Thursday, January 22, 2015

Feeding Bees with Bent Nails (kind of)

We're in the midst of a winter that isn't overly harsh, but that is following what apparently was an epically bad summer for honey production.  As a result, our bees went into the winter with less than one deep hive box, and were starting to look pretty hungry last weekend (judging by the weight of the hive).  We figured it was probably time to put some emergency rations out for them in the form of some no-cook candy.

We started making a candy board from the instructions here and here, but then realized our staple gun was out of staples!  Should we panic, run to the store and get some more staples?  Or should we practice a bit of whatchagotamology and make something to serve the same purpose, but that's even sturdier than those flimsy staples?  Wait--before you answer, consider this: we've also got a whole pile of bent-up nails, pulled out of free wood from Craigslist, that we've been itching to find a use for.  If you guessed the second option, congratulations.  Hooray for #2!

If wealth were measured in nails like this one, we'd be rich!

We cut the head of the nail off, then the shank into two pieces.  It's possible to do this with just a pliers or wire cutter, but it's a lot easier with a bolt cutter.  Also, the pieces don't go flying around as much with the bolt cutter, so if you go the pliers rout, wear safety glasses (and maybe a helmet).

We bent the two shank pieces into a generally parabolic shape using two pairs of pliers...

...then held onto each one with one pair of pliers and used the other to squeeze the parabola until the sides were parallel.  Sort of like taking a graph of a parabola and changing the independent-variable axis to a log scale.  Definitely use a pliers to hold the nail while squeezing.  If you use your fingers in place of the first pliers, they will force you to yell expletives when the second pliers slips off and squashes your fingers instead of the nail.

The resulting products are the head of the nail (any ideas for what to do with that?), and two beefy-looking staples that could be used to hold barbed wire onto a fencepost...

...or hardware cloth onto a candy board.

Here's what she looks like all together.  We smeared pollen on the top of the candy instead of making a proper patty like in the link above, mainly because we couldn't find the pollen until after we had the candy in the board.  It turns out one of those nonstick pie crust roller-outer mats is big enough to keep everything off the table while the candy dries, and also makes it pretty easy to unstick the candy board when dry.

This is the configuration on the hive: the candy board goes between the top deep box and the inner cover, hopefully right on top of the cluster. (But don't squash it!)  The moisture quilt is based off a design like this.

What is your setup for emergency bee feeding in the winter?  Let us know in the comments section below!


  1. I had no idea there were so many layers. I am especially interested in that candy one! What does it taste like? You tested it, I know you did!

    1. It tastes pretty much like sugar since it's just sugar and water. I added a splash of vinegar, which makes it just a little tangy. The pollen is tangy and a little bit sweet. :-) Actually, the pollen is about as sweet as the sugar part is tangy!