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Making Bee Candy

One of the favorite winter chores in the horticulture department is taking a morning to conjure up a little treat for our sweet-toothed bee friends.  During the coldest months of the year, our bee hive is trying to keep itself invigorated by feeding on the honey reserves stored up during the growing season.  In order to generate enough heat to survive, the bees huddle together around the queen bee, keeping in constant motion.  There is constant movement between those on the inner, warm part of the huddle, and those who take their turn in the colder outskirts.  The idea of adding a candy board under the lid of the hive is to supplement essential honey reserves and make it easily accessible to reach the sugar source.  The following story (told in pictures) is of the simple process of turning sugar water into bee sweets.

Ingredients: LOTS of sugar, little bit of water.

It’s helpful to use a large scale for measuring out the five pounds of granulated sugar called for in the recipe.

You’ll need a large pot, a candy thermometer that will perch on the edge of your pot, and something with which to stir.

Meet Gwyn, our resident Bee Candy Connoisseur…check out that perfect pouring form!

Our scale wasn’t quite large enough, so we had to bring in a back up to hold all the sugar.

This recipe calls for a little more than your grandma’s sugar cookie recipe…

Bring one pint (two cups) of water to a boil and add sugar.

Pour it in…pour it ALL in!

Amazingly, it all fits in such a small amount of water!  It will be an opaque color until the sugar is completely dissolved.


Start stirring…

…especially once it starts to boil.

Eventually it will start to look (and sound) a bit like boiling glass.

Keep stirring until the temperature reaches 240 degrees.

Turn off the burner.

Did you think you were done?  Sorry, keep stirring!

By now the liquid should be fairly transparent, though it might start crusting up around the edges if you don’t stir the crystallized sugar back into the hot liquid.

The consistency will be similar to that of a runny honey.

Meanwhile, the board the bee candy will be poured onto is waiting patiently on the sidelines.  It consists of a thin Masonite board with wood edges to create a short, 1” high wall.

Make sure the edges are tight against the board so the liquid candy won’t leak out.

As the temperature drops, the liquid will start to crystallize, despite your stirring action.

When the temperature falls between 180-200 degrees, it’s ready to be poured onto the board.

It’s easiest if someone pours and another spreads, as the liquid will rapidly turn solid if you’re not quick about it.

Mmm…looks like grits for dessert.

We might have waited a bit too long to pour this time, as the candy is already crystallizing as it is spread evenly across the board.

Of course, you need to taste test to make sure the candy is good enough for the bees.

Irvin wanted, instead, to spoil the bees with a delectable, homemade confectionary.

Gwyn proudly displays her finished masterpiece.

For more information on beekeeping in Indiana, check out the following websites…

Indiana Beekeeping School

Indiana State Beekeepers Association

Indiana Department of Natural Resources

Filed under: Horticulture, IMA Staff, Musings

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