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Sunday, March 9, 2014

It's Official...

Yesterday warmed up quite a bit, so I thought I'd peek in on the nuc (the one that I scavenged together out of bits left over from a bear attack) in the garage. First, I put my ear up to the hive. It was completely quiet. Expecting the worst, I cracked a couple bars apart. My expectations were not ill-founded. All the bees had died of starvation.

Died looking for honey
The creepiest thing was the color of the wax. Maybe it was the cold weather that had changed it's appearance and texture, but it appeared sort of gray and ashen, like a body in a casket, as if it had died, too.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Fondant Recipe

About a month or so ago, I made some fondant for the bees that I have left, just in case, on top of a couple of bars that I cracked apart. It was pretty easy to do. The recipe I used can be found on this website. You can also watch a video of someone making the fondant. However, I'm including instructions here as well -- mainly so that I can find them again.


I chose this particular recipe because 1) it seemed foolproof and 2) because most recipes require glucose or corn syrup, neither of which I had on-hand.

Ingredients:

  • 1 part water or bee tea
  • 4 parts sugar
  • 1/4 tsp vinegar per lb of sugar (This inverts the sucrose in the sugar so that it is easier for the bees to digest.)
Note: 2 cups of sugar = 1 lb.  So here is a cheat sheet with sample conversions. (It stops at 12 cups because that's as much sugar as my pot can handle.)

Water* Sugar Vinegar
1/2 cup
2 cups
1/4 tsp
1 cup
4 cups
1/2 tsp
2 cup
8 cups
1 tsp
3 cups
12 cups
1 1/2 tsp

* Often, when making syrup, I use herbal tea in place of water. I steep herbs that bees favor like peppermint, chamomile, parsley, basil, thyme, lavender, etc.

Directions

Step 1: Put all your ingredients into a pot and bring them to a boil. Stir constantly until it begins to boil.

In the pot

Step 2: When the mixture begins to boil, cover it and let it boil for about 3 minutes. 
Step 3: Use a candy thermometer to check the temperature of the mixture. Boil until the mixture reaches 234° F. Do not let the temperature exceed 234° F as the sugar will caramelize and become harmful to your bees.
Now we're cooking with gas!

Step 4: Remove from heat and allow to cool to 200° F.
Step 5: Use an electric beater to beat the mixture. If you have a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, that would be even better because this step takes about 5 minutes or so. If you want to go old school, you can use a wire whisk, but good luck. You'll be whisking for awhile. Keep whisking until the mixture turns very thick and white. (Note: If you like, you could add a drop of an essential oil like peppermint or thyme at this stage.)
Thick

Thicker

Thickest

Step 6: Place a fluffy towel on your counter, and cover it with a piece of wax paper. (Yes, the fluffy towel is important; it helps shape the fondant.) Pour the fondant mixture on top of the wax paper and let cool completely.

Cooling down

Step 7: 
Remove the wax paper and store the fondant in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Be careful handling it because it does break and crack easily.