Supplementing bees’ food during Winter is key to helping them make it through to Spring. Utilizing candy boards, fondant patties or sugar bricks inside their hive provides them with nutrition they cannot find by foraging alone.
Honeybee Healthy(r) feeding stimulant will encourage bees to consume. Simply combine water and sugar for this simple recipe! Add pollen substitute and an appropriate pollen sample as well.
How to Make Sugar Patties
There are various recipes for sugar patties available online. While some don’t require any cooking at all, others require taking steps such as heating the mixture until it reaches soft ball stage. No-cook versions often utilize lard instead of shortening and may include essential oils to deter varroa mites.
Cooked versions typically require either a candy board feeder with an inverted lid, or an internal feeding shim installed into the hive, where sugar and water mixture is heated until soft ball stage, then poured directly into either feeder or pan to form bricks that go directly to beehives.
If a strong colony has enough honey for winter, extra nutrition in the form of sugar patty or candy board should be added inside to provide them with extra sustenance as they hibernate. Winter feeds are vital in order for them to keep the queen warm and produce brood cells for next spring’s brood cycle.
Sugar patties come in a variety of styles. Some require no-cooking while others use vinegar to invert the sugar. I like mixing mine with pollen substitute to provide additional protein that promotes brood rearing and colony growth during winter months.
To create the sugar mixture, you’ll require:
Pour the dry sugar into a mixing bowl and combine with vinegar/acid mixture and essential oils (optional). When stirring thoroughly, use either hand mixer, spoon, or fork. Eventually add lecithin and pollen substitute as desired if desired, before spooning out into molds or baking sheets/cake pans to compress. Press down hard on them until compressed to achieve the thickness of pie (patty should be around an inch thick). Additionally, you could place this emergency food directly above cluster during winter as an emergency measure to prevent starvation in case cluster dislodged; additionally it helps absorb moisture during winter as well.
Sugar patties are formed using a blend of sugar and pollen and are used to feed honey bees during winter and late spring, increasing brood rearing rates and population increases while strengthening hive populations resulting in stronger hives, while helping with mite management and mite removal.
Make sugar patties using a mold or heavy pan to flatten the mix, or purchase Betterbee’s winter patties or candy board fondant patties from Betterbee as they contain carbohydrates and a small amount of protein to discourage queen bees from producing early brood, further depleting food supplies in your hive.
Sugar syrup may also be fed, however liquid feed may not be the best choice during Winter when bees are clustered and cannot easily remove excess moisture. Furthermore, this liquid may freeze within their hive and cause permanent damage; so fondant-made candy patty or board is recommended instead.
Beekeepers commonly feed solid sugar patties during winter to provide their hive with an easy sugar source without forcing bees out of their cluster. When feeding such sugar patties it’s essential that refined table sugar without impurities like brown sugar and molasses are used, as these substances can poison bees and result in their death.
Some recipes also incorporate essential oils, pollen substitute or Honey-B-Healthy as feeding stimulants into their recipes to provide essential elements that bees can consume to facilitate brood rearing and provide nutritional boost to their food patty. These are great additions for sugar boards as bees can consume these items and use them to build brood rearing while adding essential minerals and other elements into their patty.
Place the patty directly over the winter cluster in the center of your hive box and secure it with either a candy board or hive eke to protect it from being blown away in high winds. Be mindful that opening up your hive to introduce a patty will increase their energy expenditure as they heat up its contents before being added back to their nests.