Sunday, November 10, 2013

Fall Inspections: Bee candy boards and upper entrances



Honey bee candy boards in the making. The facility is under tight security.
I make my own boxes (deep) from 1 x 12 pine boards. I use half-blind dovetail joints. The rims that you see on the pictures are the extras left over once I cut the box down to proper depth. They are 1 3/4" deep.

I actually like having them since they make tight-fitting inner covers (crown boards) and bottom boards. Today, they are going to make tight-fitting bee candy boards or bee fondant boards.

I cut a 1/4" thick plywood to act as the lid on my fondant board. The kids helped me decorate them with bee pictures :D. I used 3/4" narrow crown staples to fasten the lids to the rims. Finally, I routed a 3/8 x 1/2" upper entrance in the fondant board.


The bee candy boards are ready to be filled with fondant.
The upper entrance is important as we often have drifting snow that can completely block off the bottom entrance. The upper entrance also serves as extra insurance in case the bottom entrance becomes clogged with dead bees as winter progresses. Finally, the entrance allows me to gauge the depth of the fondant/bee candy and allows me to leave the 3/8 bee space above the top bars. I have a YouTube video showing the process here

Now it is time to make the bee candy board | bee fondant boards. I've made a printable copy of my bee candy board | bee fondant recipe here. You can see the video here.

Equipment needed:
  • Pot (I use a 21.5 quarts canning pot)
  • Drill with metal plaster stirrer attachment (optional UNLESS you use the quick-set method)
  • Cooking or candy thermometer
  • Scale
  • Gloves
  • Bee candy board forms | bee fondant forms
  • A wooden spoon | spatula to fill the forms and pat the mixture into shape
Ingredients needed:
  • 4 parts by weight sugar (I start with 15 lbs.)
  • 1 part by weight water (3 lbs. and 12 oz.)
  • 1/4 tsp. vinegar for each pound of sugar (1 Tbsp. and 3/4 tsp.)
  • Pollen or dry pollen substitute (optional, I use about a handful for each form)
Additional ingredients for the quick-set method:
  • 4 parts by weight sugar (I use 15 lbs.)
 
Preparation
  1. Mix together 4 parts sugar, 1 part water and the vinegar into the pot and set it on high.
  2. Once the mixture starts boiling, start checking the temperature. We are aiming for the soft-ball candy stage or 242F.
  3. You are done once the mixture reaches 242F. Turn off the heat. The mixture is ready to pour when it cools down to about 180F.
  4. If you don't want to wait, you can proceed with the quick-set method:
  5. This sets very quickly! Make sure you have your power stirrer, your spoon | spatula, your forms, the pollen, your gloves and the extra sugar set out.
  6. Put the gloves on and carefully take the pot next to your forms.
  7. Make sure you have your spoon | spatula, your mixer and the pollen | pollen substitute ready.
  8. Dump the extra sugar into the mixture, mix it thoroughly and spread it into the forms. Add the pollen | pollen substitute and tap it in.




The final product: bee candy boards | fondant boards ready to be put on the hives. Those took 90 lbs. of sugar.

I want to say a few final words on using bee candy | bee fondant boards. The boards that I just made weight roughly 7.5 lbs. for a nuc-sized board and 15 lbs. for a standard-sized board.
  • Adding a candy board on a nuc will increase the honey bee colony's resources by 54%.
  • Adding a candy board on a colony in a single deep will increase its resources by 27% (a bit more than 1/4).
  • Adding a candy board on a colony in a double deep will increase its resources by 21% (a bit more than 1/5).
Adding a bee candy board cannot make up for failing to feed a light colony earlier in the fall. It can, however, add extra insurance for smaller colonies going into winter.

One final note on the timing of installing a bee candy board. The bee candy board recipe includes pollen and pollen stimulates brood rearing. As a result, you do not want to add this candy board before the colony starts clustering consistently. Otherwise, your colony may end up trying to cover too much brood once the weather gets cold and result in a split cluster. You want the candy board to be a last resort of sorts and you really want the bees to find it and start using it in late winter, when they start rearing the brood for the new season.