Friday, October 30, 2009

Patty Cake, Sugar Cake, Yummy said the Bees

I really never liked cooking. So this recipe is perfect for me. It's a no cook sugar patty recipe.

After reading around the web a bit about fall feeding I decided to add some kind of feeding in addition to the sugar syrup. The weather had been cold at night and the bees were really only eating the syrup on warmer days.
I got "fine sugar" which is caster sugar in the baking aisle at the grocery store. Caster sugar is regular white cane sugar but it's ground up into a fine powder-like consistency. I remember many, many years ago making caster sugar in cooking class at school by putting regular sugar into an electric grinder. It's used a lot to sprinkle on top of fruit or fancy desserts. Icing sugar isn't really the best for feeding because it contains corn starch which the bees don't really digest very well.
I used sugar syrup as a liquid to pour into the caster sugar bit by bit. You have to start small because the sugar can get too running if too much liquid is added. I made it into a moist consistency of thick paste.

I laid strips of wax paper on the top bars of the hive and spooned the mixture onto the paper. (At a later feeding I did all the spooning onto the paper before opening the hive so it was ready to set right in - reducing the amount of time the hive was open in the cooler weather). I suppose I could have got my hands dirty too and formed them into patties like hamburgers.

I also sprinkled just the plain caster powder on another strip of wax paper.

I returned today (5 days later) to find that the bees in both hives had gobbled up both the sugar cakes and the powder sugar. They were swarmed all over the paper and I had to shake them off.

In Hive #1 they had chewed up the paper and later I watched as bees left the hive carrying out bits of the white wax paper - cleaning house.

They hadn't taken much of the sugar syrup. Hive #2 had lots of bees under the clear panel in the hive top feeder but I didn't see any in Hive #1. It was concerning at first for Hive #1 until I removed the feeder and saw the top bars covered in bees licking up the sugar cake.

So, I made up a fresh batch and left it for them. Bon appetite!

5 comments:

Mark's Bee-Haven said...

Hello, Barbara! Interesting post! I wonder if your caster sugar candy is simular to fondant? I read that a lot of beeks use fondant, which is used in bakeries, to feed their bees in the winter. I looked into it, but think I'd rather stick to something more natural, something like you're doing. And the fact that its easy makes it even better for me.

RAT said...

By "icing sugar" do you mean "powered sugar" or "confectioners sugar". If so - uh-oh! I've been using that.

Barbara's Spot on the Blog said...

Hi Rat. Icing sugar is used to make icings for cake and most bags should be clearly marked with the ingrediants. The corn starch probably helps give the sugar a thickening effect. I had a bag of it in my kitchen and the ingrediants say: refined sugar, corn starch.

I'm not 100% but I'm pretty sure "confectioners sugar" IS caster sugar - it's used to sprinkle on cakes and desserts to make them look pretty. It's just white cane sugar but ground really fine. "Powdered sugar" - that one is probably caster sugar as well. Maybe see if you can read the label to be see if anything has been added to the sugar.
Icing sugar IS used to dust the hives for varroa mites. The sugar and cornstarch interfere with the mite's ability to hold on to the bee's fur and it looses it's grip and falls off. The bees then lick each other clean, consuming the sugar and corn starch. They aren't harmed per se although corn starch isn't something a bee would normally eat, so if you did use it, I don't think that'd be a terrible thing.

Barbara's Spot on the Blog said...

Mark, yes I think it is used in the recipe for fondant. I have read the fondant recipe in one of my books (just can't recall which one at the moment). It wasn't hard to make. I think that one involved a bit of cooking and the candy can be made harder. Fondant is used to fill the tiny holes in queen cages - that's what the bees eat up to release the queen.

The Beneficial Bee said...

You have some lucky bees, Barbara. I was shocked to find that there was corn starch in powdered sugar after you posted about it. Thanks!