Nourishing Busy Bees: The Buzz about Candy Boards for Beehives

As a passionate beekeeper on a quest for a fulfilling and thriving apiary, I’ve delved into various methods to support my honey bees throughout their journey. Among the many techniques, one particular sweet solution has caught my attention – candy boards for beehives. 

These ingenious devices provide essential supplemental nourishment, ensuring the well-being of our buzzing companions. 

In this article, we’ll explore the ins and outs of candy boards, understand their significance in different seasons, learn how to craft them with a DIY recipe, and discover their advantages over traditional feeding methods. 

So let’s dive into this delectable topic and uncover the secrets of enhancing hive health with these sweet treats!

What are Candy Boards?

Top view of swarm of bees in honey comb

Candy boards, the delightful lifesavers for us beekeepers and our precious honey bees, are ingenious feeding devices that play a pivotal role in sustaining hive health. 

These supplemental feeding solutions are carefully crafted to provide nourishment during crucial times, ensuring the well-being of our buzzing friends. 

Comprising a delectable mixture of sugar, water, and various additives, candy boards act as a lifeline, especially in harsh weather conditions or when natural food sources are scarce. 

These sweet treats are strategically placed within the hive, offering accessible sustenance to the industrious colony. 

Why Candy Boards are Necessary for Beehives During the Winter

One of the most significant advantages of candy boards is their ability to prevent starvation during winter

As a beekeeper, you may have experienced a time when natural forage is scarce or inaccessible. 

During such times, candy boards serve as a reliable source of food, allowing bees to survive the harshest of conditions. This winter necessity boosts the hive’s survival rate, giving us peace of mind through challenging periods.

How to Craft a Candy Board for Your Beehive

Following my detailed DIY guide to craft your own candy boards and provide your honey bees with a delicious and nourishing treat.

The Essential Ingredients for a Perfect Candy Board

To begin, gather the essential ingredients: granulated sugar, water, and white vinegar. The vinegar helps prevent mold and fermentation, ensuring the longevity of your candy board. 

Pro tip from experience:

Consider adding pollen substitutes to boost the nutritional value of the candy board and support your bees’ overall health.

Step-by-Step Candy Board Recipe

1. Prepare the Sugar Mixture

In a large saucepan, combine the granulated sugar and water, maintaining a 2:1 ratio. For every two cups of sugar, add one cup of water. Stir the mixture over medium heat until the sugar dissolves completely.

2. Add White Vinegar

Once the sugar dissolves, add a splash of white vinegar, ensuring not to exceed more than one teaspoon per gallon of sugar water. I’ve noticed that this helps prevent mold growth and ensures the candy board remains fresh for your bees.

3. Customizing Your Candy Board

a. Pollen Patties for Nutritional Boost

For enhanced nutrition, why not mix pollen patties into the sugar mixture? They offer an additional source of protein, benefiting brood development and overall hive strength.

b. Candy Thermometer for Precision

Use a candy thermometer (they’re quite a handy tool for fellow beekeepers to have) and monitor the temperature of the sugar mixture. Ideally, it should reach 234-236°F (112-113°C) to achieve the desired consistency.

4. Building the Candy Board Frame

a. Selecting the Right Frame Size

Choose a frame that fits snugly inside your hive, allowing easy placement and removal.

b. Preparing the Frame

Coat the inside of the frame with non-stick cooking spray to prevent the candy board from sticking (Trust me, it’s a necessary step!). Alternatively, line the frame with parchment paper for the same purpose.

5. Pouring and Setting the Candy Board

a. Filling the Frame

Carefully pour the hot sugar mixture into the prepared frame, ensuring an even distribution.

b. Allowing Proper Cooling and Setting

Let the candy board cool and set for at least 24 hours before introducing it to your hive. I’ve learned this allows the bees easy access to the candy board without any liquid spillage.

