Normally bees eat the honey they have made and stored in their hives during the summer but if they don’t have enough honey to last until spring, you can supplement with a candy or sugar board. You can buy them (about $20) or you can make them yourself. Here’s how we did it for only the cost of the sugar.
1/2″ hardware cloth
scrap lumber – we used a 1×6 that we cut in half to make two 1x3s
8 pounds of sugar
1.5 cups of water
1/2 (read: half) tablespoon of vinegar (white or apple cider)
winter pollen patty (optional)
To build the frame:
First you need to measure the length and width of your hive. Now cut two pieces of wood for the length of your hive body long and two other pieces at the right width. Cut them with a 45 degree angle at the ends. The angled ends aren’t totally required (you could just leave them straight) but the angles help the box fit together more tightly.
Using screws, attach the boards to form a box. But be warned: using knit gloves to while doing so can lead to unintended consequences:
Time to add an entrance/exit hole. Find the center of one of the shorter boards (the front and back pieces). With a 5/8 inch drill bit, make the hole near the bottom of the board. (When placed on the hive, this hole will sit just peeking out from the telescoping lid so that is why you want it placed towards the bottom of the board and not centered.)
- Now for a bit of “do as I say, not as I do”. We cut the hardware cloth to the exact size of the box with about an inch extra. We then used poultry staples to attach the cloth to the box. This is NOT what we will do when we build more of these. Why not? Because the staples and hardware cloth don’t let it sit snug against the hive body when we put them on the hive.
Building a bee candy boardInstead of doing it this way, next time we will cut the hardware cloth a few inches bigger and fold it up into the box. Then we’ll staple it to the inside of the box which will allow the wooden frame to sit flush onto the hive. So, do as I say, not as I did.
Oh, and make sure you attach the hardware cloth so that the entrance/exit hole is closest to the cloth. Otherwise it will sit under the telescoping lid and the bees won’t be able to use it.
And that’s it. The frame is built. In all, it took about an hour to build two boxes but that included cutting a 1×6 down into two 1x3s since that is what we had laying around.
To make the candy:
First line your frame with newspaper. Some people also use wax paper but since I can get extra newspaper for free from the recycling center that’s what we used. Only one layer of newspaper is needed since the bees will eat through it to get to the sugar.
Add 1/2 (half) tablespoon of vinegar to 1.5 cups of water. The vinegar helps prevent mold. Add the water/vinegar solution to 8 pounds of granulated sugar. Mix well. The sugar will become moist and lumpy but not soaking wet.
Now, this step is entirely optional and can only be completed it your bowl is shiny. But I highly recommend it since it makes your sugar sweeter. Okay here it is: Spend about 5 minutes making funny monkey faces at yourself while laughing hysterically.
Again, this step is not required but is recommended.
- Plop the mixture into the frame and smooth it around. Leave some space around the entrance/exit hole so that the bees have room to come and go.
We decided to include a winter pollen patty for them as another food source. Using a glass bowl, I made a hole to put the pollen patty into. Someone used a piece of a 2×4 board to do this, other people just pushed the sugar out of the way with a spatula. Whatever works for you.
If you’re using a pollen patty, put it into your candy board. Our patties were pretty big so we cut one in half and put it in the newly created space for it. (We got our patties from a local bee supply store called Dadant & Sons.)
And now you have a sugar board! You don’t have to wait until the sugar hardens to put it into the hive; it’s ready to go now.
Placing the candy board:
To place the board, remove the hive lid and inner cover. In this photo, you can see the bees eating the pollen patty we put in the hive a few weeks ago. This is the weaker of our two hives and the fact that they are at the top of the hive already isn’t a great sign. We’re hoping the candy board and pollen patties give them all the extra food they need.
Place the candy board onto the hive with the hole in the front. Then place the inner cover back on.
Finally replace the outer cover. See how the candy board hole peeks out from under the lid to make an upper entrance/exit for the bees?
And now you’re all done! I am by no means even close to someone who know anything about what she is doing. But if you have any questions, feel free to ask and I’ll try to help.