Not Your Same Ol' Sugar Brick
There’s been a LOT of discussion on social media about using sugar bricks, sugar cakes and “soft” sugar bricks to feed bees during the winter. Sugar brick feeding is a main stay for northern beekeepers due to extended winter months and the inability to open hives due to cold and snow.
Southern states don’t typically have winters this extreme, therefore this method of feeding hasn’t been on beekeepers’ radar. However, it’s not just about extreme winters!
If you look online for recipes to make your own, you’ll see an overwhelming similarity in ingredients for sugar blocks as well as ratios for making them, most resulting in a hard brick “carb” only supplement, fed only in winter.
What about protein? What about the rest of year? You’ll be hard pressed to find a legitimate recipe for a feed “block” that includes a pollen sub … unless of course – you are a Texas Friendly Beekeepers Facebook page follower! This “friendly” by design Facebook page boast over 5000 members, all under the watchful eye of seasoned beekeeper Stan Gore.
One of Stan’s many solid recommendations – honey frames first, then the use of sugar bricks when “nutrition” is needed. In his words, “The soft sugar bricks are not a magic bullet, but they will keep a beekeeper’s hives from starving.” What’s different about his recipe? If you ask Stan, his response is – “People have been feeding sugar to bees for years. Other methods dump sugar on the hive, but if fed too early as a winter supplement, bees see it as foreign and haul it out of the hive. Some would like to argue my ingredients, but after years of research working with different ingredients and cooking times – I know it works! – Proof is IN THE PUDDING!”
When to feed Stan’s Soft Sugar Bricks™?
Quote Stan: “I put on soft sugar bricks after the first frost. I make sure I leave plenty of honey – the brick goes directly over the top of the frames and over the center of the brood nest. Any residual moisture is absorbed, and the brick provides an umbrella over the brood… no dripping water on bees heads!”
According to Stan and those that have used them, feeding these soft blocks has had extremely reliable results as a nutritional supplement beyond winter. “You can feed soft sugar bricks year-round. Bees will take syrup faster. Therefore, if you want faster build-up and an artificial nectar flow, feed syrup. If you want contentment and slower build up, feed soft sugar bricks.”
Additionally, an interesting (and very logical) use for soft sugar bricks is for feeding removal bees (bees from cutouts). “I don’t save any wet frames… promotes robbing and Small Hive Beetles. I go for a brood break on my removals. Instead of feeding honey (mucho robbing), I will place a small soft sugar brick inside the box for bees to nibble on and also feed light sugar syrup. I have found this to be the best for my purposes,” says Stan.
As most beekeepers have come to understand, “nutrition” is key to healthy and thriving bees. It’s not just about throwing some syrup or pollen on a hive and saying “done”! So often we take feeding supplements at face value and avoid looking at logical antidotal methods such as Stan’s Soft Sugar Bricks™. Worth a try? I would say so!