Today the temperature rose to 48 F. Granted, the thermometer is on the south side of the house in full sun, but still the air outdoors was milder than it has been and the snow is shrinking around my footprints in the garden.
I put the kettle on and wandered out to the hive to check on the bees. In winter the only chore is to dig away snow and ice that fall down on the entrance, and check for signs of bears. The top of the box is packed with newspaper between the frames and the cover to absorb moisture put off by the warmth of the colony, so ventilation isn’t too much of an issue. Still, on warm days the guard bees like to clean house of their deceased sisters; an admirable endeavor and I like to be sure the bottom hive entrance is open a bit for them.
As I approached the hive this afternoon a foraging bee flew directly to me and landed on my red sweater. Several others flew around my head as I leaned in to check the entrance. They had tunneled through the newspaper to the top entrance and were boiling around the tiny hole in the insulating plastic, tumbling over each other and making a fair amount of noise. It was a happy sight. I tugged the bottom close-piece open just a bit, brushed everyone off my sweater and went in to make tea.
Tomorrow I’ll make sugar cakes and start, I hope, toward a productive apple-blossom season. This is the recipe:
Winter Candy Feeding
Purpose: To prevent starvation during winter when stores run out.
How to make: Bring 1 quart of water to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in 5 pounds of sugar. When sugar is dissolved return to heat and bring to slow boil (stirring constantly) continue until the liquid reaches (Hard Ball) stage (260-270 Degrees. F) this will take a while. Be careful not to burn (scorch) the mixture as this will make the bees sick. Pour into a cookie sheet (the kind with sides), lined with wax paper, and allow to harden until cool. Break into pieces.
Note: Scorching the sugar is very bad for the bees, so I don’t cook this to the hard ball stage. I stir and wait until it’s a sludgey mass, then decant it into the protected cookie sheet. After it cools I scoop it out into 6″ x 6″ “servings” on larger pieces of wax paper and deposit it on top of the frames in the hive. The bees seem to enjoy chewing on the wax paper almost as much as the sugar.
How to apply: Feed to bees by placing on frames just above cluster. Do not put on honey supers for human consumption until after the candy has been removed.