I suppose that it’s an age thing, but how quickly the years seem to slip by. It seems hardly possible that it was twelve months ago that I sat here contemplating 2014 and wondering what tricks she had up her sleeve for me. Well, looking back, 2014 was a pretty good year for us here at Mendip, we’ve tried lots of new things, most of which have worked I’m glad to say. I’ve made a few silly mistakes along the way but hopefully they’ve left me not only older, but a little wiser. I’ll let you know in 2016!

So, just the fondant still to go. In past years I’ve used Bakers Fondant or Apifonda and they’ve both done the trick very well. This year however, I’ve decided to have a go at making my own. It was an article in Somerset Beekeepers’ newsletter that prompted me to give it a try and here’s how I went about it. Obviously the number of hives you want to treat will decide how much fondant or candy, if you prefer, that you make, but the proportions will be the same. Plastic take-away containers are ideal, but if like me, you’re not a great fan of take-aways, suitable alternatives can be easily found in the discount stores or Poundshops. So, armed with my containers, a large saucepan, a ladle and something substantial to stir it all with, here’s what I do. The proportions of sugar to water are 1 Kilo to 300 ml. My pan comfortably holds four kilos of sugar and 1200 ml. of water. I found it best to heat the mixture as I went and to keep stirring it as it came to the boil. I let it boil for about five minutes giving the mixture a regular stirring, the object being to reduce the water to about 20%. Keep an eye on the pan and don’t put the lid on. It will boil over in the blink of an eye and a hob covered in sticky syrup will do nothing to improve your standing with the other occupants of the kitchen. When you are happy that the mix has begun to thicken the pan can be removed and placed in the sink filled with water to further cool. If you’re not sure whether the mix has had long enough on the cooker, take a small amount on the tip of a tea-spoon and drop it into some cold water. If it’s had long enough on the boil, it will turn into a soft white ball. While the mix is cooling, stir it vigorously. When it resembles the consistancy of soft porridge it is ready to ladle into your containers.

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                             ABOUT THE CONSISTANCY OF SOFT PORRIDGE

Fill the containers to within about a quarter inch of the rim and fit the lids. When they have cooled you should be able to invert the containers without any of your mix running out. They are then ready for use.

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                                                    READY FOR USE

The following day was cold and dry, so, eleven o’clock saw me at the meadow armed with my trays of candy. A quick and simple matter to give each hive a tray, if done correctly, the candy will remain in the container when you invert it, the gap that you’ve left on the top of the mix will prevent you from damaging any bees.

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So, that’s it, twenty minutes saw the whole job done, no need for ekes as each hive is still wearing it’s upturned Adams feeder. It wasn’t so cold as to prevent the bees coming up to take a look, I hope that they’re pleased with my efforts. The beauty of using these containers and this method, is that you can, at any time, take a quick look at how much they are using. You can then, if required, provide a top up without disturbing them unduly and that’s what I’ll be doing until I’m satisfied they’ve come through the Winter.

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