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A candy board is a device placed on top of the hive that contains a solid sugar or sugar mixture, providing supplemental food for honey bee colonies during times of scarcity. Though honeybees are ideally self-sufficient and have developed skills that guarantee their survival, sometimes they need a little help when times are hard.
One of the honeybee colony’s primary focuses is the collection and storage of pollen and nectar during peak seasons as they prepare for dearth seasons. The honey reserves are meant to sustain the colony throughout the hardy months such as winter. Unfortunately, the reserves may not be enough at times depending on several factors. First off, the colony may not manage to accumulate enough food reserves despite their best efforts, perhaps due to a low number of worker bees, or the colony being too large to manage. Secondly, the beekeeper might harvest the honey reserves leaving behind insufficient reserves for the colony. If that happens to be the case, then to counter this, installing a candy board becomes the ultimate solution. This is particularly a practical solution for those who raise honeybees in colder climates.
For warm regions sugar syrup is used as a supplement and is provided during late fall and early spring when forage tends to be in its lowest supply. A candy board is the best choice even in warm regions and is preferable since it requires the least maintenance. It is also much easier to refill and can hold a substantial amount of sugar. It is also worth mentioning that a candy board is easily accessible for the honeybees without the need for the beekeeper to frequently check and replenish the food for the honeybees.
What is the Purpose of a Beehive Candy Board?
The candy board serves a number of purposes, which include:
- Counter-freezing temperatures – the candy board is designed to meet the needs of areas that experience freezing temperatures. Most parts of the US that experience temperature conditions that fall below freezing for several months straight will find a candy board useful and practical. With the candy board, the hard block of sugar provided to the bees allows them to crawl over it and chew through it. This can sustain them over winter. The nutrient-rich supplements that are added to the sugar will ensure the colony is well-fed without compromising its nutritional requirements.
- One-off solution – the fact that the candy board can hold enough food for the whole colony through winter makes this the ultimate one-off solution during the onset of winter. Once installed, you can be assured that you do not have to disturb the honeybees over the colder months. This is ideal for their well-being given the freezing conditions during this time.
- Acts as a cushion or security measure against food shortage – the honeybees are guaranteed something to fall back on once their honey reserves have been depleted, especially during prolonged winter. The colony will prioritize the consumption of their honey reserves and will only resort to supplement food once their resources are exhausted. The candy board acts as a Plan B that can save lives during food scarcity.
- It makes it possible to avail beneficial nutrients to your honeybees even during times when nectar and pollen are non-existent. You can prepare a nutrient-rich supplement food and include it in the candy board.
- The candy board makes it possible to avail only what is needed by the bees with respect to the season. For instance, proteins are kept at a minimum during winter months in order to discourage the colony from producing brood. Failure to do that would mean more brood production which will lead to a bigger and unmanageable population. This will ultimately lead to food scarcity which can devastate the honey bee colony.
- It is designed to benefit young and small honeybee colonies. In that case, the worker bees are not yet self-sufficient making it difficult to forage and store enough food reserves for the tough months. The beekeeper, therefore, needs to step in and provide supplemental food for the colony.
- Tough summer months will mean the honeybee colony has not been able to collect and store enough nectar and pollen for the later months. In this case, the intervention of the beekeeper will serve to cushion the honey bees from being wiped out as a result of starvation.
- Late swarms captured by the beekeeper will require some support in terms of food provision. Such colonies do not have sufficient time to forage and store enough food for the coming winter. The candy board, therefore, serves to protect these colonies from dying as a result of a lack of food.
Benefits of Installing a Beehive Candy Board
A candy board not only benefits your honeybees but also makes your work much easier as the keeper. Here are some of its benefits:
- Helps minimize the exposure of the honeybee colony to outside temperatures. Its design completely eliminates the need to keep open the hive whenever you need to refill the food supplements.
- It minimizes the number of times you are required to keep on checking on your honeybees thus providing more time for you to focus on other tasks.
- It helps regulate the moisture content inside the hive. Sugar syrup absorbs excessive moisture thus maintaining the humidity inside the hive within the desirable levels. Additionally, the candy board comes with an entry/exit feature that helps provides an escape route from excessive moisture. This ultimately ensures the welfare of the honeybee colony is well taken care of.
- Since this is a practical solution for supplementing honeybee feed, it serves well any beekeeper irrespective of their climatic condition. It is not only easy to use but also less messy when compared to other solutions. A candy board will be placed between the inner cover and the uppermost deep and will last a colony the entire winter month.
