Hard Candy for Honeybees

“Bee candy” is a nice dry solution that I can use in the coldest part of winter. I hope the bees won't need it, but it feels good introducing that bit of insurance that helps me sleep better. I originally got the idea of hard candy for bees from Mel Disselkoen's website. Then, not knowing what I was doing, I got my first candy cooking lesson from my friend and local beekeeper, Denise O'Connor. Since that time, I've become bold and modified the recipe to the point that I'm very pleased with it. I'm hoping you will find it beneficial too.

This is a picture of Mel opening up a hive in spring that has been fed bee candy. Mel's candy doesn't look exactly like mine (it's white), however, this gives you a good idea of what you want to see after the girls have been feeding on the candy.  Thanks to Mel Disselkoen for providing the picture of the bee-candy residue left in spring after the girls have been enjoying it.

A word about Glucose vs HFCS:
Glucose keeps the candy a little soft. I find my glucose at Michaels(TM) or Hobby Lobby(TM) in the cake decoration section; a one-cup container (look for purple label) makes four batches.

Although similar in taste, glucose and High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) are chemically different. Naturally occurring in nature, glucose is a monosaccharide. HFCS is created, starting with glucose or corn syrup and adding an enzyme called invertase. This causes a chemical reaction turning half the glucose molecules into a sweeter form of sugar called fructose.

Further details at: http://www.livestrong.com/article/444047-what-is-the-difference-between-glucose-corn-syrup/

Do not use high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) as a glucose substitute. When heated, HFCS creates the compound hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF). HMF is toxic to bees. It does not take much heat, as a dramatic increase in HMF occurs at 120°F.

A word about sugar:

Do not use GMO sugar because it will likely contain neonicotinoid residue, systemic poison which can kill your bees at 3.6 ppb (parts per billion). For example, corn and beets are usually neonic crops. Use Pure Cane sugar.

Recipe and Advice:

  • 4 cups pure cane sugar, about 2 lbs

  • 1 cup water

  • 1/4 teaspoon vinegar

  • 1/4 cup glucose

  • 1/2 cup MegaBee for protein

Tools you need:

  • 4-quart pan

  • Whisk

  • Butter knife

  • Spoon

  • Spatula

  • Measuring spoons

  • Measuring cups

  • Hot pads

  • Parchment paper

  • Candy thermometer

Steps:

  1. Spread on wax paper or parchment paper using a form if you wish.

  2. Add 1/2 cup of hot water to the 1/2 cup MegaBee powder to make a paste. This will allow the powder to blend right in later. Set this to the side with a spatula ready.

  3. Boil sugar, remaining 1/2 cup water, vinegar, and glucose to 240-245°F (firm ball), stirring with a whisk. Watch the candy thermometer. I noticed that it rises, then pauses, then rises rapidly to the desired temperature. Don't let that pause fake you into looking away. You have to hit 240-245°F exactly or slightly above for my altitude (one mile high). I like the results at 244°F.

  4. Remove from heat and quickly whisk in the 1/2 cup MegaBee, which turns the candy brown. At this point, your candy is starting to harden, and if you dilly dally, it will be too hard to spread before you know it. Try to get the MegaBee mixed in within 2 minutes.

Options:

As a water substitute, you can make bee tea (Dancing Bee Gardens Bee Tea, Bee Culture, August 2010, pg 49):

  • 1 quart of water

  • chamomile tea (two tea bags)

  • 1 teaspoon Honey B Healthy(TM)

  • 1/2 teaspoon of natural sea salt with minerals (typically not pure white in color)

Using this water substitute will cause the candy to bubble up a bit more than it otherwise would. Just turn the heat down a bit until the bubble-up stops (this happens as the liquid starts to look clear) and then turn the heat back up.

One pound of sugar is about equal to 2 cups of sugar. So, for this recipe, I found it convenient to use a 4 pound bag of sugar. First batch you must scoop out the 4 cups (2 pounds); next batch you can just dump in the remainder of the bag.

We have a great time making bee candy around Thanksgiving. A bunch of beekeeping friends get together to exchange tips and help make the candy. This ensures the candy bricks are ready to go when we get a day where the temperature spikes above 50-degrees (F) after solstice (last day of Fall, first day of Winter). This recipe includes protein, the MegaBee, and will stimulate brood rearing. I do not recommend feeding protein before solstice. On the right, you can see a brick cooling in the foreground. It gives you a sense of the dimensions of a completed brick.

Placement:

In the case of a Langstroth hive, I put the candy brick directly above the brood area. I have a special "candy super” that will essentially fit the candy brick with some bee space around the candy. The inner cover goes directly on top of this little super, and the telescoping cover goes over that as usual. This works out nicely because the heat and moisture from the cluster rises and hits the hard candy, making it just a little bit soft and just right for a bee to take a bite. This is the same for a Warre hive.

In the case of a top-bar hive (TBH), I put the candy brick in the hive opposite the brood nest end. I have to break the candy brick in half to get it to fit. In my TBH, the brood nest is at one end, near the front door. Then there's all the honey expanding toward the other end. I've saved some room at the far other end using a divider board in the TBH. When winter candy time comes around, I move the divider board closer to the opposite end, giving me some space for the candy brick. Break it in half and put it in there. They will find it if they need it.

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