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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Sugar Syrup from Bag to Baggie

What a terrible year this has been for the bees in Georgia! We had hard rains throughout the honey flow and they put away very little in the way of stores. People tell me that there was little sourwood honey in the N Georgia mountains this year either. Whatever stores my bees put away they are consuming now as if it were already winter. My hives are very low on stores.

According to Keith Delaplane in First Lessons in Beekeeping, a hive should weigh 100 pounds (including the hive, the bees and the stored honey) going into winter. So my hives are all light because they have gone through their stores. I have been feeding them for the last several weeks and will continue into October.

It's not a cheap thing - more expensive, actually, per month, than feeding my two dogs. I go through a 25 pound bag of sugar weekly at $15.00 a bag - whew!

To make 2:1 sugar syrup, you have to bring the mix to a boil or that amount of sugar won't dissolve in the water. Occasionally I leave the kitchen with the pot on the stove, as I did this morning, and forget to go back until the pot has boiled for too long. Usually that means 10 minutes instead of the usual 1 minute boiling.

The other day I left the kitchen, I think, for longer than 10 minutes. When that sugar syrup cooled, it hardened into a block and I threw it away. There went 8 cups of sugar (4 pounds) and several dollars into the trash.

Today I ate breakfast while the sugar syrup was heating up, but left it while I went to check my email. When I (finally) returned to the kitchen, the syrup had boiled down 1/2" lower in the pan. This was bound to become another hard block. I just was not going to throw that batch away.

I decided to try something different.

So I boiled water for tea. When the water was boiling, I added it to the pan with the hot syrup in it and whisked it around. I think this will liquify what would have become a solid block and repair the damage so that I can use this sugar syrup. Here it is in its baggie, ready for delivery to the hives.

PS. As an illustration of how hungry the hives are, Bermuda consumed a whole gallon baggie of syrup between Saturday afternoon and Monday morning!
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  1. It's interesting the differences in the recommended amount of honey stores for winter. Delaplane - 100lbs., Flottum - 70lbs., Blackiston - 30 to 40lbs. if winters are short. I grew up in Atlanta, so I would think the latter would apply to you.

    I was very fortunate that my bees had a good season and produced enough honey that each hive is going into fall and winter with 1 full shallow super. I'll feed late winter or sooner, if needed. I was also lucky to get almost 10 frames of sourwood. Like you say, it was not a good year in the mountains.

  2. If you're interested, I posted yesterday on what how some successful mountain beekeepers prepare for winter.

  3. Anonymous2:27 PM

    Unless you caramelize the sugar, you should be able to re-dissolve it by adding more water. I suppose the hard part would be guessing the ratio when you don't know how much water is left.

  4. Right - I know it isn't exactly 2:1 now, but it's close enough and I will be glad to feed it to the bees!

    Lynn, I corrected my entry above - Delaplane who lives in Athens and keeps bees here in Georgia said the hive should weigh 100 pounds - not that you need 100 pounds of honey. So that includes the hive boxes and frames, the bees AND the stored honey total.

  5. Anonymous10:10 PM

    Wow Linda

    I would think your winter weather is similar to mine. We need only about 35-40 lbs of honey to leave for the bees during the winter months. I usually leave a bit more just in case.

    I am feeding my hives now also, and can't believe how much sugar I have had to buy. I don't like this part of the beekeeping hobby I have to admit.

    Annette from Placerville

  6. Anonymous7:02 PM

    One tip that I learned about making 2:1 syrup. First, I bring the water to a boil, then remove it from the heat and stir in the sugar. It makes the job much easier because you can't forget about it and it prevents you from caramelizing the sugar which can make the bees sick

  7. Anonymous3:56 PM

    Sounds like a lot of sugar!
    I have read about a commercial bee keeper who gets broken candy from the factory to feed his bees...He gets the unsellable candy by the ton load and puts it in a big drum and then lets rain fall into the drum until there is enough liquid; stirs the candy and that's what he feeds the bees!!
    It sounds less romantic but it is cheaper.

  8. Anonymous8:32 PM

    I had a baggie mishap today. I was refilling my syrup bag right in the hive and didnt get it closed all the way. I spilled about 1/5 of a gallon into the hive. I hope I didnt hurt too many bees! Or the QUEEN!

  9. Anonymous11:31 AM

    All the best for your girls as you go into fall and winter in Atlanta, Linda. You've got readers 'n beeks pulling for you everywhere. :)

    And I was taught to do my sugar syrup the way the other reader mentioned above (pouring the sugar into the boiling water, slowly stirring till entirely mixed and removing it from the stove then, since the dissolved sugar won't recrystallize if the water was boiled. Must be a rolling boil. Better than boiling the sugar itself, which can lead to caramelization.) If I find a source for where I learned it I'll repost, but it works everytime 2:1 and it doesn't caramelize at all, and you can leave it, but stir it often. I've used it in top feeders and baggies, and even stored extra in closed containers for a day or two.
    Thanks for sharing all these years. You're an inspiration!

  10. Thanks for the advice about boiling the water and then pouring the sugar into it. Sounds like a great way. I only knew to do it 2:1 and that it wouldn't hold together without heat....so this is a great suggestion.

    To the "mishap" two comments up: I put the empty baggie in a stainless steel mixing bowl and pour the syrup into it while the baggie is standing upright. It makes for less spillage. Then I close the baggie and can easily check it well in that position. I actually take the bowl out to the beeyard and then put the baggie on the hive.


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