The active beekeeping season is all but over and all that remains are the winter varroa treatments and topping up the honey bees stores with fondant.
So what is fondant? It’s basically a sugar paste made from sugar, glucose solids and water. These are heated to boiling point then cooled and stirred to make a fairly solid paste.
Buying good quality fondant specifically for bees is essential as some baking fondant can have added ingredients that are not beneficial to bees. Honey Bee Pro is a new fondant on the market that is made completely in the EU, contains no GMO and is 100% natural. It also has a low HMF (hyroxymethylfurfural) which shows that this fondant hasn’t been over-processed and over-heated.
Beekeepers use it at a time when the bees are clustered for warmth during the winter months and early Spring, when there is little or no natural forage available. As the fondant is a paste with very little water content, the bees have no difficulty storing or consuming it as they do not need to evaporate off any moisture from this food source.
Fondant conveniently comes in 1kg, 2kg, 2.5kg and 12.5kg packs and is really simple to use. The packs can be opened by scoring a cross on one side and then peeling the wrapping back to expose the fondant. I personally place the pack over a feed hole in the crown board with the open side facing down, but I know that in colder areas of the country it may be advisable to place the fondant directly on top of the frames, under a multifunction crown board or shallow eke with a crown board above. Insulation then may be placed on top of the crown board.
The bees consume fondant at a slower rate than syrup; it doesn’t stimulate them to produce more brood but ensures that a good quality food source is directly above the brood nest, easily within reach of the cluster.
I check my colonies every couple or so weeks during the winter and heft the rear of the hives to test the weight. I’m happy if I have to do a lift that needs some oomph as that indicates there are still stores available. If the hive feels light then I put 2kg of fondant on and check again in two weeks. Amongst hobby beekeepers, starvation is the main cause of colony deaths over winter, so making sure they are topped up with fondant goes a long way towards ensuring a strong colony in the Spring.
There are a number of beekeepers who dispense with syrup altogether and solely use fondant in the autumn. A 12.5kg pack of fondant is sliced in half lengthways, three sides are encased in the wrapping and the cut side placed directly onto the frames with a multifunction crown board or eke and crown board above. The plus sides of this way of feeding are less robbing caused by spilt syrup, it’s consumed slower so there is more room for the queen to carry on laying those essential winter bees – syrup can clog the brood nest area if the bees bring it all down at once – no drowning bees as they always seem to get into the syrup feeders and it’s very quick and easy to apply.
My way of thinking is that I would rather the bees were looking at the fondant rather than looking for it!
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