Making Bee Candy (aka Fondant)

I leave lots of honey on my hives in the winter.  Usually about 70 pounds for established hives, a bit less for the smaller hives.  In a normal year this will provide food for the bees from October, when forage disappears, to late February, when forage emerges.  This year was a bit different.

A warm winter in Washington

The weather turned odd.  Why do I imagine everyone regardless of where the live in the world now nodding their heads?  We normally have snow, lots of snow.

Snow covered bee hives at Brookfield Farm, Maple Falls, WA

Winter Bee Hives

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This year we had sun.  Not lots of sun, but quite a bit.  And only one week of snow.  This was worrying as bees were out and about, not in cluster.  When I see bees out and about I figure they’re eating more honey for energy.  So I checked the hives and found that most were fine with lots of honey but about 8 smaller hives and 2 larger hives had plowed though their stores.   I needed to make bee candy.

A Bee Health Aside

No matter what we make for the bees.  Nothing is as good for them as their own honey.  I do mean their honey.  Anytime you give a hive honey from another hive you are risking the movement of diseases.  I do move honey frames around between my hives.  I never use any other beekeepers honey in my hives.  That said, if you, or you bees, don’t have food – anything is better than starving.  So we should make that “anything” the best thing we can.  I use Cane Sugar.

Well used 50 pound bag of cane sugar

50 pound bag of cane sugar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As of this time,  Cane Sugar is not GMO (I think), but Beet Sugar is GMO.  So my bees get cane sugar fondant.

Bing-a-Ling Bees’ Candy Recipe

I had a recipe, but mine always comes out a bit gooey.   During a recent meeting at the Skagit Valley Beekeepers Association one of the beekeepers, Brad Raspet from Bingaling Bees, passed around the most beautiful disks of bee candy (aka fondant) that I’d ever seen.  Then he gave us the recipe.

10 lb sugar
5 cups water
1 teaspoon ProHealth or Honey Be Healthy or your own essential oil mix
1 teaspoon Vinegar

Bring Water to boil on medium high heat
Add sugar & stir, add more sugar & stir (don’t cover)
Continue stirring, and bring to softball stage 242 degrees
Remove from heat, cool to about 190 degrees
Add ProHealth & Vinegar…
Stir vigorously and quickly pour into paper plate molds
Should be fudge hard at room temperature when cooled
Place on top bars, (add empty honey super if required)

Brad explained what the vinegar is all about: it makes the sucrose in sugar take on a more glucose-like structure, making it easier for the bees to digest.

I Channel My Mother

My mother was a great woman (who could periodically drive me mad, but that’s what moms are for).  Raised 2 kids alone, a brilliant mathematician, rose to be a VP in a prominent think tank.  Could not make candy to save her soul.  Divinity: flat, not fluffy.  Pralines: they were supposed to be that runny, right?  You get the picture.  I have inherited this lack of ability, it would seem.  Mine was not nice disks.  Mine broke apart and was crumbly.  I know it’s me and not the recipe; it’s a family thing.

Making Bee Candy (fondant)
Details and A Photo Sequence

Weighing the Cane Sugar

Cane Sugar being weighed for Bee Candy

Weighing Sugar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wax paper in cookie trays : where the fondant will be poured

Trays Wait To Be Filled with Bee Candy

Awaiting Candy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I use a deep pot.   A long piece of wood is used to stir the fondant.  A candy thermometer watches the temperature.

Bee Candy thickens in a pot

A watched pot…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Slowly, and I do mean slowly, because you have to keep stirring, the bee candy thickens.

Bee Candy drips from spoon

Thickening Up

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My bee cooking is down in a section of the barn.  I have barn cats who really like this, as the heater is on during cooking.  The actual process rather bores them, however.

Cats not amazed by bee candy preparation

Bored Cats in Barn Kitchen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally the fondant has gone up to 242 and down to 190F — at which point I poured – I’m lying, I scooped it out and mashed it down into the trays.  As I said lack of cooking skills must be genetic…

Bee Candy Cooling

Cooling The Trays

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Really, Brad’s was completely smooth and didn’t crumble.

Then out to the bee yards to put the fondant on the top bars.

Bee Candy on hive top bars

There if they need it

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My hives have a small “collar” – a 2 inch tall box – on top.  If you look close you can see the top entrance at the top of the image.  The candy is placed on the top bars, the burlap laid back down over the candy, and a piece of insulation above the burlap — then the top is put back on.

