Mountain Camp Method of Feeding Sugar

Submitted by J. Morgan

We're big proponents of the candy board (those of us who use sugar) when winterizing a hive. A candy board is a wooden "rim" box about 1 or 2 inches deep designed to sit on top of a Langstroth hive body. View our video on how to make a candy board here. But briefly, the process of a candy board is to mix sugar with water, a little vinegar (as a mold inhibitor) and maybe even some honey bee healthy if you have some (or use the homemade essential oil recipe here) and then layer it in to the wooden candy board frame. Some people heat it and make it more in to a fondant, but we just wet it a little so that when it dries, it sticks together. We also add a pollen patty to the board before adding the sugar for the queen to use around Feb. when she starts laying again.

The "Mountain Camp" method of feeding got its name from a user using the name "Mountain Camp" on www.beesource.com (a large beekeeping discussion board). Like camping, you tend to simplify things as much as you can. The mountain camp method entails just pouring sugar directly on to some newspaper that sits on your top frames. It is simply a name for dry sugar feeding where we may otherwise add water or more effort to achieve the same effect.

Mountain Camp stated what some may call the obvious... Why go through all the work, when bees will eat sugar just poured in to the hive? Sugar is poured on to some paper to keep it from falling through. Over time, moisture will penetrate the sugar and harden it automatically. The method is easier and takes half the effort of making fondant. While others have surely used this method before, members of the Beesource community called it the "Mountain Camp Method" since this user was known for bringing it to light. The Mountain Camp Method of feeding provides all the same benefits of an overwintering hive as a candy board does while temperatures remain too cold for liquid feed.

Having additional pollen within the reach of the cluster also facilitates brood rearing when it is time. Check your sugar periodically when temperatures allow. The bees will eat a hole in the sugar pile closest to where they are. If it gets cold again, it is helpful to have that hole filled back in with sugar. We make up hardened sugar bricks to toss in... or you can lay some more paper in the hole and fill it back in with sugar.

Here's some tips to remember

  • Don't allow newspaper to be exposed to the outside, beyond the hive body so moisture isn't wicked into the hive.
  • Don't use confectioner's/powdered sugar as it contains corn starch, and can cause dysentery.
  • Add pollen paties or dry pollen when setting up. Watch the candy board video to hear more of these details.
  • Don't open your hive on too cold of a day, and open it for a limited time only to reduce chilling the brood and disturbing the cluster.

If you have any additional thoughts to add, we'd love to hear them.

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