Bee fondant is basically a sheet of hardened sugar candy that is used as a backup food supply to tide your bees over until they can start bringing in their own food. If you are not greedy and leave the bees enough of their own honey to make it through the winter then you will not need fondant.
Some commercial apiarists use fondant because sugar is sometimes cheaper than honey. Fondant does serve a secondary purpose, in the winter months it helps absorb dangerous moisture that often kills colonies.
I looked over several recipes online, but in the end I choose the recipe from a local bee expert – Trevor Qualls from Bon Aqua Springs Woodenware because I know and respect his judgment when it comes to what is best for bees in my area, as well as he works to provide organic solutions to bee management problems. His recipe stays away from ingredients that are genetically modified, and I like that.
I followed his bee fondant recipe exactly, and it worked perfectly on the first try.
He does not mention it in the recipe, but the vinegar is used to invert the sugars to turn the sucrose in table sugar to glucose and fructose sugars found in fruits or honey. (This process is often used by those brewing alcohol also).
Trevor does say that the vinegar will not make your fondant taste like vinegar, and he is right about that. I broke off a little piece of the bee fondant to verify. It is very close to a piece of hardened plain sugar frosting. That is not surprising, because it is pretty much what fondant is.
Recipe for Bee Fondant
- Mix 1 part water to 4 parts sugar.
- Add 1/4 tsp. vinegar per pound of sugar.
- (Since 1 cup of sugar weighs 8 ounces. 8 cups of sugar needs one 16 oz. glass of water and 1 tsp. of vinegar)
- Bring to a boil, stirring constantly until boiling begins. (If you do not stir constantly you will get a transparent gel that is be extremely sticky instead of the opaque nonstick sheet fondant). The sugar mix will look clear.
- Boil covered for 3 minutes without stirring.
- Boil until mixture reaches 234° F. Take caution not to exceed 234° F as the sugar will caramelize and that is harmful to bees.
- Remove from heat and allow to cool to 200° F. This will cause the candy to have an increased thickness.
- Whip with a whisk until whiteness occurs.
- Quickly pour onto waxed paper having a towel beneath. Be sure that the towel is not fluffy since it will depress the cakes width. This method will make a nice cake.
- Allow to cool undisturbed.
- Remove wax paper and store each cake in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. The cakes can be handled as plates but may be a little soft like fudge. They will be completely white with whiter areas inside. Tiny crystals will shine from a broken edge.
- Place fondant directly over the brood cluster so the bees have access to it.
This is a very easy fondant recipe, but if you take care to not over rob your hives, you probably won’t need it. Traditionally (a hundred or so years ago) Honey was harvested in the spring, to insure that the bees had access to the entire summer’s harvest to make it through the winter and to ensure that only true surplus was taken by the beekeeper.