THE FOLLOWING WAS UPDATED ON DECEMBER 16, 2013.
The bees are clustering at the top of hives now, so it’s time to give them some candy cakes. Welcome to the The Candy Cake Trilogy, Part 1: The Recipe.
The honey bees in our two Langstroth hives were wrapped for winter about two months ago. It hasn’t been much of a winter so far, wet and soggy with temperatures hovering around freezing (0°C). Only in the past week or two have we had any kind snow accumulation, as can be seen in this photo I took earlier today (yeah, I know, my little backyard looks like a junk yard; it gets that way this time of year). Anyhoo, it’s still a relatively light sprinkling of snow and it doesn’t get much colder than -5°C (41°F). Both hives seemed heavy the last time I lifted them about two weeks ago, so they should have plenty of honey to get them through the rest of the winter. I wasn’t planning on feeding the bees again until near the end of February — pollen patties and then sugar syrup a few weeks later. But the colonies in both hives are clustering at the top now (as far as I can tell from watching this video from last week). Clustering at the top of the hive can indicate they’re running low on honey. So, as usual, I’m not sure what’s going on. I checked them again earlier today, shining a flash light in the upper entrance again, and this is what I found:
THE VIDEO IS LOW-REZ BECAUSE MY COMPUTER CAN’T HANDLE EVEN STANDARD VIDEO THESE DAYS. BLAH!
There are about 20 times more bees at the top of the cluster than can be seen in the video — and it looks like they’re still clustering at the top of the hive. So to play it safe, I’ve decided to add some sugar cakes to the hives. I could go with candy boards, too, but sugar cakes seem easier to make and less of a hassle to install.
I plan to follow a variation of a recipe I got from Honey Bee Suite that goes something like this:
● Boil 700 ml (3 cups) of water in a large pot with a solid bottom.
● Slowly dissolve 6.8 kg (15 pounds) of granulated sugar in the boiling water and stir constantly. (Passing on the cream of tartar and corn syrup.)
● Add 15 ml (1 tablespoon) of apple cider vinegar (to prevent mould growth).
● Add a splash of pure vanilla extract to make it more attractive to the bees (I couldn’t find any Anise oil).
● Continue to boil until the temperature on the candy thermometer reads between 112-115°C (234-240°F).
● Remove from heat.
● Stir vigorously until the temperature drops to about 93°C (200°F) and then pour into paper plates sprayed with a bit of cooking oil so they’ll pop out easy.
That’s the plan for tonight. I’ll post photos and maybe a video of it tomorrow in Part 2 of the trilogy: Making Candy Cakes. Stay tuned!
UPDATE (August 11/11): In St. John’s, I was able to find pure anise extract at the Bulk Barn.
DEC/ 16/13: I only made candy cakes once because it’s just too messy, too time-consuming and too much work. I use the Mountain Camp Method for winter feeding now because it’s quicker and easier than any other method I’ve tried.