I have researched this very topic quite a bit. The good news is that there are options. You can make fondant that sits on top of the frames, that they bees can eat as needed. You can use the Mountain Camp Method with some sugar poured directly on newspaper, or you can create a candy board. To me the choice is clear. The candy board once made requires little maintenance It is easy to refill. It can hold up to 15 pounds of sugar. The sugar itself, helps to absorb moisture and humidity from the hive. It is accessible to the bees from all the frames in the upper deep. It does not require the beekeeper to open the hives frequently to check and replenish the food.
I set out on my journey. I am lucky enough to have wonderful friend whose boyfriend made two frames just for me. They are the 2" high and the width and length of the hive's body Think spacer-beekeeping friends. Drill a 5/8" hole into the center of one of the shorter sides. Then I spray painted them and allowed them to dry overnight.
Next, I added hardware cloth to the bottom. I hate hardware cloth. Wear long sleeves and work gloves. It can take a real good bite out of you!
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Some tips for cutting the hardware cloth
1. Try to line up the candy board along the natural lines of the hardware cloth. This helps to prevent sharp edges.
2. Cut the hardware cloth 2 squares larger than the inside measurements of the candy board.
3. Cut a square piece out of the corner that measures 2 squares x 2 squares.
4. Use a ruler to help you fold in the straight edges. Use a staple gun to attach the hardware cloth and hammer them flat.
5. Cut out a notch in the hardware cloth where the entry/exit hole exists.
Place these flat onto a piece of plastic or as in my case the children's art mat.
Line the bottom with one layer of black and white newspaper, or in my case, I used some plain packing paper. (newspaper without any print.)
Next I cut an easy access entry hole in the bottom of the paper lining near the outside access hole. This would serve as a pathway for the bees to easily gain access instead of having to chew through the paper.
I placed a small square plastic container right side up to keep the integrity of this hole.
It was time to mix the sugar and the water together. In a very large cooking pot, I mixed by hand two cups of water to 10 pounds of sugar. Once combined it will appear clumpy. Dump that into one of your candy boards. You can also add a pollen patty into the bottom of the candy board as well prior to dumping out the sugar.
Smooth it out using the spoon and then transitioning to your hands. The candy board can accommodate 15 pounds of sugar for areas colder than Zone 6. If using 15 pounds of sugar, to ensure uniform sugar placement flush with the inner cover, try using a small piece of lumber or a ruler to smooth the top flat.
I set the candy boards aside to dry. Inside during winter weather, they should dry within 24 hours to a very hard consistency. Once dry remove the plastic container.
Place the finished candy board between the upper most deep and the inner cover. This emergency food source should last the bees through the entire winter. I will be placing these on the hives tomorrow and will probably not take a peek at the hives again until February. My fingers are crossed that the bees survive the winter.
Some benefits to using a candy board
1. Less frequent entry into the hive by you.
2. Less exposure of the bees to temperatures outside the hive as you open to replenish their stores.
3. The candy board's sugar will help to absorb excess moisture inside the hive, helping to keep humidity low.
4. The entry/exit hole in the side of the candy board will allow excess moisture to escape the hive.
5. Ease of use. Less mess.
To read more about my bee adventures click here. A huge thanks to Beverly Bees for sharing the candy board technique with her readers, including me, on her wonderful beekeeping blog.
Photo Credit: Tilly's Nest