Sugar Candy Board Assessment For Feeding Bees In Winter

Sugar Candy Board Assessment For Feeding Bees In Winter

Buy a candy board frame here!!!

I have been getting a lot of questions and compliments on the post I wrote last year about how to make a no cook candy board for beesTherefore I would also like to share my assessment of how well the board worked and what I liked and did not like about it. I think the candy board in general works great and will be using it again this year on hives that need it. However, here are two changes I plan to make to this year’s version – first I will use less sugar, second I will not use the paper that comes with the wax foundation. To find out why read my analysis below.

Last December, my Italian honeybee hive Crocus was heavy on bees and brood yet very light on stores.  Here in Massachusetts, the bees need 10-12 deep frames filled with honey in order to have enough stores to survive the winter without starving. My hive had 8 at best. Worried they were going to starve, I decided to supplement their stores with a sugar candy board that I made from hardware cloth and a few scraps of wood. You can find the instructions on how to make one here.

Winter 2011 ended up being very mild and warm and the bees were able to get out and fly all winter long.  Check out this video of the bees orienting in mid January – highly unusual.

The girls were even bringing in off white pollen in January which is abnormal for that time of year.  Despite the mild winter, many hives in my area still died from starvation. Crocus survived and I think the candy board may have had something to do with it.

In the spring of 2012, I did a thorough inspection of the hive and took plenty of pictures.  You can see all the picture and read that post here.  The picture below shows what remained of the candy board. The bees had tunneled through the sugar in the board and had eaten the entire pollen patty.  They were also clustering inside tunnels they had made inside the candy inside of the board.

The underside of the candy board. The bees had eaten out the pollen patty and had tunneled inside the sugar leaving a thin crust on the top and bottom. You can see there are small clusters of bees inside the candy.

After I took the board off, I was curious how much sugar they had actually eaten, keeping in mind it was an abnormally warm winter and not a good indicator for an average winter here.  I put 16 lbs of sugar in the board in December 2011.  The frame of the board alone weighed 2.2 lbs for a total weight of about 18.2 lbs (plus extra for the pollen patty which I did not weigh). When I removed the board from the hive it weighed 14.8 lbs.  As the bees chewed through the sugar on the board some of it fell through the hive and landed on the bottom board.  I also collected this and weighed it. The bottom board sugar weighed .4 lbs. (Summary: Estimated pre-weight 18.2 lbs. The board total weight after removal was 14.8 lbs. The bottom board contents weighed .4 lbs. The board alone weighed 2.2 lbs.)

The sugar left over in the board weighed 11.8 lbs after it was removed. Add that to the bottom board contents of .4 lbs and you get 12.2 lbs of sugar left. 16 lbs of sugar were added in December 2011 (16-12.2 = 3.8) This means the bees ate only 3.8 lbs of sugar all winter long.  The 16 lbs of sugar I used was clearly more than they needed, but since the winter was abnormally warm it did not give a good indicator of how much sugar should be in the board for an average winter.  Keep in mind this sugar was not wasted, as it was raw sugar that was solidified, I was able to break it up into pieces and dissolve it to make sugar syrup in the spring.

Another thing I noticed, as the girls were eating the sugar from the board some of it would fall into the hive. This left some of the frames with bits of sugar all over the cells in the spring. This was nothing to worry about as the bees promptly cleaned it up.

Despite the warm winter, 16 lbs of sugar seems like too much for my area.  That large amount of sugar does however make a large thick block that has a significant insulating factor, although I have no idea what the actual R-value is. This year I plan to use 8 lbs-12 lbs of sugar for the hives that need candy boards and see how that works for them.  If one particular hive is extremely low on stores then I may I may keep it at 16 lbs for that hive.

The candy board also worked great to prevent condensation from hitting the bees. Wet cold bees in the wintertime are dead bees.  But any condensation that builds up in the hive gets trapped in the candy board liquefying the sugar temporarily for the bees to eat.  Next to emergency feeding, I think this is a great benefit of using this board.   I also like that you can put it on in November or December and forget about it until the spring. No need to check every month to see how the bees are doing and if they need more fondant. I also liked that the board added insulation to the hive.

