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According to google: Hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF) is a break-down product of fructose, it forms slowly during storage and very quickly when honey is heated. According to Hills Laboratories HMF is created by the thermal decomposition of sugars and can provide evidence that honey has been heated or 'cooked'.

 

I suppose in the production of refined white sugar there is heat involved, does anyone know if there is a lot of HMF in regular sugar from the get-go? Presumably not or else bees would die from it (?). Since the feed sugar is sucrose, can there be HMF in sucrose or is that limited to fructose?

 

If making fondant, we dissolve refined white sugar in water with a little lemon juice. This is taken to 118C with a candy thermometer and is the "soft ball stage". It is held there at constant temperature for 15 minutes. The temperature of the fondant stays at 100C until all the water boils off, so beyond 100C there is no water and it is essentially melted / liquid sugar. I assume that the sucrose is inverted by the lemon juice and heat into fructose and glucose. After some cooling it goes into a kitchen aid mixer and finally at low temperature is poured out to set as a soft white fudge and stored in the freezer until needed.

This provides a low smell, low robbing stimulus, low water, high energy density, unspillable feed, that never goes hard, that I give to Nuc's. 

So far as I can see, they like it, no dead bees noticed and it suits our very small operation (aka out of control hobby) because it is easy to make the volumes we need and is easy to store, is very compact and never goes off.

 

I don't know a lot about HMF and most posts on the forum searches I've done seem to relate to HMF in honey not feed.

 

Question: is if the HMF would be high enough in this fondant to give me something new to worry about?

These over-wintered Nuc's only get this feed if they are low on food ~September.

 

Edited by ChrisM
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There is very little HMF in refined white sugar, or even brown/raw sugar. I tested a handful of samples a year or two ago for a beekeeper article I wrote. All samples were <1 mg/kg if I remember co

If you feed a sugar syrup with high hmf you will have bee die-off , but if you feed a fondant with a high hmf you would be less likely to see much bee loss because the bees use fondant a whole lot slo

Eeek, thousands? Would it make any sense to produce the next batch of fondant without adding lemon juice, then get a sample tested of that? I'll be happy to put the results on the forum. It'

All I can think of, that you use a little lemon juice, which will be acidic and at that temperature will pull apart some of the sucrose into glucose and fructose. So that could mean there is a chance of some HMF forming, but can't imagine that being a problem as the percentage of the sucrose being inverted will be low.

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There is very little HMF in refined white sugar, or even brown/raw sugar. I tested a handful of samples a year or two ago for a beekeeper article I wrote. All samples were <1 mg/kg if I remember correctly. I also took the same sugar and inverted it, and showed it produced thousands of mg/kg of HMF in a pretty short time period. That's going to happen to varying extents in any sugar product you heat though, especially if it's acidified. The formation rate depends a lot on the specific conditions, so it's hard to say whether or not it would be problem for your fondant without testing it.

 

 

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36 minutes ago, Jacob said:

There is very little HMF in refined white sugar, or even brown/raw sugar. I tested a handful of samples a year or two ago for a beekeeper article I wrote. All samples were <1 mg/kg if I remember correctly. I also took the same sugar and inverted it, and showed it produced thousands of mg/kg of HMF in a pretty short time period. That's going to happen to varying extents in any sugar product you heat though, especially if it's acidified. The formation rate depends a lot on the specific conditions, so it's hard to say whether or not it would be problem for your fondant without testing it.

 

 

 

thanks a lot for that, awesome.

Do we know what level of HMF would be a problem for a bee colony? There seems no point in measuring HMF if we don't know at what order of magnitude it becomes a problem. Do you have any idea what it typically costs to measure HMF in a fondant (soft ball fudge) sample? I guess this needs something like 2Tbsp?

 

A lot of beekeepers prefer to feed their bees inverted sugar syrup, is it likely this also has some level of HMF in it? If so, then I guess the implication is that they feel that overall the invert performs better that sucrose despite that. If you were given a sample of commercially produced invert is the testing similar as for fondant?

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12 minutes ago, ChrisM said:

Do we know what level of HMF would be a problem for a bee colony? There seems no point in measuring HMF if we don't know at what order of magnitude it becomes a problem. Do you have any idea what it typically costs to measure HMF in a fondant (soft ball fudge) sample? I guess this needs something like 2Tbsp?

 

The problem is that there isn't anything conclusive about toxicity levels. Looking at the scientific literature the estimates vary quite widely, but on average it might be a few hundred milligrams per kilo before serious side-effects start kicking in. I'll email you about the other questions.

