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I've been keeping this blog for all of my beekeeping years and I am beginning my 19th year of beekeeping in April 2024. Now there are more than 1300 posts on this blog. Please use the search bar below to search the blog for other posts on a subject in which you are interested. You can also click on the "label" at the end of a post and all posts with that label will show up. At the very bottom of this page is a list of all the labels I've used.

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I began this blog to chronicle my beekeeping experiences. I have read lots of beekeeping books, but nothing takes the place of either hands-on experience with an experienced beekeeper or good pictures of the process. I want people to have a clearer picture of what to expect in their beekeeping so I post pictures and write about my beekeeping saga here.Master Beekeeper Enjoy with me as I learn and grow as a beekeeper.

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Thursday, October 08, 2009

The Messy Sugar Syrup Process

When people talk about harvesting honey, there's always some discussion about how messy the process is. When I harvest via crush and strain, I put cardboard under everything, keep the harvesting in a small area of my kitchen and have very little clean-up. I put the cardboard outside on the sidewalk and the bees clean it up. The equipment - a pan, a rubber spatula, a pestle, a sharp knife - is easily cleaned in the sink.

Making sugar syrup is an entirely different matter. I find it very messy and difficult to clean up. Since the process takes place on my gas stove, I can't line the burners with anything and sugar and drippy syrup get all over EVERYTHING.

When I'm done, there are sugar drips on the stove, on the floor, on the counter, on my clothes, on every square inch in the vicinity of the pot.

Drips happen in the pouring of the syrup from the pot to the ziploc baggie. The measuring cup drips. The pot is too heavy for me to pour and hold the baggie open at the same time so I start by transferring the syrup from the pot via a glass one cup measure. Drippy, drippy, drippy.

And in pouring the sugar into the boiling water, sugar gets sprinkled all over my burners.

The only discovery that has diminished the mess is that I discovered that two of these one quart mixing bowls (see photo below) filled to this level = eight cups of sugar. I then don't have to make as many transfers from the bag of sugar to the boiling water. That has cut down on the sugar on the counter.

When I'm finished I have to clean at least three or four pots, three or four mixing bowls, an assortment of whisks, a sharp knife, and of course, the kitchen counter, the floor and the stove top.

In addition the bees go through a baggie in about five days so I am feeding at least once a week and often more. So unlike harvesting which takes place a couple of times each summer, this feeding mess and clean up happens weekly or more and has been continuous since the beginning of September.

All in all, I'd say making and using sugar syrup in ziploc baggies is the biggest clean-up challenge I've had so far in beekeeping.
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  1. I don't know if yo can do it with bee sugar syrup, but when I made my hummingbird feed, which is also a sugar syrup, I made a lot at one time and as long as you refrigerate it, it will keep. You must use a lot more sugar in that syrup. I hate those gooey messes.

  2. If you can get something like one of those deep trays used bus dirty dishes, it should be wide and deep enough to do all of the pouring inside the tray. Any mess should be contained and an easy clean up.
    I have a single hive and do one bag at a time by adding sugar to the baggie and then hot water, seal the bag and shake vigorously to liquefy the sugar.

  3. Anonymous11:50 AM

    Don't know if this would work for you, Linda, but I bought a plastic pitcher with lid, and poured the still-warm syrup into that (per batch). That was done over the sink, so any drips were easy to clean. Only use pots that you can lift, and it'll be worth it, since pouring into the baggies is so easy using the pitcher. (Do that over the sink too.)

    And like Kat said above, you can store any extra syrup for a few days (I found 2-3 days was my limit) in the fridge, then let it come to room temperature before using with the bees. Good luck!

  4. Heya, I'm a candle maker, and found an interesting tutorial on how to convert a cooker into a double-boiler with a spout at the bottom. I think it might work for the sugar syrup, and you wouldn't have to lift the pot anymore. Looks like it can be done on the cheap too.


  5. Anonymous3:56 PM

    I'm a chef and prof. kitchen always put aluminium foil under thier burners/cookers. When you have to clean up you just fold the foil up and throw it away leaving a light clean-up below.
    I would have to agree with what has been said above and which you yourself have discribed before on your blog - the right toll for the job most often makes the job a lot easier to do...Get a pot you can handle; get a bigger jug; etc. Those white buckets you use for tapping honey into jars look quite robust. I wouldn't be surprised if they could handle either boiling or at least very hot water. You could measure your sugar into one of those and then pour the hot water in; mix around until sugar is dissolved and then let it cool and use the tap to tap the syrup into baggies .... just an idea ;-) Good luck.

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  7. Anonymous10:23 AM

    When I make my sugar syrup,I boil water in a large pan, turn it off, and pour sugar straight from the bag into the pot, while stirring. Very little spills this way.
    I let it cool in the pot and then pour it into a pitcher I have sitting in the kitchen sink. Then I pour from that pitcher into empty gallon water jugs, and take those outside to fill my feeders. All pouring is done over the sink to keep any spills easy to clean up.
    The pan, pitcher and jugs get rinsed off in the sink.
    I figured this out after making a mess the first couple times I made sugar syrup.

  8. Lots of great ideas, here! I think I'd be partial to getting super hot water into a giant tea or coffee container with a spout and adding the suger to that. 2:1 sounds pretty close to how many southerners make sweet tea, anyway!

    I might also be looking for ways to move the operation out of doors, too, like using a gas grill or one of those gas cookers they use to fry turkeys.

    I'm totally new to the beekeeping world, so this is pretty interesting. So how long do do you have to be feeding them?

  9. I'm so grateful for all the good suggestions for how to make me less messy! I can't wait to employ them the next time I make sugar syrup. My kitchen will be happier and so will I.

  10. Anonymous6:25 AM


    Im a beekeper in Turkey ,I have a quastion
    do you make invertedsugar syrup ?
    how ?
    thanks for the answer

  11. Anonymous12:34 PM


    I put the sugar into a plastic pitcher and then add the hot water, which I stir in. I have zero mess.

    Also, I don't even bother boiling the water, mine is warm enough to dissolve all of the sugar (even at 2:1) straight out of the tap.

    An additional advantage to not boiling is that you don't have to worry about the damage that water at 212 degrees can do to the sugar which I understand is not good for the bees.

  12. While I appreciate the feedback, I have not been able to dissolve 2:1 without heating the water. The general consensus on Beesource and Beemaster is that the water has to come to a boil to suspend the sugar in the solution without forming a crust or crystallizing.

  13. Anonymous12:25 PM

    I'm trying to find the original post about using ziplock bags for feeding. Does it go right over the frames in the top hive? What is the advantage over a mason jar or bucket feeder ? I'm just trying to figure out which boxes to take off this season. I got absolutely no honey in the honey supers this year. Many beekeepers around here (west of boston) got no honey for the taking this this year.
    So I am just leaving the second super on, with whatever honey is in there for the bees this winter. Unfortunately, I haven't started feeding until today, a 65 degree one.
    So, please remind me how to prepare food for winter.



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