6. Installing the Candy Board

a. Placement and Timing

Place the candy board on top of the uppermost hive box, just above the brood chamber. For winter feeding, install the candy board in late fall to ensure sufficient food stores during the colder months.

b. Monitoring and Maintenance

Regularly check the candy board’s consumption so your bees have enough food. Replenish or replace the candy board as needed throughout the beekeeping seasons.

How to Enhance Your Beehive’s Candy Board

Whether through pollen substitutes, essential oils, or freeze-dried alternatives, these additional ingredients take your candy boards from good to extraordinary—contributing to thriving hives and happy, buzzing colonies.

A beekeeper holding candy board in garden

Boosting Nutrition with Pollen Substitute

To take your candy boards to the next level, consider incorporating pollen substitutes into the sugar mixture. 

Pollen patties are a valuable source of protein—as mentioned before. I can safely say that by combining this essential component with your candy board recipe, you provide your bees with a well-rounded and nourishing diet, promoting their overall health and productivity.

Essential Oils for Bee Health and Immunity

Adding essential oils to your candy boards can work wonders for your bees’ well-being. 

Oils like “Honey B Healthy” not only enhance the flavor, but also offer medicinal properties that support the bees’ immunity and digestion. I’ve only seen positive effects on hive health when incorporating these beneficial oils into their candy boards.

Supplementing with Health-Boosting Additives

Consider exploring other health-boosting additives that can be incorporated into your candy boards.

In my research, I’ve found that vitamins, minerals, and natural supplements can provide additional benefits to your honey bees, aiding in disease prevention, stress reduction, and overall hive resilience.

The Magic of Freeze-Dried Candy Boards

If you seek versatility and extended shelf life, consider producing freeze-dried candy boards. 

This unique form removes all moisture content while preserving its nutritional value, creating a concentrated and long-lasting feeding solution. Bees relish the ease of consuming freeze-dried candy, making it an excellent option for us as beekeepers and our buzzing friends.

Exploring Alternative Forms: Royal Jelly Candy Boards

As a beekeeper interested in exploring diverse feeding options, Royal jelly candy boards offer a luxurious treat for your honey bees. 

Rich in nutrients and believed to have numerous health benefits, royal jelly complements the candy board recipe. Although it requires additional effort on our behalf, the potential benefits make it an enticing option for those of you who are advanced beekeepers.

Harvesting and Storing Candy Boards for Beehives

I’ve learned the hard way to time my harvests correctly, adopt safe storage practices, and reuse components. They’re great ways to maximize the benefits of candy boards and create a reliable source of sweet sustenance for our buzzing companions throughout the year.

So let me share with you what I know:

1. Knowing the Right Time to Harvest

Harvesting candy boards requires careful consideration of the hive’s food stores. Bees will consume the sugar mixture at varying rates, depending on external factors like weather and hive population. 

Monitor the candy board consumption regularly and ensure your bees have enough reserves before considering harvesting any surplus.

2. Harvesting Surplus Candy Boards

Once you’ve established that your bees have ample food stores, you can begin harvesting surplus candy boards. 

Here’s what I do:

I carefully remove the frames containing the candy boards, ensuring minimal disruption to the hive. Then, I use a sharp knife to detach any excess comb or propolis, preparing the candy boards for storage or future use.

3. Safe Storage Methods

Preserving the quality and freshness of harvested candy boards is essential to their longevity. 

My tip as a fellow beekeeper is to store surplus candy boards in a cool, dry, and dark location to prevent exposure to moisture and heat. Consider using airtight containers or wrapping them in plastic to maintain their delectable consistency.

4. Future Feeding and Emergency Reserves

Harvested candy boards can serve as a valuable resource for future feeding or as emergency reserves during critical times. Properly stored candy boards can be reinstalled during the entire winter or early spring to support hive development when natural forage is limited.

5. Reusing Candy Board Components

Waste not, want not—that’s my motto. After harvesting, consider reusing the components of candy boards to create new ones for the upcoming seasons. If you’re a nifty beekeeper like me, you’ll want to do that.

After all, frames can be cleaned and additional sugar mixture can be poured into them, ensuring a sustainable and cost-effective feeding solution for your honey bees.