When to Install a Candy Board
It is important to understand when it is necessary to feed your honey bees. Your decision to install a candy board will depend on a number of factors:
- The condition of the honeybee colony – the condition of the colony will determine if you require a candy board or not. Checking the hive’s condition is easy and it involves lifting the hive without even opening it. You can hold the back of the hive and try to lift it up. If it is extremely heavy then that means the colony does not require some extra feed. If that is not the case then you have to install the candy board.
- When resources are insufficient or scarce – the beekeeper has to intervene when resources are limited so that the health and growth of the colony are not compromised. The candy board helps to avail the much-needed nutrients, which will temporarily replace what the colony normally gets from water, pollen, and nectar.
Resource scarcity impacts the normal biological and physiological processes in the colony which will impact colony growth and health. With the food supplements made possible by the candy board, bees can preserve their food reserves and add more instead of depleting what is already available. The bee colony should not be fed on supplement feed when pollen and nectar are in abundant supply. One of the ways to evaluate resource abundance is through honeybee behaviour. If they ignore the supplements provided then it means resources are in abundant supply.
- For new colonies – feeding will help new colonies get started on good footing. It is particularly wise to provide a candy board for colonies starting out as bee packages. During comb building, a lot of energy is used up by the worker bees as they build food storage and brood combs. The nutritional supplements provided through the use of a candy board will therefore provide a nutritional boost that will quicken the normal processes and accelerate colony growth and expansion. The nutrients provided can be regulated to achieve desired results. For instance, extra protein will hasten brood production which should be the aim during peak season.
- Candy boards should be installed during specific seasons – First off, summer nectar dearth is an ideal time to use the candy board. You can also boost brood and wax production by providing supplement feed using the candy board during early spring. Fall is also an opportune time for providing supplement feed that will help boost the pollen and nectar reserves as the colony prepares for winter. Ultimately, the winter month is the time to install a candy board, to help protect the colony from starving once the colony’s food reserves have been fully utilized.
DIY Beehive Candy Board
The fun side of things in beekeeping is your freedom to DIY most of the things needed for the job. A candy board is no exception. You can make one within the comfort of your own home, using locally available resources. You will need to build a candy board as you prepare for overwintering. The most exciting thing about this project is the fact that anyone with basic woodworking skills can do it. A candy board will help avoid starvation, one of the major reasons for colony collapse over winter.
The size of the candy board to be built will depend on the size of the hive. The board should ideally be the exact same size as the hive box. The height of the candy board varies and can range from 3 to 4 inches, with a preferable height falling at around 3 inches. With such a height you can be certain of stacking up to 15 pounds of sugar that can sustain most colonies.
Since the candy board should be the same size as the hive box, it means it is designed to fit standard Langstroth hives. Ideally, the length and width of the candy board is 19-7/8 by 16-1/4 inches
- Scrap lumber – This is used for making ¾-inch thick wood strips that will be connected at the corners, making a frame.
- Hardware cloth or wire mesh – A ½ inch wire mesh is placed at the bottom of the frame for easy access of the honeybees to the food reserve.
- Parchment paper – this is of the same size as the candy board and will be fitted at the bottom of the board. A small hole of about 2×2 inches is cut on one side of the paper to act as a guide for the bees. The honeybees can still chew through the paper once they are familiar with what lies inside the board.
- Hardware cloth – this is an important part of a candy board and the size chosen for the task matters. There are so many sizes of hardware cloth available but an ideal one for building the candy board is #2. This will work perfectly for the hard candy feeder bottom. The other sizes of hardware cloth serve different purposes. For instance, the #4 is designed for restricting bees but works well in keeping off mice hence is ideal for mouse guards. Other available sizes include #5, 6, 7, and 8 all of which are used for their own unique purposes.
Honeybee colonies are wired in a way that they instinctively know what to and not to do during each season. Saving for the future is one of the things that they excel in and perhaps one of the people to blame for any food shortage during winter months should be humans. It is only through human intervention that you can experience colony collapse. The mismanagement of honey reserves, deeds and misdeeds has a direct correlation to the problems that honeybees have to put up with food scarcity, disease prevalence, pest infestation, and colony collapse disorder. Fortunately, humans can still mend their failures.
Adherence to beekeeping best practices will make it possible for the beekeeper to raise healthy and successful honeybee colonies. The candy board is mainly designed to provide a fallback in case the colony runs out of food reserves. Long winter months are the toughest for colonies but with a candy board, it becomes possible to provide supplemental food to the honeybees. It is also important to note that candy boards can be made with varied recipes and ingredients, without any restrictions. You should therefore check out what works for your honey bee strain and avail it to them.