Beekeeping in the spring & summer is fairly hands-off when you have an established hive, but the colder weather brought in by fall & winter increases the amount of attention that you have to pay to your bees. In the warmer months, bees leave the hive to gather food for the colony. In fall & winter, the bees stay in the hive and cluster together to stay warm. Even if they did leave the hive, they wouldn’t find enough food to keep the colony alive. This is where your responsibility as a beekeeper comes in. There are a few different ways that you can provide food for your honeybees throughout the cold seasons, but sugar cakes are the favorite food option for my hives.
The recipe for sugar cakes varies from beekeeper to beekeeper, but the end goal is the same- make a solid cake of sugar that can sit inside the hive for easy feasting. We keep our sugar cake recipe pretty simple and we don’t use specific measurements because we’re rebels :).
How to Make Sugar Cakes for Honeybees
Only two ingredients are needed for this sugar cake recipe: water and sugar. If you want to add a little extra boost, you can add in a pollen patty as well. You will also need a baking sheet, a cake pan, or a loaf pan to use as your mold.
- Warm Water
- White Sugar
- Pollen Patty (optional)
1. Coat the bottom of a baking sheet or loaf pan with 1/2″-1″ of white sugar.
2. Fill a spray bottle with warm water and spray the sugar until it is moistened all the way through, but not overly saturated.
4. Pack the wet sugar down to be sure that it all stays together as a “cake”.
5. Let it sit uncovered for 24 hours to harden. If your sugar cake isn’t totally solidified, let it sit for another 24 hours.
6. Flip your pan upside down to release the entire sugar cake OR use a spatula to cut it into chunks and lift smaller cakes one-by-one.
7. Allow the bottom of the sugar cake to dry out by leaving it upside down for 24 hours.
8. Now you are ready to place your sugar cake(s) to your hive. Place one sugar cake per hive on top of the frames.
9. If you have extra moistened sugar that fell off of your cakes, you can store it in an airtight container for future use in another sugar cake or in your spring sugar water.
- The bees typically consume an entire sugar cake within a week to 10 days.
- Be sure to check the hive at the week mark to be sure that your sugar cake wasn’t too large or too small. If there is too much extra sugar left in the hive for too long, you risk an infestation of hive beetles. If your sugar cake was too small for your colony, they could starve.
- Clean the bottom board after a week. This also helps reduce the risk of a hive beetle infestation.