Making a winter candy board to overwinter honey bees

Submitted by J. Morgan

The first video embedded below is an updated video on making candy boards. It covers more of the specifics on making the candy board. The second video below talks a lot about making the cand board frame itself before getting into making the board. Both are worth the watch!

We think a candy board is a kind of like a cheap insurance policy. The benefits of a candy board, made correctly adds many benefits to help the beehive over the winter. The candy board is simply a hardened sugar mixture that lives in a 2-3 inch frame body and has hardware cloth on the bottom to hold the "candy" up.

Let's consider some benefits:

  1. If the bees deplete all the honey stores, they hit the candy board and this may help feed them for the remainder of the winter, or at least until you look in the hive again.
  2. Condensation is a big concern in the hive. Cold air outside and warm bees inside make moisture. This moisture can collect on the top of the hive. The candy board will absorb most, if not all the moisture into the sugar and likely keep it from dropping back down on to the cluster. Wet bees will die.
  3. There is also a hole that passes up through the candy board and a 5/8 inch hole is drilled through the front. See the pictures and the video. This allows warm humid air from inside the hive to exit out this hole to prevent condensation in the hive.

To us, these benefits alone merit putting a candy board on the top of each hive. Take a minute to watch the video to see how you can make your own candy board. Here's the recipe.

  • 15-16 lb. of sugar
  • ~3 cups water
  • 1 tsp. plain white vinegar (optional)
  • 1 tsp. Honey B Healthy (optional)

If you choose to use the vinegar (as a mold inhibitor) and HBH, add to the water and stir before adding to sugar.

Pour sugar into a very large container and gradually add about half the water, stirring to wet the sugar well. Continue adding and mixing water until all the sugar is cakey, but not runny.

Put newspaper or waxed paper under your candy board, and fill with sugar. Screen the sugar off level with the top of the board. Allow to harden overnight.

Put the candy board on later in the season... when it's mostly cold and the bees don't want to break cluster. This may make the board last into the cold times when they need it most. Adding too early, you'll find the bees will eat the sugar on any given warmer day. The idea is to have this available for them closer to spring when it's possible they are running low on natural honey stores.

To add the board to your hive, remove the inner cover from the hive, and replace with candy board, screen side down. Replace the outer cover. You can easily raise the outer cover on warmer days during the winter and slip in additional sugar bricks if you need them.

12 Responses

  1. […] To us, these benefits alone merit putting a candy board on the top of each hive. Watch the video to see how you can make your own candy board. Click here for the ingredients and recipe/directions. […]
  2. Did you make them ahead of time ? If so how and where did you store them? Thank you.
    • Jason
      You surely can store them... ideally, the water is evaporated out of them ahead of time and it hardens. You can store them anywhere it's cool and dry... and ants can't find them! I store them in my cool basement on a shelf.
  3. Where in the hive do you place the board? I have three boxes on my hives with the top one having an excluder.
    • Jason
      Greg, this would go on the very top above the cluster. Definitely REMOVE your excluder as that's a sure way to kill the queen if the cluster moves up and through it over the winter. The candy board sits on top to provide additional food in the event they run out of honey.
    • Take the queen excluder off. If your bees go up there to eat, they leave the queen to freeze below the excluder.
  4. What size screen is used for that candy board frame?
    • Jason
      1/2" or 3/8" are ok - Do not use 1/4"
  5. Great informations thank you!! We just got our bees this spring. This is our first winter. I love your big copper bowl, that you used to mix up your sugar for your candy board. Where did you get it? Maybe I can find one too. Also do you wrap a cover around your bee hive in the winter? And how do you make sure that the bees have water to drink over the winter if it freeze solid? Thank you, Maria
    • Jason
      Hi Maria, The bowl is a copper confectioners kettle. I inherited it from my father. My hives that get direct wind, I do wrap with tar paper. You could use hay bales for windbreaks too. If you look up "wind breaks" on this site, you can find more info on those. As for water during winter, remember, if it's too cold, bees can't get out. They do make condensation in the hive. When the weather warms enough for the bees to come out, they can usually find melting snow and ice. I don't specifically put water in the hive over thew winter.
  6. Thanks for all the great content you provide Jason. I just completed making my first candy boards based on the knowledge and encouragement you and others provided in the videos.
  7. Can you just put the outer cover over the candy board or do you have to use an inner cover also?
    • Jason
      You do not have to use an inner cover. You can if you need a place to store it but the idea of the candy board is to wick moisture and provide food late in the winter.