Candy boards can be a messy job in the kitchen. Boiling, checking temperatures, getting it just right so it will set up solid in your board, then you also have to pour that hot sticky liquid and contain it so it doesn't end up on the floor. For years now I have used a simple method that doesn't require cooking. I mix one ounce of water to each pound of sugar, this gets the sugar damp. I put this damp sugar in my candy boards which are made from equipment I already have in my apiary, no need to purchase a specially designed board or to boil sugar and water.
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I start with a rim or shim as some call it. A rim is used to get extra space under the inner cover for feeding and medication so this is a piece of equipment I already have for my hive.
In the front of the rim drill a 3/8 hole at the top for ventilation and a bee escape. This can be covered with duct tape when you want to use the rim again for feeding or medication.
Next I need a queen excluder, I like plastic ones the best. The plastic queen excluder is made from brittle plastic so I drill holes with a 1/16 drill bit to prevent cracking. I have put dots on the excluder below to show where and how many holes I drill.
The bit is 1/16 since I use 18 gauge nails. I use small nails because I want to easily pry apart my rim and excluder when I want to use them again as separate pieces of equipment.
I use 18 gauge 3/4 inch nails to tack the excluder to my rim.
Here is the rim with the queen excluder tacked to the bottom.
Next I line the inside with thin paper so when I put in the damp sugar it doesn't fall through the queen excluder. Parchment paper works fine for this. I have lined this one with the thin paper that comes between wax foundation. I do not over lap the paper much to make it easier for the bees to chew through. I like to have the paper up the sides of the rim about 1/2 inch to help keep the sugar contained.
Now I mix my sugar and water, each of my rims are for ten frame hives and 1 3/4 inches deep. This size rim will hold 10 pounds of sugar. How much I put in it depends on the frequency I will check that hive through the winter. For each pound of sugar I mix in one ounce of cold water. Rubber gloves are handy for this job, I guess I do not have to tell you why.
Mix the sugar and water really well, it should look like wet sand.
If I am putting the candy boards on late in the winter I may add feeding supplements to the sugar mixture. Also I may put a pollen substitute patty on top of the sugar to feed protein.
Add the wet sugar a little at a time so you do not move your paper around.
A candy board full of wet sugar.
After you have all the sugar in you will want to pack it down good taking care you do not cover the 3/8 hole in the rim. Then it needs to dry and get hard. Depending on the heat in your room it can be 1 to 3 days. I will trim the over hanging paper on the back of this rim off before it goes on a hive.
I stack the candy boards with sticks between them to give air space so they dry faster. Notice there is no sugar or paper blocking the hole in each rim you want it to be open for ventilation.
When you go to the bee yard to put on the candy board bring two sticks about 6 inches long and duct tape. I put the sticks on the frames for shims so I do not crush bees and it gives them space to get under the candy board. Some times this causes a gap between the hive body and the candy board so I use duct tape to seal the gaps. I have put a pollen substitute patty on the candy board to feed this hive protein. By the time the bees eat through the sugar they may like the protein for brood rearing. Replacement of winter bees can start happening as early as January in some hives so I want the bees to have every thing they need to help the queen do her job. This rim has 5 pounds of sugar in it, if I had used 10 pounds of sugar I would have hollowed out a place for the pollen substitute patty. If you plan to add a pollen substitute patty check to be sure the inner cover will sit snugly on the rim while the sugar is still damp.
These bees are on the top of the frames so using the shim sticks to hold the candy board off them is important. If you want to know the depth of the shim sticks look at the bottom bar of a frame, I cut some of those in half to use as shims.
The candy board is on the hive with the inner cover on top. I like to put duct tape where the candy board and brood box meet before I put the telescoping cover back on.
This hive is buttoned up and should be fine for the rest of winter.
If a hive eats all the candy I can give them more easily. I line a cake pan with parchment paper and use the same sugar to water mixture, 1 pound of sugar to 1 ounce of cold water. This will make a hard brick of sugar.
Here is a sugar brick drying. I form it by using a shallow cake pan. It can be slipped into a depleted candy board by taking the brick of sugar out of the cake pan, lifting the hive covers a crack and slipping it in. This can be put on a hive very quickly even in the coldest weather. It is important to have the paper since as the sugar gets moist it could crumble down onto the bees and turn the cluster of bees into rock candy.
Why I like these candy boards - I do not need to store or purchase extra equipment, I can pull them apart and use my rim or queen excluder when spring comes and next winter just tack them back together if candy boards are needed. Also I do not need to worry about messing up the kitchen, over heating the candy or having it not harden, it is a no cook method.
When you open your hive to do a winter inspection do not pull frames. Only open the hive on days where you can go out doors without a hat or gloves and be comfortable for a while. I tend to not open my hives to check for food. My method is to go in back of the hive and lift it from the bottom board and check the weight. Any hive I can easily lift needs food. If you do not have a candy board ready you can put some sugar on the inner cover until you can get a candy board made. Sugar on the inner cover is not the best solution though because the bees will not cluster up on the inner cover where the sugar is but they will cluster under a candy board. Though I would rather they not cluster up in the candy board since the queen may not fit through the excluder.
When I get back to the hive with the candy board I just knock the sugar off the inner cover onto the candy board.
This photo is over exposed but you can see the bees have eaten a hole through the sugar in this candy board. I had put 10 pounds of sugar in this board and I will check this hive again before winter ends. They are also on the pollen substitute patty.
Below is a 5 frame nucleus hive with a candy board. The sugar is mixed the same way, the rim is nuc size and instead of a queen excluder I have used 1/4 hardware cloth. The hardware cloth is cut and folded up to have edges and then pushed down inside the rim.