: Hive beetles love patties so it may be wise to wait until after there is fall freezing before starting to use for fall and winter feeding. It is also not recommended to feed pollen/protein patties past the first part of April in the spring for the same reason. The spring pollen/protein patties are great for getting the queens going with laying and the overall health of the hive to grow in the early spring. Dadant has an AP23 Winter and an AP23 Spring patties which are pretty good; Kelley Bees has a good Spring protein/pollen patty. Most other beekeeping supply companies have winter and spring patties. Be sure to know which patties you are buying—there is a difference in winter and spring patties.

Grease Patties for Mite Control

Grease patties have been used for a long time for mite control. Some old time beekeepers actually used them year round. I’ve used them before in the winter and they do appear to help with mite control. The grease from the Crisco gets on to the bees and wards of mites. Here is one receipt—there are many variations that can be found online. The basic mixture is   1 part Crisco shorting and 2 parts sugar.

  • 1 lb. of Crisco Shorting
  • 2 lbs. of sugar---may have to add a little more if too wet to make patties
  • ½ lb. of honey or corn syrup—this is optional
  • 2 tablespoons of Honey Bee Healthy – this is optional

Mix all ingredients in a mixing bowl. The mixture should be fairly stiff but soft enough to make ¼ lb. hamburger size patties. Use wax paper between the patties. Place in refrigerator/freezer overnight. Place one patty directly on top of and toward the center of the top frames of top hive body. Leave the wax paper on the bottom of the patty. Normally one patty will last two to three months. I place one patty on each hive directly under the candy boards because there is plenty of space for one there.

How to make a Candy Board

The candy board is built to the same dimensions as a hive box. The sides are 1” x 2” and the bottom can be 1/4”, 3/8” or 1/2” plywood depending on what you might have available. Most use the 1/4" or 3/8”.  Some drill a 1/2" or 5/8” hole in the front for a top entrance and to allow for added ventilation.  At least ½ dozen roofing nails should be tacked into the plywood to help hold the candy in the candy board. If you drill a hole, cover it with wax paper before pouring the candy mixture into the candy board.  After the mixture has completely cooled and hardened, usually overnight, the inner cover is removed from the hive and the candy board is placed candy face down directly on top and then top outer cover is placed over it. The top outer cover may need to be adjusted to allow for easy exit and entrance for the bees through the hole in the candy board.