Honeybees work. They work all spring and summer to store up enough pollen and honey for their colony to survive the winter. However, sometimes, their best efforts are not enough and they can end up starving to death if their supplies run out. As you have read, in the early spring and late fall when the nectar and pollen supplies are low, we feed our honey bees sugar syrup as a supplement. They can take this honey syrup or leave it. The choice is up to them and it provides them with access to extra food if need be. However, sugar syrup and freezing temperatures do not agree, thus those keeping bees in colder climates must feed their bees another way.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.
These 4 notched corners look like this when you bend them into the candy board.
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
41 thoughts on “A Winter Beehive Candy Board”
Very cool! Will try if i ever get the free time:)
Nice pics too.
EXCELLENT post! I'm sharing it as the featured homestead tomorrow and then making my own. We've had a very mild winter (other than one night in the teens) and I've not had to worry about freezing, but the cold weather has slowly been dipping lower and lower at night and I think I'd better get on this ASAP! Thank you for the excellent tutorial. (I'm so excited my bees are still around!)
Thanks Amy! I am happy that you liked the post and are going to give this a try too. I also am so honored to be the featured homestead. I too am happy to hear that your bees are still buzzing 🙂 Thank you so much!
Got my candy board made! Woo hoo! Only problem, it hasn't set up and the temps are dropping tonight along with rain and snow. If you think about it, say a little prayer for my bees! I hope to slip it on tomorrow if it warms up enough.
How fabulous! Oh, definitely saying a prayer or two for your bees and mine too. I can't wait to see how yours fare the winter.
If you're having trouble with your sugar not drying you can set your oven to 150F and bake for 2 hours. Turn off the oven and crack the door, let cool for several hours before handling. Should help a whole lot.
This is awesome! One question, though (this is my first winter as a beekeeper so I'm still learning!): is it okay to open up the hive even when it's super-cold? My hives are kept at a 6000 ft. elevation (zone 5 — so it gets pretty cold). Will opening it up now chill them too much?
Hi Heather, I can only speak to keeping bees on Cape Cod. With that said, it is possible to very quickly open the hives and replenish their feed on those warmer, bright sunny winter days in the 40s. We tend to have those once in a while. I hope you do too. I would recommend, reaching out to a local beekeeping association that might be able to give your some more info based on your area. Thanks for stopping in today!
Another nice thing about doing it this way is that come spring, if there is any cany left you can use it to make syrup for the girls.
Thank you for posting this. We are moving later this year and one of my goals is to start my own bees so I've been reading up all I can ahead of time. This is great knowledge. By the way , love your site.
I've made these the last few winters. I also add a little bit of anise extract. I had read somewhere that the bees are drawn to the scent. On nice winter days (we haven't had too many of those this year), I can peak under the lid and see the bees munching on the candy. Hopefully, they'll help them through this very cold winter. Fingers are crossed.
I have never heard of the anise extract. Very cool. Thank you for the tip and visiting today.
Do you have pictures of how it looked after winter was over?
Excellent post. I just have one question. How do the bees access the candy board from inside the hive? The photo looks like an external entrance.
HI Jim, there is an external exit, but see in the photo where I place the plastic tupperware dish? I remove that one the sugar is hardened and the bees go right through the hardware cloth that is open from inside the hive.
Great ideas. I tend to avoid the pollen patties in my hives here on the Cape as they have been shown to attract the small hive beetles. Their populations vary. I also have some beekeepers who add protein powder to their homemade fondant that seems to work well and the small hive beetles are less inclined to become a nuisance and increase in numbers.
Hi Melissa, what size hardware cloth is that? Big enough for bees to get through?
Sure, I used 1/2 inch hardware cloth and they fit through just fine.
Hey Melissa, when you are referring to “1/2 hardware cloth”…isn’t 1/2 wire?
I guess Hardware Cloth is the technical term. The size square if half inch. It comes in a variety of sizes. I hope this helps to clarify.
Hey Melissa…. love your post… Quick question regarding the position of the candy board. Does this replace the top board, or does it go over the top board?
Also would you recommend adding essential oils into the candy mix?
Hi Bill, this candy board sits on top of the deep right on the frames. Below the inner cover. The inner cover goes on top and then the outer cover. No, I do not add any essential oils into the candy mix. I hope this helps!
Very much so.. Thanks
Melissa, I just found this post and am intrigued. My daughter and I are keeping bees together in the Pacific Northwest. (Very wet, but generally mild winters). I was taught to add a quilt on the top of my hives to manage moisture, wrap the hives in tar paper with shims between the hive bodies to alleviate moisture build up. Does the candy board provide enough of a moisture wick or is a quilt on top required as well?
Hi! As you know beekeeping techniques vary depending on where you live. I can only speak for Cape Cod and I do the candy board with the quilting box. Some here do wrap the hives with the black roofing paper, but we don’t shim between the hive bodies. We only shim between the upper most box and the inner cover only on the two back corners. I hope this helps. Hope your bees make it through the winter! Sounds like you’ve got a good plan.
Thanks for this! I have just completed the two candy boards and am installing them on my hives today. Your instructions were terrific!
Yay! I’m so glad you were able to follow the instructions! I hope your bees enjoy and survive through the winter.
I came across your post while researching sugar board recipes. After reading, I wonder: is the recipe for 1 board or 2 boards? I am using a candy board, for a 10 frame Langstroth, that a local apiarist built to fit my hive. Since 2015, I’ve been a hobbyist beekeeper. For the first and second years, I raised Russian honeybees which overwintered well. Unfortunately, I lost my two Russian colonies in the spring. Now, I am working with Italians. Based on the research I gathered, Italians overwinter in larger colonies than other breeds; it is noted for starving itself during the mid-winter to spring. I live in Northeast Ohio, near the Pennsylvania line. Any other information or advice for a Midwestern beekeeper is greatly appreciated!
HI Matthew! You know, beekeeping is very specific to the area where you live, so I’m no sure the best ways to keep bees ins the mid-west. Do you have a club in your area? They would probably be best. This candy board recipe is for 2 hives. I hope that helps. Thanks for checking and your comment. Happy Beekeeping! I hope they survive the winter.
Hey Melissa, you mentioned putting the ‘spacer Candy board’ on your deep. What about a hive with a deep and several mediums? Best on the very top, under lid? or between deep and medium super?
Yay! I hope they work out well for you. Let me know! Thanks for getting back to me.
What is the little hole in the end of the board for? Bee access or airflow?
The hole is for bee access. It allows for the bees to move up and access the candy board from the top.
So I am new to Beekeeping and have a question about your candy board. The sugar that you use, is it powdered or granular. Thanks
It is granular.
As a new beeke this will be my 1st winter for my girls here in Western TN. Found this post on Pinterest and will be using it! Love the world of bees. So much to learn and love. Such awesome creatures the bees. I think I may be boring my friends and family with bee talk. Thank you for the lesson. Keep on beeing!!
Thank you and welcome to the hobby! I think you are going to love it.