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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. Along the way, I've passed a number of certification levels and am now a
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Sunday, November 14, 2010

It is SO hard to make 2:1 Syrup

About half the time I succeed; about half the time, it crystallizes. It is such a frustrating process. And the hard part is you don't know it's going to crystallize until after it has cooled off.

I made 2:1 syrup (actually bee tea - chamomile and thyme added to the 2:1 syrup) early this morning to take to Valerie's house today. I poured it into jars while warm, put it in the car and delivered it to Topsy around noon today. The third jar that I filled is crystallizing tonight. That means that the syrup I put on Topsy will also be crystallizing.....GRRRR.

According to this site, saturating the solution with sugar to the point at which the water can take no more is an invitation for crystals to form.  This is why so many commercial beekeepers use high fructose corn syrup.  Fructose does not crystallize.  But sucrose (sugar) does.  You add lemon juice or cream of tartar to candy to keep it from crystallizing.  I will look into whether anyone ever adds lemon juice to 2:1 sugar syrup.

You can see the crystals forming at the bottom of this jar.  Once it gets started the crystals beget more crystals and on and on like Genesis until the entire bottle is solid sugar again.

Another view of my frustration.

The two bottles of 2:1 that I took off of Topsy also had been busy crystallizing, as you can see in the picture below with crystals forming around the top of the jar (the bottom as it is set into the Boardman inside the top bar hive - I don't feed with Boardman feeders on the outside of any hive).  The bees had pretty much emptied the jars despite the crystals, thank goodness.

I have all kinds of objections to high fructose corn syrup, but adding a tablespoon is recommended to keep crystal formation from starting.  I think also adding a small bit of lemon juice might accomplish the same thing.  I may try this in my next batch.

After one of the comments below, I looked up Honey B Healthy and it does have lemongrass in the mix - maybe the acid of the lemongrass in it is what keeps the syrup from forming crystals because the sugar in it is sucrose.

Tomorrow when I make more bee tea I'm going to try to add a teaspoon of lemon juice and see what the effect is on the crystal issue.  BTW, I found a post on Beemaster where someone recommends adding a little lemon juice to the mix.
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  2. Rich Antcliff8:47 AM


    Can I assume you are heating the water to get the sugar in solution? I have actually just been adding warm water to my sugar and having it go into pretty good solution. It is kind of a fine slurry, but it does not crystallize and the bees like it just as well.

  3. I heat the water to boiling. When it is boiling, I stir in the sugar. Then when it appears to be clear and all the sugar is dissolved, I turn the heat off and let it sit until it cools. The stirring process usually takes about 20 minutes. I usually do 8 cups of water and 16 cups of sugar at a time. I'm thinking of cutting back to 15 cups of sugar to lower the saturation a little.

  4. Anonymous9:04 AM

    I have a 2qt ball jar. I put 7 cups of sugar in the ball jar. I then add 3.5 cups of boiling water from the kettle on the stove, 1 bag of chamomile tea; a sprig of thyme from the garden, and a tsp of Honey B Healthy. Stir until dissolved. After it's cool, I divide into two quart ball jars and feed via boardman. It has never crystallized.

  5. Lucky you - I think it also may have something to do with Atlanta water. Ross Conrad doesn't bring his water to a boil and his dissolves just fine, although he doesn't talk about crystallizing. I think whatever we have in the water here may have something to do with it. I have been making bee tea this year as per the last comment every time, but I had the problem of crystallizing last year and started making 1.5:1 syrup but this year it's late to feed anything but 2:1.

  6. I don't know what's in Honey B Healthy but if it has fructose or glucose - anything other than sucrose, that's all that it takes to prevent the start of crystals.

  7. I have never had my 2:1 syrup crystallize. I add the hot water to the sugar rather than sugar to water as it seems to dissolve better.

    I put 3C cane sugar in a mixing bowl, add 2C very hot water from the tap or kettle (which has boiled but is no longer boiling in the measuring cup). Mix together well for a few minutes till sugar dissolves then add one more cup of sugar & stir. The last cup of sugar dissolves better this way than trying to get all 4C dissolved at once. After stirring and cooling a bit (feeling no more sugar crystals when stirring), I add 1 teaspoon of HoneyBHealthy to prevent mold growth and encourage the bees to take up the syrup quickly. This makes almost 1.5 qts syrup. I keep this syrup in plastic jugs until needed (top fed via RapidFeeders-- which look like Bundt pans). I may shake the jugs occasionally over days, but really don't need to as they do not crystallize at all. I have left full jugs out next to hives a week or so until the next feeding and they have always been fine and well accepted by the bees.

    I do not heat sugar solution on the stove as I read that scorched solution can sicken or kill bees (maybe similar to overheated HFCS). When I mix the solution it is clear or just white. The solution in your pictures looks beige, like it may have been scorched.

  8. The solution in the pictures is bee-tea and is colored by the chamomile and the thyme. It isn't at all scorched - I know what you mean about that and I don't ever bring it back to a boil after adding the sugar because if the sugar caramelizes it will make the bees sick.

  9. Anonymous10:08 PM

    Hello Linda,
    I've been adding lemon juice to my syrup for several years, originally to make the pH acidic since honey is also slightly acidic. Now I boil a big pot of water and steep the chamomile/thyme tea in it and let it cool. I use a recycled plastic juice bottle (about 1 quart) with a tight fitting lid which I then fill with granulated sugar. I put in half teaspoon of sea salt (for minerals) and about 1/4 cup of lemon juice. Then I add the cooled tea. At first not all the sugar even gets wetted, but the volume goes down a bit. I then top up with the tea and have found that this is pretty much a 2:1 mix (saves a lot of measuring). Then I shake the daylights out of the bottle, mostly upside down (hence the tight fitting lid)since the sugar settles after each shaking. It's usually dissolved after about 5 or 6 shakings. Sometimes a little remains on the bottom of the bottle but that just becomes part of the next batch. As far as the pH thing, I haven't actually measured the pH of the syrup, but will do so and let you know what it is. Hope this helps,
    Axel in Vancouver

  10. I just mixed some more up and added 1 tsp of lemon juice to a 10 cups water/20 cups sugar mixture. It's almost cooled down with no crystallizing! According to the theory, the lemon juice even in that small amounts, separates the sugar into fructose and glucose instead of sucrose. I wish I had understood chemistry in college - I'm sure it would help with both cooking and making sugar syrup but alas....like calculus, I sucked at both subjects!

  11. Too difficult to make - that's why I quit trying. Mine crystallized in the baggies after a few attempts last year. I just feed 1:1 earlier in the season so they can have a good start on storage.


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