Candy board feeders (and candy cakes) for honey bees
A candy board feeder is nothing more than a very shallow super with a bottom. A solution of sugar syrup is cooked until it reaches the “soft ball” stage, then it is beaten until stiff and poured into the feeder. When the sugar hardens, the feeder can be inverted over the top of the hive.
Bees seem to like these well enough, but they are not my personal favorite. Here is why:
- They are very heavy.
- It is difficult (and dangerous) to make that much boiling syrup all at once.
- The bees often eat just the center of the candy board and leave you with the sticky, heavy, ant-attracting mess the rest of the year.
I find that making sugar cakes—which is the same stuff poured into paper plates—is easier, quicker, and safer.
- A minute amount of pan spray will cause the cakes to pop right out of the plates. The plates can be reused many times.
- If I make a lot of these, I can use them as needed. Some hives take a lot, some none. It is much easier to tailor the amount of sugar to the needs of each hive.
- I use baggie feeder rims for baggie feeders in the spring and sugar cakes in the fall. This way I get double use from one piece of equipment.
- I can center the cakes over the cluster, making it easy for them to reach all of it.
- I can use sugar cakes with equal ease in either a Langstroth or a top-bar hive. In a top-bar hive, I don’t need a rim; I just lay them on the top bars.
- Left over sugar cakes are easy to store and take up little room.
If you still want to use a candy board, you can either affix a rim to a piece of plywood the size of your hive, cut down a pre-existing super and add a bottom, or alter an inner cover. The rim needs to be about 2 inches (5 cm) deep. The syrup will not run through small cracks, and it hardens almost immediately.
A common recipe for one candy board is as follows:
- Heat 3 cups (0.7 liter) of water to boiling.
- Slowly add 15 pounds (6.8 kg) of sugar, stirring constantly.
- Add 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of apple cider vinegar to retard mold growth.
- Boil until the temperature reaches 234-240°F, also known as the soft-ball stage (112-115°C). [See note below.]
- Remove from heat.
- Stir vigorously until the temperature drops to about 200°F (93°C) and then pour into the candy board. Warning: This stuff is hot and very sticky! Be careful.
- Some people like to start with more water, which is fine. It just will take longer to boil away again.
- Some people like to add pollen substitute to the mixture after it gets done boiling. This, too, is fine. Add about 2 pounds (0.9 kg) of pollen substitute to the recipe above.
- If you want to add some Honey-B-Healthy or Pro Health, add about two teaspoons after the mixture stops boiling. Beware: it may splatter.
The same variations can be used to make sugar cakes.[Note: The soft-ball stage (234-240°F) is the standard temperature given in most beekeeping manuals for candy boards. However, sugar candy will migrate at this stage if it gets warm or sits in a moist environment. I prefer the firm-ball stage (244-248°F 0r 118-120°C) although it will still migrate if it gets too warm. The hard-ball stage works best (250-266°F or 121-130°C). You may have to experiment to find what you like. Candies made from pure sugar are very sensitive to temperature and humidity.]
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