Bee Fondant

Asked January 31, 2017, 3:50 PM EST

I have been keeping bees for about 6 years in Breckenridge (10200 ft) and have tried making bee fondant to supplement their stores due to a short growing season and long, cold winters. I have tried making but lost my hives this year rather quickly, possibly because i made this incorrectly. Apparently when inverting sugar Sucrose to Glucose and Fructose a highly toxic acid(HMF) can form if done incorrectly. Would you have a recipe for this, with proper temperatures, at this altitude?

Regards, Michele

Summit County Colorado beekeeping

1 Response

Hi Michele,

Thanks for taking the time to seek answers about feeding bees over the winter in Colorado. Beekeeping in high altitudes is definitely more difficult. I don't use bee fondant personally, but I know it is often necessary for high altitude apiaries.

From my research and consulting a chemist beekeeper on the Front Range, it seems that there is no set temp or time at which fufurrals are created. It instead is a variable based on time/temp and altitude. However, furfurrals can be detected by color change, simply sugar is white and should stay white. Our suggestion is to watch the bee candy for a week or two and if it stays white, then you should be good.

Simple cane sugar with as minimal of heating as possible is most important when making fondant for bees. The most important part seems to be to not over heat the sugars, this is where (HMF) can form according to sources listed below. Another consideration might be to place pollen patties inside the hive too, because if they run out of pollen then it doesn't matter if they have the sugar. Honey bees need both pollen and nectar for overwintering success.

Below I have pasted some links to recipes for bee fondant. The first resource 303 Beekeeper dot com has directions for altering the recipe for high altitudes. The second resource is from Bee Culture, and the article discusses 5-hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF) and concerns around sugar vs corn syrup feeding of bees. In the article Collison suggests, " HMF is widely recognized as a marker of quality deterioration, resulting from excessive heating or inappropriate storage conditions in a wide range of foods including juices, jams, syrups and honey (Jachimowicz and El Sherbiny 1975; Alabdeen Makawi et al. 2009; LeBlanc et al. 2009; Zirbes et al. 2013)."

I suggest when making your next batch you use a recipe from one of the resources suggested, with special concern for the temperature and altitude adjustment when heating the sugars, simple cane sugar syrup with minimal heating is best.