Updated: Oct 30, 2019
Insulated "Bee Beanie"
The Insulated Winter Board (The Bee Beanie) is designed to insulate the top of the hive (R6), provide upper ventilation (key to successful over wintering) and provide 7/8" clearance to perfectly fits fondant patties on top of the box frames, insuring good contact with the bee cluster. Have you heard the saying, "If your feet are cold put on a hat"? The concept is the same; 80% of heat loss is out the top of the hive, just like your body loses 80% of it's heat through your head. So to keep your hive warm put on a warm "Bee Beanie".
If you purchase an Insulated "Bee Beanie" from us ($25), it comes with a 1.5 lb fondant patty. Each sugar fondant patty is packed with bee pollen and Honey-B-Healthy to give wintering bees the protein they need. This Insulated "Bee Beanie" insulates, ventilates and allows space for winter feeding of your bees as a single unit.
We use a special piece of 1” urethane insulation that is backed with a thin piece of metal foil (R6 insulation) to help reduce condensation on the ceiling of the hive. A notch In the front provides an upper entrance as well as a place to vent excess condensation. These should be placed on your hives as soon as the first heavy freezes hits, or if you're seeing condensation on top of the inner cover. I usually do it as I am wrapping my hives with tar-paper for the winter, sometime between the end of October to Thanksgiving depending on temperatures.
The insulated "Bee Beanie" also comes with our recipe on how to make your own patties on a smaller scale so that you can continue to feed as needed, right at home. You can also watch a video with step by step instructions here. I do sell the patties ($5) for those who don’t have the time or inclination to make them. The pace the bees consume one patty is usually about 3-4 weeks, depending on temperatures and how much honey is in the hive. In the later spring they will consume it faster as it begins to warm up. I usually change to Liquid 1:1 sugar syrup with Honey Bee Healthy to stimulate brood-rearing in early March depending on temperature.
Note: If you get a tear in the foil the bees will start to remove the urethane insulation. I place a piece of Duct Tape over the damaged area to keep them from digging into the top and removing all of the insulation.)
Once they become active enough to start building burr comb on it in the spring. I remove the "Bee Beanie" and replace the inner cover.
Place the "Bee Beanie" on the top box of your hive (in place of any inner cover and under your weatherproof outer top cover) with the fondant patty (with the paper plate removed) on top of the frames above where they are clustering. Do not use an inner cover with the "Bee Beanie". Place your top cover on top of the Bee Beanie and weight the top so the wind can’t blow it off.
Fondant Patty Recipe: (makes Approximately 3 patties (1-1/2 lbs)
1. Bring 16 oz. of water to a boil in a large pan
2. Pour in 4 lbs. of sugar
3. Stir until dissolved.
4. Bring to 243° Fahrenheit at sea level to 500 ft., you will need to adjust for elevation. I use 238-240°F on the Wasatch Front. (Use candy thermometer or infrared thermometer) Stir every couple minutes or so to keep from burning while heating. (Do not leave unattended!! When it hits boiling temperature it may boil over and damage your cooktop or cause a fire. Pull pan off burner if it looks like it will boil over till it subsides, then put back on burner. Lower heat to medium high as it gets close to temperature; it heats quickly in the last few minutes). Once mixture is at temperature remove from the stove and let stand till about 210-220°F. Once mixture is at 210-220°F, beat on high with a hand-mixer for about 1-2 minutes until looks creamy and crystallizes.
5. Let cool to around 170-180°F, using the hand-mixer every 10 min. or so to keep from getting too hard; scrape the sides ensuring an even mix. If it gets to stiff you can add an ounce of water (a little bit at a time being careful not to add too much) then use the hand-mixer to reach a thick but pour-able consistency.
Optional: Once the mixture has cooled to 170-180°F, add ¼ cup bee pollen and 2 Tbsp Honeybee Healthy. If the mixture is too hot, it will damage the pollen and Honeybee Healthy.
6. Pour into paper plates that have been sprayed with vegetable oil (Pam works) or the patty will stick. I use the heavy duty 10" plates with a stiff lip with deep center and let cool. Work quickly as the mixture will get hard fast.
Here is the "Bee Beanie" at work. Bees are all over the fondant patty inside.
You'll see bees at the top entrance even when pretty cold out. Moist warm air is venting through this opening. So the bees can access it with out freezing. If they do leave, it's very cold and they often don't make it back.