Candy Boards vs. Traditional Feeding Methods

With their convenience, comprehensive nutrition, strategic winter feeding, and enhanced bee health benefits, candy boards prove to be a valuable asset in supporting your honeybee colonies throughout the year.

But how do they compare to other traditional feeding methods? And why should you consider them in their stead? Let’s take a look:

Candy Boards vs. Sugar Syrup: Convenience and Longevity

When it comes to supplemental feeding, candy boards for bees offer distinct advantages over sugar syrup. While sugar syrup provides quick nutrition, candy boards offer a more convenient and long-lasting solution. 

Once installed, candy boards require less frequent refilling, reducing the need for constant monitoring. From experience, this proves especially beneficial during cold weather months when hive inspections should be minimized to preserve hive warmth.

Candy Boards vs. Pollen Patties: Comprehensive Nutrition

While pollen patties provide vital protein for brood rearing, candy boards offer a comprehensive nutritional package. 

The sugar mixture in candy boards provides a readily available source of carbohydrates, crucial for energy production during flight and honey production. When combined with pollen patties, candy boards create a balanced diet that supports overall hive health and productivity.

Spoon with pollen grains to mix with water

Candy Boards vs. Honey Stores: Strategic Winter Feeding

Though honey stores are the natural food source for bees, I say that candy boards are vital for strategic winter feeding. 

By placing candy boards above the brood chamber, you create a reserve of easily accessible food during colder months when bees may not venture far from the cluster. This supplemental feeding ensures a continuous source of nourishment, safeguarding the hive against starvation.

Candy Boards vs. Pollen Substitutes: Enhanced Bee Health

Incorporating pollen substitutes into winter candy boards I’ve noticed, enhances bee health and strengthens hive resilience. 

The combination of sugar, water, and pollen substitute offers a well-rounded diet, promoting robust brood development and a healthier colony. 

I can assure you that bees thriving on such balanced nutrition are better equipped to combat environmental stressors and maintain a thriving population.

Monitoring Beehive Health and Candy Board Consumption

Monitoring hive health through candy board consumption offers us beekeepers valuable insights into their colonies’ well-being.

Why Monitoring Candy Board Consumption is Vital

As bees consume the sugar mixture, you can gauge the hive’s activity level, population, and overall well-being. 

Regular observations of candy board consumption help you make informed decisions and take necessary actions to support your colony.

Utilizing Candy Boards as a Hive Assessment Tool

In my research, I’ve found that candy boards act as an effective tool for assessing hive strength and development. 

As a beekeeper, you can infer the hive’s population and evaluate its overall health by how quickly or slowly bees consume the sugar mixture. Active and vigorous consumption indicates a thriving colony, while sluggish consumption may signal issues that require attention.

Monitoring During Critical Periods

Pro tip from yours truly:

Pay close attention to candy board consumption during critical periods, such as late fall and winter. 

During these times, bees rely heavily on their food reserves, and candy boards ensure they have adequate sustenance to endure the colder months. Constant monitoring helps you identify any food shortages and intervene if necessary.

Addressing Potential Issues

Watch out for abnormal candy board consumption patterns. From my experience, it could indicate underlying issues within the hive. 

Low consumption might signify queen problems, disease, or weak colonies, while excessive consumption could point to environmental stress or pest infestations. Address these potential issues promptly to maintain hive health.

To Wrap Up

Incorporating candy boards into your beekeeping practices proves to be a sweet success for both you and your honey bees. These delectable feeding devices offer convenience, comprehensive nutrition, and strategic winter sustenance. 

With the power of additives and different forms, candy boards elevate hive health and vitality. Monitoring their consumption allows you to assess hive strength and address potential issues. 

Embrace the wonders of candy boards, and watch your apiary thrive as your buzzing companions enjoy the sweet benefits of this nourishing treat. Happy beekeeping!

Joseph Davis

My goal is to show that anyone can take up beekeeping and it can be a very rewarding hobby. I strive to share my experiences and answer any questions you may have.