This week in Southern Indiana we caught a few warm days. I can tell by the way everyone is acting spring is on the mind. It was also on the mind of the bees. It was possibly the first cleansing flights days in over a month. I managed to get a peek into my two hives at my home apiary. I was able to take several pictures, and check to see how my winter prep is holding up. That is primarily what I wanted to write about today also because I had a question about what I do for winter prep.
I don’t really do all that much to ready my bees for winter. The main thing that concerns me is how much honey is in the hive. I do feed pretty heavy in late fall. November is the time of year around here that we can have a high potential for cold snaps. This year we even had 3” of snow, I know for some of the country 3” was just a dusting in Nov. but that was my situation. I ended up very lucky this year. All of my hives felt heavy enough to take off of feed, and a couple of them even stopped taking it in. It was possible for me to install my candy boards by the first week in Nov. So when we had all of that bad weather my bees were tucked in nicely. The candy board serves as a source of emergency feed and a moisture quilt throughout winter.
I have not found much evidence of candy boards being used for winter prep throughout most of what I’ve read or watched. I think this is something that is simple for anyone to try. My bee club preaches candy boards like the Gospel and for good reason. My intent is to walk you guys through how they are used and even how to build them.
The candy is just cane sugar mixed with enough water that it will turn into a giant sugar cube when its dry. I have found that if you use to much water it can get to runny and a little bit will leak out before it gets dry. I tend to hold the moisture level to the side of not enough. You can also add a table spoon of vinegar if you like to reduce mold. I have not done that with mine and I’ve never had a problem yet. You can also add a pollen patty if you like, however I find its easier to just toss it in when the time is right in the spring.
Building these things is also very simple. You will need to make a box the same dimensions as your hive (be it an 8 or 10 frame). I like to use 1×4 lumber but you can pretty much use whatever you want. I know plenty of people who use 1”x2” lumber and have no empty space at the top. You will need cross support in the center, an entrance hole, and 3/8” or larger hardware cloth for the bottom.
To load the sugar you need to line the bottom with newspaper and then pour in your sugar and water mixture. Level it off and your basically done. Make sure that you leave space in your sugar so your bees can get to their new upper entrance. Some people use a small piece of 2×4 and put it in front of the entrance hole, then remove it once your sugar has dried.
Your basically done with your candy board, or “no bake candy board” as I just learned it can be called. I would like to point out that if your bees are using up most of the sugar you should plan on feeding as early as possible in the spring. I will be planning on feeding probably in march as soon as I feel there is not much chance for a long cold snap or your bees could starve. This hive would be a good example of that.