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Feeding Candy (Fondant) to Honey Bees

E.B. Wedmore described the making of candy in great detail, I have paraphrased his words and metricated his quantities.
For every kilo of white granulated sugar (sucrose) add 300 ml of boiling water and stir vigorously until all crystals have completely dissolved, then boil the liquid, again stirring continuously, until a temperature of 117° C is reached (when measured 25 mm below the liquid surface using a sugar thermometer). Allow to cool, without stirring, to 45° C and then re-commence stirring until the liquid appears milky, ladle or pour into suitable containers.

Wedmore also mentions the possible addition of cream of tartar (potassium hydrogen tartrate), vinegar or fruit acids (lemon or orange) to partially invert the sucrose by breaking it down into fructose and glucose, whilst this gives a softer, more creamy texture, the bees accept it less readily and the potassium content in the cream of tartar is now considered detrimental.

The aluminium foil containers that are used for "take away" meals make ideal containers for candy.

These "bricks" of candy are utilised by placing face down over the feed hole of a crown board with the rim of the foil container acting as a rim of one bee space.

In Wedmore's time it was common to cast the fondant in moulds and the resulting blocks were placed in a wooden lattice frame of the same external dimensions as a brood frame, this special frame was placed on the fringes of the nest.

Timing of candy feeding is usually during late winter or early spring when feeding liquid syrup or honey would stimulate the bees to raise brood more early than it was deemed prudent.

I personally, stopped using candy for such early feeding about 1993 and now use liquid feed delivered in frame feeders.

You can buy fondant ready made up, from bakery wholesalers, who call it 'confectionary fondant' (they use it for icing cakes). It comes in fairly large blocks, but can be cut to the required size using a 'cheese wire'. The blocks can be placed in a polythene bags and sealed to prevent evaporation of the moisture. To use the blocks you can fit them into purpose built frames or troughs or slash the side of the wrapped block, quite deeply, with a knife which will give the bees adequate access.

Bakery fondant is produced by mechanically mixing glucose, fructose and powdered sucrose without using additional heat. However you must specify that it needs to be additive and flavouring free.



Queen Candy is made and used differently. It is made by mixing icing sugar (powdered sugar) with honey until it is the consistency of putty or plastocene (modeling clay). It is important to know the honey is free from disease before making up such candy. It is also important that the powdered sugar does not contain anti-caking agents... A coffee bean grinder or a liquidiser attachment for a food processor will produce powdered sugar from granulated sugar... Be careful here! Sugar powder is a finely divided solid that can be very inflammable, even explosive, when mixed with air.

There are two basic reasons for using queen candy.
I gave up using candy as a release agent for queens in 1996 and now use marshmallow, which has less tendency to go too hard for the bees to nibble it. If the bees do ignore it, then it shrinks and falls out of its own accord. Even the use of marshmallow is now replaced by the Albert Knight/Steve Taber/John Dews Method, which I find totally reliable.

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Written... 23 November 2001, Revised... 09 March, 22 November 2002