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 (not this winter)

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….

About Bean

I am the beekeeper at Brookfield Farm Bees And Honey, near Maple Falls, Washington. My bees fly from naturally treated, antibiotic-free hives in the foothills of Mt. Baker (the second most glaciated volcano in Washington). I sell the raw honey my bees make, as well as honey produced by Washington beekeepers who are friends - the emphasis is on raw honey from naturally treated, antibiotic-free hives. I also make and sell Raw Honey Infusions (Ginger, Lavender, and Vanilla Bean; Raw Honey Infused Organic Vinegars; and Beeswas Salves. You can find me or my husband at Seattle's Fremont Market and at Bellingham's Farmers Market. When not with the bees, you'll most likely meet me up some mountain trail, pinhole camera and digital camera slung over my shoulders, and my pack goats trailing behind me.
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