Another change to the candy board I plan to do for 2012 is to not use the paper that comes with the wax foundation. While this worked great last year and is fine to do, in the spring when I was mixing the leftover sugar from the candy board with water to make it into syrup, the syrup was filled with little bits of paper that the bees had chewed through, but were now mixed into the sugar in the board. I had to strain the syrup through coffee filters before putting it into the jars.  This made for a long and complicated syrup making process.  You can read about it here.

Instead this year I am going to lay out a sheet of plastic on the floor, put the boards on the plastic before filling them with sugar, then pour the sugar in the boards and let them dry on the plastic. When I remove the boards from the plastic they will be solid enough to keep their form, yet I do not have to worry about bits of paper in my sugar syrup next spring.

Have you used this type of candy board for feeding bees? What did you think of it? How did it work for you? Would you make any changes?

Buy a candy board frame here!!!

Other Posts You May Enjoy:

  1. Making A Candy Board For Winter Feeding
  2. Installing The Candy Board For Winter Feeding
  3. The Bees Are Enjoying Their New Candy Board
  4. Spring Candy Board Inspection
  5. Making Sugar Syrup From The Candy Board

This post was shared on the Barn Hop.

Author: Anita Deeley

Anita Deeley is a biologist and former state bee inspector who maintains 100 honey bee hives. She is the beekeeper, writer, owner and creator of When she is not spending time with her girls (the bees), she enjoys being a wife to her beekeeping cohort, Brian and mother to 3 little boys (the beekeepers in training). Read more about Anita here >> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Connect with Anita on Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ or Facebook here.


  1. Pingback: Making Sugar Syrup From The Candy Board - Beverly Bees

  2. Pingback: Let's Make a Candyboard for Winter Feeding - Overwintering Honey Bees

  3. Thank you for the feedback. I wonder how rice paper would work instead of the wax paper? Just a thought….

  4. Very neat idea! Here in Florida, we don’t feed our bees much but this is a great idea for the occasional hive that needs supplemental feeding. Here’s a thought though: when you strain the sugar water, use a paint strainer (located in the paint section of your hardware stores. That’s what we use to strain wax from the honey. works great and would make the straining much much faster! 🙂

  5. I’ve been using my own version of candy boards for a couple of years. The thing I do differently is I make a solid, plywood ‘floor’ to the board but have a large hole in the centre which I plug while pouring the candy. The bees move up through the large hole to feed but this design minimizes the amount of sugar falling into the hive and onto frames.
    Hope this idea works for others as wel.

  6. Hi Anita – do you have simple easy recipe for fondant for winter feeding? Thanks.


  7. Hi Anita,
    What type of wire are you using for the board? Is there any concern of the sugar reacting with the metal?
    Thank you so much for all your help!

  8. In your candy board recipe what’s the vinagar’pupose?

  9. I’m a newbie just wondering why sugar cubes couldn’t be used

  10. We just started with bees this spring, and I found your web site a month or two ago while looking for candy board recipes. I love that this one doesn’t require “cooking” and appreciate your clear, step-by-step directions. I built our wired frames a few weeks ago and made the candy boards today (included pollen patties). They turned out great! Thanks!

  11. This is a great tutorial! I’ve seen lots of different recipes cook-no cook- adding pollen, bee healthy, even chamomile tea! Have you tried adding any of these or tweaking the recipe?

  12. Thanks for a very informative website. Being new to the bee feeding, I have been planning on building a rim feeder and then putting a layer of newspaper over the frames then pouring in sugar. I thought about misting some water over the sugar to keep it intact. I have a hive blanket ready to install above this. Do you think this would work?

  13. Hello, I used both your hardware design (mostly) and recipe last year. Worked great, both colonies I have not only survived very harsh and long winter in North NJ but started “explosively” in Spring. I used 8lbs of sugar for each hive. With paper below (below during candy making, in hive paper side faced up). Bees ate it all, including patty inside. I am about to make this year’s candy tomorrow. I am contemplating between 9 and 11 lbs per hive. Why tomorrow?-I am following the same timing method I used last year: placing candy on when weather prognosis predicts a whole week with high temperatures of the day below 50F.
    Now to the small differences from your design: on one side (top when in hive, bottom when pouring candy in) is board with standard circular hole in the middle; while candy is poured in ,the hole is temporarily closed by a standard tall cylindrical 1lbs honey jar; above board (when in hive) one side has standard size hive entrance notch; part of the system is insulated telescopic cover on top of it (which I use year-round).
    Everything best and thanks for the idea and recipe.