Bee examines bee candy

Honeybee On Fondant

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One little bee came up to test my cooking.   If the bees need the candy they will eat it.  If they don’t need it, they will ignore it (it’s not as good as honey).  But in the mean time, I’ll worry less.

That’s the news from Brookfield Farm Bees and Honey, Maple Falls, Washington.  Has the world’s odd weather affected your bees or changing how you are managing your bees?  Do share….

 

 

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About brookfieldfarmhoney

Brookfield Farm, a small off-grid apiary in Maple Falls, WA focuses on the beauty and bounties of Washington’s wilderness. I sell honey from our bees, whose naturally-treated, antibiotic-free hives are home to bees who fly Washington’s mountains and farmlands. Herbal salves and lip balms from Brookfield beeswax. Delicately infused honeys and vinegars. Varietal honeys from independent Washington beekeepers. Karen Edmundson Bean: beekeeper, photographer. Her love of the wilderness inspires her to discover new ways of bringing the wonders of nature to others. Brookfield Farm : the tastes, textures, sounds, and images of nature.
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14 Responses to Making Bee Candy (aka Fondant)

  1. Karen, your recipe is perfect (btw 10 lb sugar is roughly 20 cups), and I think you will get that smoother texture if you let the hot sugar syrup cool down to under 200 degrees, and then beat it well with a mixer or in a stand mixer until it is silky and opaque. It turns white as you beat it. THEN pour it into the molds (I line mine with wax paper). Drying in a furnace room overnight helps too as if left out these bricks draw in water molecules from the air and turn gooey. Get em on the hives pronto for less mess.

  2. James Crampton says:

    Why don’t you ship packaged Bees ? I live in Conn. and it’s a long way to pick up from your stores. Can you recommend another supplier that ships ???
    jimbcrampton45@yahoo.com

    • I don’t sell bees at all, thus I don’t ship (no store either, it’s just me). The queens that I raise and their off-spring are put into use in my apiary. Places I might suggest for queens : Strachen (California, but it’s way to late this year). Kirk Webster (you’d have to do a search, and he’s hard to find – Vermont), and any local queen breeder — you’re best off getting a queen that has been bred to do well in your particular climate. As to bulk bees, try a local bee gear supplier (saves on shipping and you can always replace the queen if you don’t really want her). Good luck

  3. Brad Raspet says:

    I never bother with beating the mixture, just stir it and pour into paper plates, but I have adjusted my recipe (above) to pour at 200 degrees instead of 190 because it is thickening quickly at 190 and big batches make it tough to pour in time. :^) Brad (BingalingBees.com)

  4. Pingback: Bee Candy for the Winter Months | Apiaries and Bees for Communities

  5. Linda H says:

    I used the recipe and made the most beautiful fondant for my bees. I started beating it with a blender at 200 degrees. Frames with plastic wrap held in place with clothes pins were used as molds. I used a cup to ladle the sugar because the pot was too big to handle safely. The set fondant will go in the hive tomorrow. 10 lbs of fondant filled two frames. Thanks so much for sharing the recipe and pictures!

    • Linda – I’m catching up on the web. I think I wrote, I hope I wrote back. But I’m glad the recipe worked for you – it’s Brads from BingALing Bees in Mt. Vernon — I figure if I, the worst candy maker in the world, since my mom passed away, can make fondant from his recipe, it has to be right on.

  6. Beth says:

    Thanks for the recipe! This is my first year feeding my girls, and this is the recipe I’m choosing to try. I, too, am something of a kitchen klutz, but I will feel better making my own and knowing exactly what’s in it. Wish me luck.

    • I am soooo late in responding to people, I do apologize. How did it come out? It’s really Brad’s recipe (BingALing Bees, Mt. Vernon, Washington) – I’ve got to get around to making mine – I usually pop it in on warm days in February, when I start to worry (well, worry more, I’m good at worrying in general).

  7. Pat says:

    Hi, I’ve been using this recipe for a couple of years and always end up adding a few more cups of sugar to thicken the mixture once it has cooled a bit and don’t have a problem with it breaking apart.

  8. Pingback: Bee Candy for the Winter Months - Apiaries & Bees for Communities

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