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Friday, October 08, 2010

Ross Conrad's Bee Tea

 August's Bee Culture has an article by Ross Conrad (he writes an article every month) on beekeeping in the northeast.  As it is autumn, he talks about preparing the hive for the winter.  Included as a sidebar for the article is his recipe for Bee Tea.  I decided to try it for feeding the bees at Blue Heron.

Here's the recipe:
16 cups white cane sugar
6 cups hot tap water
2 cups Chamomile or Thyme tea (already brewed)
1/2 tsp natural sea salt with minerals



You add the hot tap water to the sugar and salt and stir thoroughly (?).  You do boil the water for the tea and steep it for 10-15 minutes.  Then you mix it all together and store unused amounts in the refrigerator.

I have a hard time making 2:1 syrup without using really hot water.  Maybe the water out of the tap in Vermont where Ross lives is hotter than here in Atlanta! (note:  comment below indicates it's probably the chemistry of the water in Vermont compared to my Metro Atl water).

So  I heated my water and then stirred in the sugar and salt.  Even at that, I couldn't add the last four cups because the first 12 had not thoroughly dissolved.

My answer was to stir the last four cups into the hot tea after it had steeped.

The next time I make it, I will steep the tea and then stir the steeped tea into the water heating on the stove.  Then before the water boils, I'll turn it off and then stir in the sugar and salt.

Making the tea:


 Stirring all of it together:

Adding the syrup to my Blue Heron hive (notice it is more yellow than the usual clear syrup, courtesy of the Chamomile) :

You may wonder why I have both a baggie and a Boardman inside this hive.  It's an 8 frame hive and can't take two baggies, so I put a Boardman in so that I could put more feed on the hive at the same time, since there's room for the Boardman inside the medium box that is surrounding the feeding mechanisms.

Another post about Ross Conrad

13 comments:

  1. Linda- I work in the environmental field, and deal with a lot of water chemistry issues. Please be aware that the capacity of water to dissolve a solid is very dependent on the chemical parameters of the water (pH, alkalinity, dissolved solids, etc). It would be a safe bet that the water supplied by Atlanta Metro is significantly different from the water Mr. Conrad is supplied in the Northeastern US. You may not be able to follow his recipe to the fullest.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I find a stick blender to be useful in making 2:1 syrup. I've also heard that the paint mixer attachment for an electric drill works well too.

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  3. Anonymous12:53 AM

    It is interesting to note that Mr. Mueller, a beekeeper attending the November 28th lecture given by Rudolf Steiner in 1923 at Dornach, Switzerland, reported feeding his bees a mixture of;
    four litres of water
    five kilos of sugar
    adding thyme, chamomile tea
    and a pinch of salt

    What's old becomes new again?
    Cheers, from Axel in Vancouver

    ReplyDelete
  4. Ross Conrad gives Rudolf Steiner full credit in the Bee Culture article - he says so under the title of the recipe and I should have mentioned that. The title of the sidebar is: "Dancing Bee Gardens Bee Tea (Based on the recommendations of Rudolph Steiner)" p. 49 Bee Culture magazine, August 2010.

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  5. Anonymous11:30 AM

    It's a thought that if Mr. Mueller brought this recipe to Steiner's lecture, that it probably was a recipe even older than 1923, definitely 1800's maybe even earlier. Interesting to speculate.
    Take care, Axel

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hi Linda, It may sound silly but what does added the Tea give the bees that normal sugar water doesn't.

    We are moving into Summer here down under, so we don't need to feed them. But would be keen to hear what benefit the tea gives them.

    By the way enjoy your blog.

    Thanks...Gary
    http://kiwimana.wordpress.com

    ReplyDelete
  7. I imagine the tea makes it more enticing and nectar-like. Perhaps the plant oils give it an aroma and taste more similar to their natural diet. Plus there must be nutrients the bees need that they can't get from sugar alone.

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  8. I've been working with an organic bee keeper to learn this amazing process of working with bees. what he says is you must boil the water for at least 5 minutes. this will kill any bacteria as well as rid the water of chemicals. We also add dried thyme to the water from the beginning, this gives the water an amber color. in a tea cup we brew chamomile and organic dandelion root tea bags. I add just a tblspoon of tea to the sugar water. The dandelion helps dramatically with the bees immune system. and the ratio of sugar to water is not a s heavy as what you do here.. more like equal parts or 2 to one sugar to water depending on the season. I have no idea if this good or not, but this man seems to know an aweful lot about bees and we've had great luck so far..

    ReplyDelete
  9. Linda, would you also add a few drops of essential oil ie. lemongrass and/or wintergreen?

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  10. How would this work adapted to be a fondant? Would boiling the water, sugar, and tea together to 234 degrees F be ok for the bees (then the syrup cools, if beaten while cooling, to a nice semi solild brick)??

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  11. Thanks Linda for passing on this information. My bees are coming in just a couple of weeks. One question: Is the bee tea only for fall feeding? Or spring also. Thanks so much. Karla

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  12. First, I am very conservative about feeding bees. If there's nectar to be had and the bees are bringing it in, then there is no reason to feed the bees. Sugar syrup, whether it's bee tea or simple syrup is a different pH than honey and changes the microbiology of the hive. But if you are starting package bees, you must feed them and if you don't have honey, bee tea is better than sugar syrup. You can certainly feed it at any time the bees need feeding, but in the spring, the ratio of sugar to water is more like 1:1 than 2:1 in the winter.

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