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Sugar Board for Beekeeping

Keep your honey bees thriving through winter with a beekeeping candy board.

When you’re drawing out your bee hive plans, you’ll need to consider how you’ll take care of your bees in the winter. Bees spend the spring and summer gathering pollen and nectar. They use the pollen and nectar to produce honey, which they store up for winter. To help your honey bees, you can plant flowers and plants to increase honey production. But what if your bees don’t store up enough honey? Or you have a new colony? You can get your struggling bees through the winter with a sugar board.

What’s a sugar board?

Sugar Board for Winter Beekeeping
With the right beekeeping supplies and a sugar board, winter beekeeping will be a snap.

A sugar board, also known as a candy board, is used as a last resort when your honey bees need winter food. Honey bees need plenty of honey to get through the cold winter months. They have ample food sources during the warm months, but rely on their stores of honey in the winter. When they don’t have enough honey stores, honey bees can starve to death.

A sugar board is a simple solution to keep your bees thriving until the weather warms up. Sugar boards consist of a frame, hardware cloth, sugar and an entrance hole for your honey bees. The candy board is installed on top of the bee hive. You can either buy a candy board from a store, or make your own.

How to Make a Sugar Board

There are a few methods for making a sugar board. One of the easiest, and safest, ways to make a sugar board is by using a no-cook method. You won’t have to worry about getting burned by boiling sugar, or even burning the sugar itself.

1. First, you need to make the frame. You’ll need to measure your bee hive to make sure the sugar board frame fits. Measure the length and width of your bee hive. If you have pieces of scrap wood laying around, you can use those. The wood should be 1″ to 2″ tall. Screw the four pieces of wood together to form the frame.

2. Once the frame is screwed together, drill an entrance hole for your honey bees. The hole should be about 1/2″ so the bees can easily get in and out, but nothing else can get in. Use a cordless drill to drill the hole toward the bottom of the board, not in the center. The top part of the board will be covered by the bee hive lid.

3. Using strong fence staples, attach 1/2″ hardware cloth to your frame. You want to attach the hardware cloth to the inside of your frame, so the frame sits evenly and firmly on the bee hive. Give yourself an extra inch when you’re cutting the wire mesh. This will allow you to staple it to the inside of the frame.

4. Once your frame is all put together, it’s time to mix the sugar. You can use this simple recipe from Southeastern Indiana Beekeepers Association. All you need is 16 pounds of sugar, 3 cups of water and a large container. You can also use vinegar to combat mold growth. To make the mixture, pour the sugar into the large container (we suggest using a large stock pot) and slowly pour the water in, a little at a time. You can mix the vinegar in with the water. Stir the water into the sugar. Once completely mixed, you’ll be left with wet, lumpy sugar.

5. Lay out parchment paper or newspaper on the hardware cloth. Spread out the wet sugar on the paper, making it even with the sides of the frame. If you want, you can stop halfway and add a pollen patty. The pollen patty will give your bees a pollen source if their pollen stores are low. Once the frame is full, let it sit overnight, or until the wet sugar has become rock hard.

6. Now you can install your sugar board. Remove the outer cover. Take out the inner cover from your bee hive, and replace it with the sugar board. Put the sugar board in with the hardware cloth side facing down. Put the outer cover back on. Now your bees will have a reliable food source for the winter!

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