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Feeding Candy or Fondant
to Honey Bees

As is mentioned below there is confusion between candy and fondant, my guess is because candy was what the older beekeepers made themselves and fondant is a commercially sourced equivalent. Beekeepers rarely make candy these days as it is a time consuming process. The use of bakers fondant, that is readily available in conveniently sized 12.5kg blocks from catering suppliers, is much easier to use, less time consuming and more cost effective. It can be cut into slabs with a cheese wire and put into plastic bags or wrapped in cling-film. Slashing with a knife will give the bees adequate access.

Peter Edwards is a commercial beekeeper and finds it much less bother than feeding syrup.The button on the top left will show you how Peter does all his autumn feeding with fondant.

For those who wish to make candy I have left Dave Cushman's original text below.



There seems to be no clear definition of the terms "candy" and "fondant", with many beekeepers using them indiscriminately. Beekeeping literature is not particularly helpful, with TSK and MP Johansson ("Some Important Operations in Bee Management") giving recipes for "Soft Candy (Fondant)" and "Hard Candy", whilst Morse and Hooper ("Encyclopædia of Beekeeping") define candy as a "soft, fudge-like sugar solid". A range of boiling temperatures are suggested, from 234-240°F (112-116°C) (Johansson "fondant"), 243°F (117°C) (Wedmore quoted by Johansson), 243°F (117°C) (Morse and Hooper "candy" - did they get this from Wedmore? or Johansson?), up to 310°F (154°C) (Johansson "hard candy"). Johansson suggests adding glucose, 1 tbsp to 3lbs sugar, in their fondant, but state that "candy makers" use 15% glucose for "excellent" fondant.

Some sources suggest using cream of tartar in the recipe, but both of the above point out that acid-inverted sugar is toxic to bees (LE Dills, 1925) and that if inversion is desired then only enzyme inverted sugar should be used. However, Johansson points out that "The addition of acid arrests inversion, and accelerates crystallisation, which argues against the long-established rationale for inverting sugar syrup in the first instance."

I telephoned my supplier of Bakers' Fondant (used by many large-scale beekeepers in the UK) to establish the technical specifications and method of production. They tell me that the fondant consists of: sugar 74.5% ± 0.5%, glucose solids 14.5% ± 0.5%, water 11.0% ± 0.5%. The ingredients are heated just to boiling point (approx 221°F) and are then stirred in a creamer until cool. This produces a soft, fine-grain sugar paste.

I would suggest that the term "fondant" should be used only for this type of sugar paste and the term "candy" be used where the mixture is heated to a higher temperature (typically above 234°F) in order to evaporate some of the water and make a more solid product. The one thing that is clear is that it would seem to be unwise to add cream of tartar!

Peter Edwards. June 2002.

Making and using candy

E.B. Wedmore described the making of candy in great detail. I have paraphrased his words and metricated his quantities.

For every kilo of white granulated sugar (sucrose) add 300 ml of boiling water and stir vigorously until all crystals have completely dissolved, then boil the liquid, again stirring continuously, until a temperature of 117°C is reached (when measured 25 mm below the liquid surface using a sugar thermometer). Allow to cool, without stirring, to 45°C and then re-commence stirring until the liquid appears milky, ladle or pour into suitable containers.

Wedmore also mentions the possible addition of cream of tartar (potassium hydrogen tartrate), vinegar or fruit acids (lemon or orange) to partially invert the sucrose by breaking it down into fructose and glucose. Whilst this gives a softer, more creamy texture, the bees accept it less readily and the potassium content in the cream of tartar is now considered detrimental.

The aluminium foil containers that are used for "take away" meals make ideal containers for candy.

These "bricks" of candy are utilised by placing face down over the feed hole of a crown board with the rim of the foil container acting as a rim of one bee space.

In Wedmore's time it was common to cast the fondant in moulds and the resulting blocks were placed in a wooden lattice frame of the same external dimensions as a brood frame, this special frame was placed on the fringes of the nest.

Timing of candy feeding is usually during late winter or early spring when feeding liquid syrup or honey would stimulate the bees to raise brood more early than it was deemed prudent.

I personally, stopped using candy for such early feeding about 1993 and now use liquid feed delivered in frame feeders.

Dave Cushman.

Candy for mininucs

Using candy in mating nucs... The use of liquid feed in small polystyrene (or wooden) types of mating nuc has the disadvantage of slopping about when the boxes are handled, but by far the biggest reason that I do not use syrup or honey in these small devices is the likelihood of bees drowning and contaminating the feed.

To prepare candy for this purpose I use plastic ice cream containers as a mould and pour the cooling liquid candy so that a slab with depth of about 33 mm will be left when the candy has solidified. The slab is trimmed to size so that it will sit within the space that one mating frame would occupy. This large piece is used "as is" in the rearmost position in the hive. The squarish shaped bars of candy that result from the trimming of the slab are used by placing haphazardly in the polystyrene feeder buckets that are part of the normal mating hive kit. You need to get the consistency of the candy solid enough to avoid slumping (as I found out the first time I tried it!), this may appear hard to human touch, but the bees cope OK with it.

Dave Cushman.

Originally written by Dave Cushman. Edited by Roger Patterson.

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Page updated 04/09/2022