Being in northern Illinois/ southern Wisconsin, late January or early February is the time to start thinking about this.
I dislike the thought that my bees would make it into the new year only to die of starvation before spring arrives.
Here’s a frame showing what is left of bees that starved and the bottom board with all the bees that fell to the bottom of the hive. This was a sad sight during my spring hive inspections last year.
A few weeks ago, on a warmish calm day, I took a peak into my hives. Only lifting the top, a couple of inches along the back edge, to see if the bees had been eating the sugar blocks that I had placed on the top frames in late fall. I found one hive with a softball size area of bees, but sadly they were nowhere near the block of sugar. I took my hive tool and gently moved the sugar block directly over the bees.
When we have a nice day in February, I will peak in again to see if they need more sugar. Knowing that as time moves closer into spring, prior to any nectar flow, more of my hives will be in need of a sugar block to survive. Therefore, I am in the process of making a couple of sugar blocks a week.
There are many recipes out there for making sugar blocks where you stir 25# of hot, near boiling melted sugar on the stove. This does not sound like a good idea to me, so I’ve been searching and experimenting with no cook recipes. However, the problem with recipes that instruct you to mix the water and essential oils into the sugar, pat down into a pan and let dry, is that if they do ever dry they don’t hold their shape. Then, if you stack them, the ones at the bottom crumble. At least this is my experience.
While making one of these recipes, I had placed the sugar blocks into my warm oven, which was at 170 degrees, to dry. My oven must not be very accurate, since it partially melted the sugar in the pan. (Sugar melts at 185 degrees F).
The partial melting of the sugar held the complete block together when the sugar block cooled. So far I have made 4 blocks with this method, and I have 3 more sitting in my oven now.
Check back later this week for the DIY Sugar Block recipe.
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