Making winter feed

In a perfect world, where everything has gone according to plan, you ideally would not have to feed the bees over the winter. They should have enough honey (if they collected enough and you didn’t take too much) to get them through the winter. With my hives, I haven’t harvested anything, knowing they need to build themselves up for the winter and grow in the spring before I can expect a harvest. In addition, Melissa had a very late start and never quite did as well as Demeter. So I knew they would need to be fed. I expect Demeter to be fine but Melissa is a bit touch and go; Demeter has lots of honey and capped sugar syrup: 2 deeps and a medium while Melissa has one deep and most of a medium.

To prepare for the expected winter feeding of Melissa, I wanted to make some fondant (essentially concentrated sugar syrup with very minimal water) to have ready to give to them if necessary.

Sugar syrup is not recommended for winter feed for multiple reasons: the bees can’t dehydrate it and cure and cap it, it creates too much moisture in the hive and it will likely freeze making it useless to them. Some folks use the “mountain camp” method of pouring granulated sugar on top of the frames and spritzing it with water. From what I’ve read and seen the bees do, they seem to treat granulated sugar as garbage and just carry it out.

So fondant it is. I debated buying it but all I could find is fondant made with HFCS, vanilla, glycerin and gelatin. I figured I could make this myself with fewer ingredients. I also wanted to make inverted sugar (this has a chemical make-up similar to honey) to make it easier for the bees to digest. Adding acid converts the sugar to glucose and fructose but I didn’t want to use cream of tartar and tried lemon juice instead.

Let me say that it did NOT work. The first batch I made was too liquid, not enough sugar and was quite pourable. I poured it into paper plates lined with wax paper and froze it to keep it available:

The problem with this is that when I put it into the hives, and it THAWED, it ran down the frames and bees got stuck in it.

So I tried increasing the sugar and got something much thicker but also more sticky! The second attempt did this:

Since the 2nd batch was much thicker, it only ran a little bit down the frames and then kind of hung there while the bees ate it. These girls are always cleaning my messes.

I rescued those girls above and their sisters started cleaning them off.

I may try 2 more things: making fondant using a real recipe and making candy boards. We’ll see. This is a messy business.

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