Making Queen Candy

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Introducing a new queen into a colony is a tenuous time – thank goodness for queen candy. This simple substance serves two purposes. It provides a bit of sustenance for a caged queen and her worker attendants. It also serves as a slow-release barrier – giving the workers of the hive a chance to get to know the new queen before she is released. It is a useful skill to know how to make queen candy for those instances when you need to temporarily plug an exit.

Small batch of homemade queen candy to be used in a queen cage.

Being able to whip up a batch of queen candy is most useful if you are interested in rearing queen bees but even the average beekeeper may benefit from the knowledge.

What is Queen Candy?

Queen candy is a white sugary substance used to prevent the queen bee from being released from her introduction cage too soon. There are a few different ways to make queen candy – you can be as simple or complex as you wish.

Many of the home recipes include powdered sugar and a sweetener-as does the one you will find below.

Ingredients needed to make queen candy including light corn syrup and powdered sugar.

Ingredients

Let’s start with the basics.

  • powdered sugar
  • light corn syrup (Karo)
  • A little water

Some beekeepers use Drivert sugar (a special form of cane sugar-fondant sugar)– which is fine but this is not necessary.

Honey is also a popular ingredient ingredient in some recipes – because what can be better for bees than honey?

Yet, I prefer not to use honey. If you are selling queens, most beekeepers do not want unknown honey introduced into their hives due to the risk of AFB.

Besides, most of us will only make a tiny bit of queen candy at a time. Powdered sugar and corn syrup works well.

Easy Queen Candy Recipe: Step-by-Step Guide

Making your own queen candy is really about practice more than precise measurements. I can give you measurements to use (and I will) – but to get the exact consistency needed you will have to experiment a bit.

The proper stiffness of the finished product can vary a bit with temperature and humidity. A difficult prospect since we need it to work in the hive for several days.

This makes a small amount of candy -enough for a few queen cages.

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  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of light corn syrup
  • A little water
Step by step pictures to show how to make queen candy from powdered sugar and syrup.

Prepare the Mixture:

1. In a small bowl, measure out the desired amount of powdered sugar (confectioners sugar).

2. Add in some light corn syrup – it only takes a little.

3. Now the stirring begins. Stir, stir and stir some more with a small spoon. As more of the sugar mixes with the syrup, I feel that I am almost pushing down on the spoon to force the two to mix. Eventually, you will not have any powder left – the mix will stick together in large pieces.

4. Now is the time to put down the spoon and pick up with mixture with your hands. Roll it around in your hand like regular dough or even play dough. Continue to mold and mix with your hand – it may be a little sticky but not too much.

Adjust Consistency:

Now we work on stiffness – take a small amount of material out of the bowl and form it into a marble sized ball.

When I make queen candy, I want it to have a consistency that forms a peak when you shape it. Similar to the shape of a Hershey’s kiss candy.

The little curl at the top should stand up firm and the base should not want to spread out as it sits there.

Pinching off small pieces of recipe to test stiffness. Mixture fails to stand up and gets a red thumbs down.

Oh snap. The little top started to sag over after a few minutes. It is not stiff enough. When this happens, the candy mixture is too soft.

The danger of having candy that is too soft – the queen may be released from her cage too soon – and the bees may kill the queen.

If this happens to you (do what I did) – add ½ teaspoon of powdered sugar – mix and try again. I used a measuring cup this time and kneaded the powdered sugar into the mixture. This time I achieved the consistency that I wanted because my little cone stayed up.

Adding more powdered sugar to candy recipe and testing it by creating a cone.

Repeat until you get the firmness that you want. If the mixture is too thick, gradually add a couple of drops of water. Be careful as small amounts of added ingredients make a big difference once they are mixed well.

Storage and Shelf Life

Store your homemade queen candy in in a zip lock bag in the refrigerator. It will last for several weeks or more. You can also freeze it for several months.

Using Queen Candy in Beekeeping

Fill the Cage:

Once you are happy with the consistency – you can pack it into a queen cage that needs it. Wooden cages have a circular slot near one of the ends to hold candy.

Take the cage that will hold the queen bee and place it on a flat surface. Carefully fill the hole in the cage with the prepared queen candy mixture, ensuring it’s packed tightly.

Reusing a wooden queen cage by packing candy mixture in the release end.

Unless you want to remove the screen ( I don’t) refilling a wooden queen cage is harder. That’s why I prefer plastic. However, you can still pack the exit hole and some of the 3rd chamber with candy.

It is not uncommon to buy a queen bee and have her arrive with a lot of the candy plug eaten away. In this case, it is easy to put some additional candy in the release end of the cage.

Plastic

If you are using a plastic queen cage, the tube at the end where the queen will exit should be packed with your candy.

Allow the queen candy to set and harden for several hours or overnight. This will ensure that it forms a solid barrier that the queen bee can eat through slowly.

A used plastic queen cage with the release tube filled with homemade candy.

Keep Extras on Hand

It is a good plan to keep a few empty queen cages on hand. I never throw them away because they are very useful in an emergency.

Perhaps, I want to requeen a hive but I am not certain I want to destroy the current queen. I can cage her with a few attendants for a few days-to see how things go with the new queen.

Or a beekeeping friend may be have a queenless hive and would love to have my old one if she is still viable.

With proper care, you can hold a queen in a queen cage for a short time. This gives you more options.

FAQs

What is queen candy, and why is it used in beekeeping?

Queen candy is a mixture made primarily from powdered sugar and corn syrup, used to plug the hole in a cage for a queen honey bee during transportation or introduction into a new hive.

How do I know if I need to use queen candy?

Queen candy is typically used when transporting or introducing a queen honey bee into a new hive. It is not a regular food that is fed to honey bees.

Can I make queen candy with ingredients other than powdered sugar and corn syrup?

While powdered sugar and corn syrup are commonly used to make queen candy due to their availability and ease of use, some beekeepers may experiment with alternative ingredients. However, it’s essential to ensure that any alternative ingredients used are safe for bees and serve the same purpose of providing sustenance and forming a solid barrier.

How long does queen candy take to set?

Queen candy typically takes several hours to set and harden, although it’s best to allow it to sit overnight to ensure it forms a solid barrier.

Final Thoughts

Expand your beekeeping horizons and try your hand at making queen candy this year. It is an interesting skill to have and you never know when you might need it. Of course, in a true emergency – is there any beekeeper alive that has not used a marshmallow? You don’t have to raise your hand – we know you are out there. However, proper queen candy does give you more control.

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