Making Candy for the Bees: ReDo
Updated: Mar 9, 2022
I leave honey on the bee hives for the winter but I like to supplement with blocks of candy as we get into January-February. I make batches of candy throughout the winter and take opportunities to peek into the top of the hives. I get a sense of what is going on in there and can feed more candy if needed. We have plenty of winter days in the 40’s and it is no problem to peek into the top.
I have changed my recipe, previously posted on this site, for bee candy making as I was getting inconsistent results. My primary source for my recipe was from Doug Brown: Make bee fondant correctly- Temperature, acid and time. I have, recently, adjusted the proportion of water to sugar weight. I use 1 liter of water for every 12 pounds of sugar.
I use 35-40 pounds of sugar at a time. It is challenging because of the weight and heat. You might want to make less or get help. (So for 35 pounds of sugar, you would use 2.9 liters of water or 3 quarts + .25 cups).
I use a turkey fryer because of its large size (around 32 quart size). Also, I don’t mind beating up the pot with my paint mixer. I heat the candy inside the house and bring it outside to cool and stir. Others like to heat outside using a propane burner. Doing the process outside helps with the mess. It is a good idea to use gloves and long sleeves to protect yourself from the hot syrup.
Bring to a boil, stirring frequently so it doesn’t burn on the bottom. Often, you will see recipes telling you to “stir constantly.” That’s not really necessary but you, definitely, don’t want to get involved, too deeply, in another task. I recommend staying in the kitchen.
While I’m waiting for the mixture to boil, I line reusable foil trays with freezer paper. I find freezer paper works best for removing the candy from the pans after cooling. Often, I can reuse the paper if it is removed carefully. If you use another paper such as parchment, it may stick a little. That is not a big problem, the bees will remove it. Some people pour the candy directly onto “candy boards” that they will fit onto their hives.
The sugar water will, eventually, come to a boil. At this point, you don’t have to stir because the boiling keeps things moving. Start taking temperature readings with a candy thermometer.
Bring the temperature up to 248 degrees Fahrenheit and try to maintain that temperature for 15-20 minutes. After that, I bring the pot outdoors to cool.
I measure out pollen substitute if that is to be added. Generally, I’ll add about 1/2 pound of pollen substitute for 20 pounds of sugar. I will double that as the bees start to brood up for spring. Some people feel that adding pollen too early might cause problems with bees brooding up before it’s time.
I have heard that lemongrass oil makes the candy attractive to the bees. I haven’t verified that but it sure does smell good and, certainly, does not repel the bees. Lemongrass oil is optional.
Once the candy is cooled to 180 degrees F. I add the pollen substitute and a few of drops of lemongrass oil.
I set up a paint mixer and drill. The candy gets, vigorously, stirred for 3-4 minutes so that the mixture is full of bubbles.
Quickly, pour the mixture into your lined pans or containers before it starts to harden. Have a scraper at hand to get the last of it out of the pot. It can be difficult to manage with one person. Two people make this process easier. Admittedly, I tend to work the syrup hotter than 180 degrees F so it remains quite pourable when I put it into the pans.
Once it firms up sufficiently, score the candy into the size blocks you want to use.
Once completely cooled, break the blocks up and put them into your hives. I get a hard block rather than soft fondant with my process. I place them directly on the frames where the cluster is. I use a shim between the top box and the cover to make room for the blocks of candy and feeding bees. Several smaller blocks of candy rather than just one large block provides more surface area for the bees. I just have to lift the inner cover and place the candy blocks in as needed.