Bees work so hard throughout the year, preparing themselves for the long winter and to make it to the next spring. They need to collect as much pollen and nectar as they possibly can throughout the spring, summer, and fall. Without enough stored, they won’t be able to make it to the next year. Enter the candy board! It’s one of the ways that beekeepers can use to help their bees have enough supplies throughout the winter and into spring.
What is a candy board?
A candy board is a supplemental food source placed inside a beehive to provide sustenance for honeybee colonies during the winter months when natural forage is scarce or unavailable. It typically consists of a wooden frame or shallow box with a piece of crystallized sugar and water mixture (often referred to as “candy”) placed on a plywood base. The candy board is positioned above the bee cluster within the hive, allowing the bees to access the stored candy and feed on it as needed to survive the winter. This ensures that the bees have a reliable source of energy and prevents them from running out of food when outdoor foraging is not possible.
This post is all about how to make a candy board.
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Candy Board for Bees
Before we dive into the delightful world of candy boards, let’s understand why they can be essential for overwintering bees.
Overwintering bees is like preparing for a long, cold adventure. Bees can’t fly outside to forage for nectar and pollen in the winter, so they rely on their stored honey reserves to survive. But sometimes, Mother Nature can be harsh, and bees might run low on honey.
That’s where beekeepers step in. To help their bee colonies make it through the winter, beekeepers can provide extra food in the form of a candy board.
Reasons for Using a Candy Board
There are a few reasons why a candy board could be used by a beekeeper for their bees. It can offer several benefits to help beekeepers ensure the survival and well-being of their bee colonies during the cold winter months.
Here are five compelling reasons to use a candy board:
- Emergency Food Supply: Candy boards provide an emergency food reserve for honeybee colonies. In case the bees run out of stored honey, the candy serves as a readily available source of nourishment, preventing starvation during the winter when foraging is not possible.
- Moisture Control: Candy boards can help absorb excess moisture within the beehive, a common problem in cold weather. By drawing moisture away from the hive interior, they contribute to a drier and healthier hive environment, reducing the risk of mold and condensation-related issues.
- Temperature Regulation: The candy board acts as an insulating layer within the hive, helping to stabilize temperature fluctuations. This aids the bees in conserving energy and maintaining a suitable hive temperature, which is crucial for their survival in cold conditions.
- Easy Monitoring: Beekeepers can easily monitor the candy board to assess the bees’ food consumption throughout the winter. This allows them to gauge the colony’s health and intervene if necessary by providing additional food if the candy is running low.
- Hands off Approach: By providing a candy board, the beekeeper can have a hands off approach to helping out the hive. It’s important not to open up the hive during the winter months as it can open a can of worms to a whole bunch of issues for the hive, such as exposing the bees and the brood to cold air.
- Peace of Mind: Using a candy board gives beekeepers peace of mind, knowing that their bees have a reliable source of sustenance during the winter. It reduces the stress and worry associated with ensuring the colony’s survival through the colder months, ultimately benefiting both the bees and their keepers.
Candy Board DIY
Imagine a snowy landscape inside the beehive. The candy board is like a magical snow castle filled with delicious, life-saving treats for our buzzing friends.
To create a candy board, you’ll need:
– A wooden frame or shallow box that fits inside your beehive (you can either purchase one, or make it yourself)
– A piece of plywood to serve as the base.
– 15 to 16 pounds of sugar
– 3 cups of water
– White vinegar or apple cider vinegar (optional)
– Honey B Healthy
– A candy board shim or spacer to create a gap above the candy.
– a large pot
Note: the white vinegar is optional, but should be considered. Using white vinegar in this recipe serves as a mold inhibitor. Honey B Healthy is a feeding stimulant that’s made with essential oils. It can be used seasonally, and particularly during dearths.
A word of caution with making candy boards. It’s important to know that when the candy boards are made, they are very heavy. Use caution when making and handling the sugar syrup since it will be boiling. In the warmer months, the board may attract pests.
How to Make a Candy Board
1. Start by cutting the plywood to the size of your wooden frame or box. The rim of the plywood should be 2 inches deep.
2. After you’ve measured out and cut the plywood, work on the syrup. Boil 3 cups of water.
3. After the water has come to a boil, slowly pour all of the sugar into the water. Stir constantly.
4. If you are adding in apple cider vinegar or white vinegar, add in 15 mL.
5. Boil the mixture until it reaches about 235 degrees Fahrenheit.
6. Remove from the heat, and continue stirring. Stirring should be vigorous. The syrup will now start to cool.
7. Optional: add in 2 teaspoons of Honey B Healthy after the syrup stops boiling.
8. Once the syrup cools to 200 degrees Fahrenheit, if you are adding very carefully pour the sugar syrup onto the plywood, making sure it’s evenly spread. Leave it to harden and crystallize for a few days. This candy is like the bees’ winter candy stash!
9. Once your candy is ready, place the candy board spacer on top of it. This creates space for the bees to access the candy.
10. Finally, put the candy board into the beehive, right above the bee cluster. Make sure there’s an upper entrance for the bees to reach the candy.
When to Use Candy Board
The timing for putting on a candy board in a beehive depends on several factors, including your location, climate, and the specific needs of your honeybee colony.
Here are some general guidelines to help you determine when to put on a candy board:
1. Late Fall or Early Winter: In most regions, it’s a good practice to add a candy board to the beehive in late fall or early winter before the onset of consistently cold weather. Aim to do this when daytime temperatures are still above freezing, as it’s easier to work with the hive during milder weather.
2. When Honey Stores Are Low: Observe the honey stores in your hive to gauge when to add the candy board. If your colony’s honey reserves are running low and there’s a risk of them not having enough food to last through the winter, it’s time to provide supplemental feeding with a candy board.
3. Before the First Frost: Ideally, you should install the candy board before the first frost of the season. Once frost sets in, foraging opportunities for bees become extremely limited, and it’s crucial to have the candy board in place to ensure a continuous food source.
4. Monitor Colony Weight: Some beekeepers use the weight of the hive as an indicator. If the hive feels light when you lift it, it’s a sign that the bees might need additional food. Adding the candy board in advance of this point can help prevent any potential food shortages.
5. Local Beekeeping Advice: Consider seeking advice from experienced beekeepers in your local beekeeping association or community. They may have valuable insights on the best timing for installing candy boards based on the specific climate and forage conditions in your area.
Remember that beekeeping can vary greatly by location, and it’s essential to adapt your practices to the needs of your individual colony. Regular hive inspections and monitoring are crucial to assess the hive’s food stores and make timely decisions about adding a candy board or other winter feeding methods. By staying attuned to your bees’ needs and local conditions, you can help ensure their survival and well-being through the winter months.
This post was all about how to make a candy board.