Feeding Honey Bees Fondant
Typically fondant is used as a winter feed (sometimes termed ‘emergency feed’) but can also be used in the fall, in fact at any time of year. It is also a useful food source (carbohydrate) for nucs and is very often used in mini-mating nucs for a number of reasons.
Time of year
Due to cooler, wetter weather in the late fall and winter, feeding bees at this time of year is usually not recommended and this is where feeding fondant can save a colony that is low in stores. It is always recommended that colonies which are low in stores in late summer and are experiencing low nectar flows should be fed syrup. If it is found that these colonies are depleting these stores by Nov/Dec then fondant is an excellent supplemental food source and little disturbance of the colony is required. For beekeepers on the coast of BC where conditions in January and February may be mild, honey bees often start brood production and thus it is a vital time of year to check for stores. Many a colony can be saved from starvation if fondant is added to the hive at this critical time of year.
It is important to note that some beekeepers feed their colonies exclusively fondant but feeding syrup is a lot more common. If fondant is used in the spring, it is vital that pollen stores (and foraging levels) are checked and if felt required, a pollen supplement can be added if brood is being raised.
Many beekeepers report less robbing when using fondant. When used in mating nucs the risk of the queen drowning in the syrup reservoir is removed and as these small colonies can be prone to being robbed, using fondant is often the first choice for feeding.
Adding pre-packaged fondant
For fondant that is purchased: add on top of the frames using a shim to allow for the thickness of the fondant package. Care should be taken in warmer temperatures if this method is chosen, and some beekeepers place the fondant on top of a queen excluder to reduce excessive dripping on the cluster. Using a deep inner cover (with a centre hole) is an excellent way to feed bees fondant. Cut an ‘X’ in the plastic bag and place the cut side facing down towards the cluster. Another method is to cut the block of fondant in half and place a half (cut side up) in a frame feeder. Always be mindful that if using this method the fondant is further from the winter cluster.