Thursday 7 July 2011

Feeding the bees

Carrying on with the bee theme of recent weeks, if you decide to get yourself a beehive or maybe even a bee box you might want to know how to encourage bees in. It's easier with a beehive as you will already have a colony but you still need to feed the bees to encourage them to produce more honey and of course keep a happy hive.

You might not be ready for a beehive just yet but you might want to offer a "home" for bees with a bee box.

Bee boxes are greatly used by mason bees who struggle to find home elsewhere, it's unlikely a bumblebee will make its home within the bee box type shown above. They need more of a bird box separated into two compartments, one filled with wood shavings and the other where the rest of the bees can live. Either way offering "home" to bees is very important. If you decide to get a type of bee box then here are some tips;
  • Place box in south-facing spot, bees like warmth but not direct sunlight
  • Bees will be happy to make home in a box which is in amongst a flower bed or if it's on a wall then a plant trailing nearby will help the bees forage for food
  • Try and have your box facing slightly downwards so that the rain doesn't come in!
For a beehive it is important that your bees have enough to feed on, they will just eat through the honey stores unless other food is provided for them. This is the easiest bee candy recipe that I use which can be made in the microwave;

1. In a microwave dish, mix thoroughly one and a half cups granulated sugar and one-half cup light corn syrup ( 3:1 ratio).  No water.

2. Microwave on a high setting, stirring every few minutes, until the mixture is clear and bubbles become larger (about thumbnail size), for about 10 minutes. Bubbles should be large, but stop immediately if the mixture starts to brown. A wooden spoon is very effective for stirring, as it can be left in the dish during microwave cooking.

3. Pour into a mould made from cardboard or a container lined with paper to cool. The candy will become brittle, and can be slipped on top of frames or between in a hive, where the bees will consume it.

You could decide to make some of this candy recipe for your bee box but be careful as you don't want to attract wasps. A properly sited bee box should not need the candy recipe to entice them in, but I know it has been used before. 

Next time I will go through some recipes/ideas for what to do with all the honey that the bees make :-)


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