Yesterday evening I abandon my couch, cosy fire and my Christmas tree sparkling with a million coloured lights, to brave the dark and cold to go Christmas shopping for my bees. Bees have been so active because of the recent mild weather that the bees are getting through their stores of food fast, too fast. The older sage beekeepers I’ve spoken to lately casually mentioned that have already put fondant on their hives even though this is not usually done until the new year. “If the bees want it, they will take it down’” each had said (sage beekeepers all sing the same tunes).
As usual, I pretended that I wasn’t so ignorant and nodded gravely in agreement, not that they saw me do that over the phone. Mind you, I must be coming on, as the thought had already stuck me that maybe putting on fondant might be a wise thing to do, but I hadn’t done it had I? That infamous well-protected hive had felt very heavy that time I had lifted it to swap out the stand just before Storm Barra (see Storm prep) so it does not need feeding but the other hives may be borderline.
Fondant is, well… fondant, but it’s not exactly the same as the baker’s fondant you would put on Christmas cakes, though it can be, but not usually. The one thing that bees don’t need is any additives or preservatives that would be toxic to them. Fondant which has only sugar, glucose syrup and water as ingredients is fine to use to feed bees if you can get it but fondant with any other additive is not. Beekeepers usually only buy fondant from beekeeper suppliers to ensure we know that there are no sneaky bee-unfriendly additives.
I can’t give bees a feed of syrup now as the bees will just ignore syrup when temperatures fall below 10oC. I had run out of fondant!! There is only one place I know within miles that could supply it. Thankfully, the supplier (and renowned beekeeper) anticipated beekeepers needs and had stocked up well. Collecting my order was really a visit to an old friend and It was nice to chat and catch up on the latest bee news.
This weekend will see me in my wellies and bee-suited up giving an early Christmas presents to my hives. I’m sure they won’t appreciate me removing their lids, but they can thank me later.
Here’s how to add fondant it to a beehive: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4uxYGrB-U9E
More on fondant – my blog pose called Bees and Christmas Cake
Snowman Christmas Cake recipe (because I pinched the cover photo from there)