With the recent long period of below normal temperatures, have you thought about whether your hive of honey bees is needing food? Now may be a great time to give your bees supplemental food or a winter feeding.
Honey bees do not hibernate during the winter, but instead consume food reserves to stay warm throughout the winter months. When temperatures within the hive drop below 50 deg. F, honey bees form a cluster with the bees at the center consuming honey and vibrating their muscles to generate heat for the cluster. As these bees tire, fresh bees move into the center to replace them. The is a constant process for the cluster of bees until the hive temperature reaches that magic number of 50. When bees are in their cluster, they only move up and down within the hive, so a cluster can starve to death even though there maybe frames of honey off to the side of them. This is an important reason for having a supplemental source of food at the top of the hive for the bees to find during long periods of very cold temperatures.
I like to use bee candy to winter feed my bee hives. Bee candy can be placed on the top of the frames in the top of the hive or it can be poured into the inside of an inner cover (without a central hole) and placed on the uppermost hive body. For me, bee candy is a sugar candy with pollen substitute added. This mixture is a complete nutritional food source for the bees - energy, protein, minerals and vitamins.
Bee candy is rather easy to make. You need the following equipment: two wax paper lined cookie pans, a candy thermometer, a pot, mixing spoon, kitchen scales and stove. The ingredients are: water, granulated sugar, and dry pollen substitute. Any dry pollen substitute may be used - BeePro, FeedBee, MegaBee, or UltraBee.
Here is the recipe that I use-
- 4.5 pounds of granulated sugar (4 lbs granulated sugar = 9 cups)
- 2 cups of water
- 1 pound of dry pollen substitute
- Add sugar and water to a pot with a candy thermometer attached to the side (keep the thermometer off the bottom of the pot).
- Place the pot on the stove.
- Slowly bring the mixture to a boil, while stirring constantly until it reaches the temperature of 225 deg. F. (It is OK if the mixture temperature gets a little above 225 deg. F)
- Remove pot from the heat and quickly stir in the dry pollen substitute. Stir till thoroughly mixed.
- Pour bee candy mixture into the lined cookie pans.
- Cool overnight.
- Place in hives or store in Ziploc bags in refrigerator for later use.
Only open your bee hive to install the bee candy on days when the outside temperature is about 50 deg. F.