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Winter Survival


Seems that survival of the last week's freezing weather is all the buzz among beekeepers!

What are the bees doing inside the hive during the cold winter months? What can you do to help your bees make it through the remaining chilly months?

First, when it’s cold, you must observe the hive from the outside only. What’s going on around the hive is generally a guess. Your bees aren't flying around except on warmer days to make short cleansing flights.

Second, look around the entrance for dead bees; this is not always a bad sign. It could be that the bees inside the hive are simply keeping their home clean.

Third, lift the hive for weight; I like to start them out in the late fall with a weight of 120 lbs.

Their food stores could be running low, and they may require feeding. If you have honey frames in the freezer this is a good time to thaw them and return them to the bees. Honey frames should be placed as close to the cluster as possible without disturbing them. Honey is generally the preferred food source and requires no additional energy to be used. You can add candy boards or place pollen patties and/or fondant on top of the frames over the cluster of bees.

Any feeding should be done under the appropriate temperatures above 50 degrees! Winter hive checks should be only from the top and never break apart of hive bodies. The cluster can be partial in each hive body and disturbing them only causes them to possibly chill before getting back organized into the cluster. Another reason to pry your hive apart is to break the seal they have made from propolis. Opening your hive allows the heat to escape and can chill the bees and brood.

Using liquid feed is not recommended. Excessive moisture is created and the bees are not able to take the needed cleansing flights when fed liquid feeds.

Recipe for Fondant Patties:

Bring to simmer:

1 Quart Water

1 Tablespoon White Vinegar

Add 10 pounds of Sugar, stirring constantly over heat over medium-high heat until it reaches a 235°F which is the soft ball temperature for candy making. If you don’t have a candy thermometer you can check the consistency by putting drops of the fondant into a cut with very cold water. If it balls up into a soft ball, you’ve reached the stage. If it just kind of dissipates, you need to let cook more.

After it reaches the soft ball stage, remove the pot from the heat and let it cool until it reaches about 190°F. If you don’t have a thermometer let it cool off enough that it begins to look opaque instead of translucent.

Once it’s cooled, add 8 drops of peppermint or wintergreen essential oil, and mix it well to break up the crystals. I prefer to use an immersion blender or hand mixer for this because I don’t like having to pour the mixture into my stand mixer when it’s super hot. Beat until the bee fondant is white and smooth.

Pour into prepared pans. I like to use disposable pie pans that I have saved from being thrown away, you could also use a plate lined with wax paper. I like this size because I can put the whole thing in a gallon zip lock bag without cutting it or breaking it apart. Some people like to use a cookie sheet (the kind with a lip) that is lined with wax paper. Whatever you have and want to use is fine. Just make sure it’s ready to go when you’re finished mixing. The cooler the fondant gets, the harder it is to pour.

Let sit to dry out for a few days and fed on top of top bars near the cluster using a spacer to assure the top fits back down properly.

Candy Board Recipe

4-pound bag of sugar

¾ cup cold water

1 tsp Honey B Healthy (optional) or 10 drops essential oil (tea tree, peppermint, wintergreen, or lemongrass)

Mix well til the sugar is wet. Pack into wax paper-lined or oiled containers. I put mine directly into a newspaper-lined candy board leaving a 4x6 space opening and a pollen patty. Pack the sugar down and let sit to dry out for a few days and fed on top of top bars near the cluster using a spacer to assure the top fits back down properly.

They freeze well.

Screened Candy Board


Pro-Health 16 Oz.


Ultra Bee High Protein Substitute Pollen Patties

(10 LB)


Call if you have any questions:


Have a Happy New Year,



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