fondant is fed for practice. I have gotten several emails with questions on using Fondant for winter feed. I may have been a little vague about fondant usage when sending followup training yard emails.
From my experience, feeding fondant is a method to keep the bees from starving as the winter progresses. As you likely know, the cluster moves up during the winter months. This normally works well for them in that the storage of honey is in the top super(s) and they have it available until spring flowers start to bloom. Dandelions are some of the first.
What happens sometimes is that the bees move to the top of the hive and find no food under the inner cover. There might be stores below and beside the cluster but cold weather can prevent the cluster from moving to it so it is not useful and moving frames in cold weather is usually not practical.
This is where fondant (or sugar in some form) becomes useful. One can determine the weight of the hive by lifting the back as winter progresses. This can be done at any time because the small movement does not disturb the bees. If it is decided to feed fondant or sugar in some other form, it is simply placed on the top bars of the top super directly
over the cluster. Basically the normal upwards movement of the bees makes them bump into the food and they can feed on it. For the more adventuresome beekeeper cooked fondant can be made following recipes found on many internet sites. As an easier method, several pounds of sugar with a enough water to slightly dampen it, will roll out on wax paper to 3/8″. In 24 hours it will harden into thin “candy lumps” that can be place into the hives.
A temperature of 50 F or above would allow a quick peek into the hive. I try to avoid moving frames and disturbing the cluster even at this temperature. Sunset comes early and the cluster has to reform before the temperature drops.
This Sunday November 25th is forecast to be 57 with little wind. I’m going to cook a small batch of fondant and I plan to be at the training yard around 1:00 PM on Sunday and add it to the hives. I don’t think the hives need it at this time but thought it would be a good practice for later this winter or early spring when they do.
Plus I just want to take a quick look into the hives before it gets too cold.