Making Candy for Winter Feeding

During the winter time, honey bees can run out of food and starve if they weren't able to build up enough stored nectar and pollen before winter or if the beekeeper extracted too much honey from the hive during the fall.

Pouring dry granulated sugar on the inner cover or mixing sugar mush in a zip lock baggie are two methods of emergency winter feeding. Another option is to make candy fondant for the bees to eat and gain necessary energy to keep warm.

The hives were heavy with stores going into the winter, but I thought it would be fun to try making some candy anyways.

5 lbs. granulated sugar (11 ¼ cups)
16.5 oz warm water
1/12 teaspoon Cream of Tartar (just a pinch)

Pour water in pot. Add sugar to water. Add cream of tartar. Mix until thoroughly dissolved.

Heat to 240 degrees F, as per candy thermometer. Do not stir mixture while boiling, this will cause coarse grain.

The longer you let the mixture boil at 238-240 degrees F the harder the mixture will be.
Remove from heat and allow to cool to 150 degrees.
When mixture cools to 150 degrees, stir vigorously until the mixture appears cloudy white.

When the mixture becomes cloudy, pour immediately into feeder tray or molds and allow to cool.

To make form molds, I lined a few butter dishes with foil.

When I combined the sugar, water and Cream of Tartar I was unable to get it to completely dissolve as the directions stated I should.

After applying a little heat, the mixture dissolved quite a bit, and when it reached boiling temperature, it dissolved the rest of the way.

Notice the candy thermometer in the pictures? It's used to ensure the temperature of the heated sugar is measured precisely. I allowed the temperatures to reach 245*F, the threshold between Soft Ball and Firm Ball candy.

Listening to the boiling sugar was really neat. It had a sort of glass breaking/crinkly sound to each bubble that surfaced and popped.

After it reached the desired temperature, we allowed it to cool, and then poured it into the mixer (I wasn't going to mix by hand!)

As the candy was being mixed, it cooled even further and the candy turned from clear to white again, and started to set up almost immediately.

In fact, by the time I poured the last bit into the molds, I was scraping it from the bottom of the bowl with a spoon, and pressing it into the molds.

After they cooled over night on the counter, I was able to pull them from the molds, and release the foil easily.

The recipe made seven pieces of candy the size of a butter dish and one piece the size of a pie plate.

So what does it taste like? Believe it or not, I don't think it tastes as sweet as 2:1 syrup. The candy had a "cooked" taste to it, for lack of a better way to describe it. Not burnt, nor caramelized, just not as sweet as I expected.

I suppose though, the bees aren't concerned about the sweetness of the flavor, so much as they would be happy to have something to eat and provide them with energy in a late winter emergency situation.

I wrapped the candy back in the foil, and put it into a zip lock baggie, and will store it for another week or two and see if the hives need any in the first part of January.

Comments For This Post: (3) | Post Your Comments! Hide The Comment Form
AEC says...
Date:   December 16, 2013, 9:36 pm

Why not just leave half the frames of honey in for the bees to eat during the winter.  Wouldn't that be better than introducing a lesser quality product into the creatures that make such a wonderful product?

Chris (Show Me The Honey) says...
Date:   December 17, 2013, 9:36 pm

The old beekeepers in my region say our climate requires us to leave around 60lbs of honey for the bees to over winter with. Sometimes though, the bees consume more than 60lbs of honey before the spring time arrives, and "emergency feeding" is required to keep them from starving. Another alternative to candy boards is to feed extracted honey or saved frames back to them if they need it (and if you have extra on hand).

Tom Wilson says...
Date:   January 12, 2014, 11:03 pm

I live in north Idaho , the land of short summers and long winters.
I made a top lid with a 1 1/2 " space on the bottom part . I had candy as you described, I blocked off the center hole and poured the hot candy mixture in to the lid. I also stapled some chicken  wire to hole the candy in place. After the mix cools I reopened the center hole. I put the candy tops on in November. This works well , I don't reopen the boxes until May and the bees winter well.

I just found your blog and I'm getting great ideas from it    Thank you

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