Whew, we have had some cold weather this Winter. Single digits along with a few below zero temps. On each occasional warm day (42-48F) I take a peek under the top cover to check on the clusters and stores. I have replenished the fondant and will again at the next opportunity.
However we are beginning to experience the transition from Winter to the beginnings of Spring. Three days ago it was 63F and the bees took full advantage finding sweet sources from the start of the maple sap run and the ever so small snowdrops.
The GDD (Growing Degree Days) climbed to 15 with this warm day earlier in the week but is now 27 reflecting the slow but steady warming.
The time has come to wrap the hives in preparation of Winter. I cracked open the outer cover to see how the bees were managing. All looks well. I placed the bee fondant on the top of the frames and then snugged the bees back up. I’ll check again within the next couple of weeks when we have another warm sunny day before the real cold hits. I am curious to see if the bees devour the fondant and make an accessment of the new wrapping material.
The back story:
I was informed there was ‘tar paper’ or roofing felt in the machine shed I could use to wrap my bee hives with. Turned out what I found instead was ‘Rhino roof underlayment’. It’s a synthetic thin yet strong liner. It is waterproof and should block the Winter wind along with with absorbing the warmth from the sun. It was very easy to handle and secure to the hives. I just took some measurements, cut the liner with scissors and a draw knife. Then headed out to the bee yard after grabbing some black 1.5” wide inch vinyl tape and staple gun with 5/16” staples.
With a break in the weather and lots of sunshine I decided to make some bee fondant or icing. Thankfully I have made hard tack candy before during the holidays and know it takes some patience to reach the appropriate temperature. In this case the sugar concoction has to stay below 234 degrees. That’s a good thing because it takes a long time to evaporate enough water to achieve the temperature. Temperatures over 234 degrees will alter the sugar in a negative way for the bees.
Temperature slowly climbing
After 234 degrees you remove from heat and let it cool down to 200 degrees. Then get ready to spend at least 10 minutes whisking the mixture until it turns white and starts getting slushy for lack of a better word. Then you finally pour it out on to wax paper with a dish towel underneath it.
These patties of fondant or icing can be stored in a ziplock bag in the refrigerator. I’m holding off placing these in the hives until the weather consistently stays cold. When that time comes I won’t be opening up the hive again until the next occasional warm day. Then I can report back on how well these worked.