Valentine’s Day at the Bee Sweet Bee Farm brought Hershey kisses, Reese’s hearts, caramels, and heart shaped boxes of chocolates to the beekeepers. Our junior beekeepers have a bad habit of biting into the filled ones and putting back the flavors they don’t like, but I don’t really blame them for putting back the fruit flavored ones! Not to be left out, the bees got their own version of Valentine candies. This time of year, beekeepers worry that their bees might not have enough honey stores to get them through the winter. It is really depressing to lose a hive of bees for any reason, but we really don’t want to let any of them starve, when we can easily help them out. During warmer weather, we can provide sugar syrup, but when the temperature drops, we swap over to sugar bricks as a way to provide a food source.
Compared to spun sugar, fudge or taffy, in the world of candy making, these bricks are pretty simple to create, just a mixture of cane sugar and water. Specifically, a 4 pound bag of sugar and 1/3 cup water, mixed thoroughly together, are the only things we need to make bricks. A stand mixer makes it easier to get it completely mixed. The mixture is poured out onto a prepared cookie sheet, lined with waxed paper.
Compact the mixture with a rolling pin and cut it into bricks with a knife. Pre-cutting is important because once they are dry, it’s impossible to cut them without destroying the blocks of sugar. Preheat the oven to 200°, place the cookie sheet inside, and turn the oven off. Leave the bricks undisturbed for 24 hours, allowing the water to evaporate. Invert onto another cookie sheet or cutting board to allow the bottom to dry completely as well.
The bricks work well because bees release a small amount of moisture when they breathe. The moisture condenses on the sugar brick, softening the outside of the block a tiny bit. The bees lick the dissolved sugar and transfer it to the honeycomb for later use, so basically we’re making bee lollipops! The sugar has to be in lollipop form because the bees would carry granulated sugar crystals out the hive door, thinking it was trash.
The bricks go on top of the brood nest, so they’re easily accessible to the bees below. We place a wooden spacer on top of the boxes and under the inner cover to allow space for the sugar bricks. They can be left in place until spring to fill in any gaps between honey stores and the maple trees that begin to bud in February.
We’re hoping the Bee Sweet bees won’t need their sugar brick lollipops at all, but just in case they do, the bricks are waiting as a little extra insurance policy. Hope your valentine did something kind for you today and that you took time to Bee Sweet too!