Winter Feeding – BeeCakes

Keeping your bees alive and healthy during the winter is a very important and sometimes challenging task.  One very effective method of feeding is putting sugar directly on the top-bars of the top box of the hive.  When the cluster is in direct contact with sugar (even solid sugar), it is very difficult for them to starve.  Below I have outlined a recipe I have found to be very useful in keeping my bees healthy and happy during the winter.  In order to make Bee Cakes, you will need the following:

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Ingredients:

  • 4lbs sucrose (while table sugar – beet or cane is fine… just needs to be white)
  • 2cups water (tap water is fine)
  • 1tsp white vinegar (acid + heat inverts the sucrose into fructose & glucose)
  • 1+1/4 cups pollen substitute (I use UltraBee from Mann Lake)

Kitchen Supplies:

  • 2x 9in. cake pans (or something similar)
  • Aluminum Foil
  • Large stock pot
  • Wooden stirring spoon
  • Candy thermometer
  • Measuring cups & spoons (1C dry, 1/4C dry, 1C wet, 1tsp)

Step 1

First,  you will need to line the 2 cake pans with a single sheet of aluminum foil each.  You’ll be pouring the hot liquid sugar mixture into them, so the aluminum foil needs to be as high-up as possible on the edges of the pan.  You’ll also want to make sure the aluminum foil is as flat & “wrinkle-free” as possible so that the cakes are easier to unwrap when you put them on the hives.

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Step 2

Mix the 4-lbs of sugar, 2-cups of water, and 1-tsp of white vinegar together in the pot, and stir until it makes a thick white liquid.img_2829

Step 3

Put in your candy thermometer & turn on the burner to start heating the sugar mixture.  Stir constantly to keep even heat distribution.  The mixture will eventually start boiling & will expand a lot.  This is why you need a large stock pot… if  you use a small pot it could overflow the top & cause major problems.

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Step 4

You’re looking for the mixture to get up to the “Soft Ball” stage… this is aprox. 238-242 degrees.  Once it reaches this point, most of the water will have boiled off, but you’re looking to get a bit more water out of it (maybe 1-2 more minutes)… just don’t let it get much over 242 degrees.  You’ll know it’s ready because a lot less steam will be coming out.  Then take it over to the sink, pull out the thermometer, and add the pollen substitute.

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Step 5

Stir in the pollen substitute making sure that you get most of the lumps out (doesn’t have to be perfect).  Then pour the mixture into your foil-lined cake pans to cool.  Note… once you take the mixture off the heat you’ll need to move pretty quickly.  You have to get the pollen substitute incorporated & the mixture poured before the sugar cools enough that it starts hardening.

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Let the Bee Cakes cool & harden, and then wrap the foil over the top of them & store until you’re ready to put them on the hive.  When you do go to put them on the hive, remove the foil & set the cake on the top bars of the hive.

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