 

 

12 minutes ago, ChrisM said:

A lot of beekeepers prefer to feed their bees inverted sugar syrup, is it likely this also has some level of HMF in it? If so, then I guess the implication is that they feel that overall the invert performs better that sucrose despite that. If you were given a sample of commercially produced invert is the testing similar as for fondant?

 

Some commercial syrups are very clean, especially enzymatically inverted syrups, as they don't require as much heating. I suspect it's more likely to be a problem for rookie syrup makers like myself who brew up random concoction in a kitchen pot.

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1 hour ago, Jacob said:

produced thousands of mg/kg of HMF in a pretty short time period. That's going to happen to varying extents in any sugar product you heat though, especially if it's acidified.

 

Eeek, thousands?

Would it make any sense to produce the next batch of fondant without adding lemon juice, then get a sample tested of that? I'll be happy to put the results on the forum.

It'll be fun: he said.

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2 hours ago, ChrisM said:

 

Eeek, thousands?

Would it make any sense to produce the next batch of fondant without adding lemon juice, then get a sample tested of that? I'll be happy to put the results on the forum.

It'll be fun: he said.

 

You're more than welcome to. There's a handful of variables which will affect the HMF formation rate - temperature, time, acid content, acid type, moisture content, probably more. Test as many as you want, it would make a fascinating project.

 

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21 hours ago, john berry said:

I know I have seen an article on this subject within the last couple of years but can't think where.

I wonder how much HMF there is in jam.

New Zealand Beekeeper, March 2019, Page 31: 15 minutes 3.8% inversion 5mg/kg.

 

We are doing 15 mintes but at 118C with virtually no water but it takes time to get up there and time to get back down... We will do another batch and definitely get some samples tested, cost is affordable even for a hobbyist. If really bad we might abandon fondant, but that would be sad.

 

Probably another bad idea, but I wonder if dry sugar and glycerine could form a paste at room temp as an alternative that doesn't ever go rock hard, it could be dispensed from a bucket with a concrete trowel.

 

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1 minute ago, yesbut said:

I've just been reading about HMF in honey. Apparently it's formed when honey is heated above 30c. So honey adjacent to the broodnest which is 32-35c is likely to contain HMF....

From Jacob's article in NZ Beekeeper March 2019 page 31: "freshly extracted honey 1-5mg/kg.... honey that has been stored for a couple of years at mild temperatures 20 to 60mg/kg."

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34 minutes ago, yesbut said:

I've just been reading about HMF in honey. Apparently it's formed when honey is heated above 30c. So honey adjacent to the broodnest which is 32-35c is likely to contain HMF....

 

It's formed at every temperature, but it's formed faster at higher temps. We tend to see the more dramatic HMF levels when people do clever things like leaving their drums in a 35C hot room for a few months to accelerate MGO formation.

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Is high UMF a health problem or is it just a standard that we have to meet.?

I know that fondant is used extensively in Europe and would love to be able to get hold of commercial quantities in New Zealand.

Am I right in thinking that a high UMF in whatever form of sugar you feed is only a problem if it ends up in the honey..

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5 minutes ago, john berry said:

know that fondant is used extensively in Europe and would love to be able to get hold of commercial quantities in New Zealand

Yes that would be great. A product that keeps bees fed, easily applied/moved, lasts weeks, and doesn't stimulate brood rearing during swarm season.

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57 minutes ago, Gino de Graaf said:

Yes that would be great. A product that keeps bees fed, easily applied/moved, lasts weeks, and doesn't stimulate brood rearing during swarm season.

Many years ago Steve Bozi of Rangiora used to make a sugar fondant sort of stuff - but I don't have the details...

 

He made inner covers with about a 40mm rim on the side facing the colony.  He would make up his sugar 'fondant' and pour it into the inner covers.  Took some time to 'skin' over, but ultimately was quite firm and able to handle easily.

 

It was just a last ditch chance for a colony winter survival.  They most times would just ignore it.  But if/when they were really getting hungry, they would work it, keeping them from starving until his next visit...

 

I've only ever known/thought of HMF as a measure of time/heat degradation of stored honey.  I'm quite enjoying learning more about it...

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Posted (edited)
5 hours ago, john berry said:

Is high UMF a health problem or is it just a standard that we have to meet.?

quoting Jacob again from same article: "The science on whether or not high HMF concentrations are harmful to bees is mixed. Some studies show a significant harmful effect of HMF in sugar syrups and others show nothing at all".  Apparently, the German Federal Ministry concluded an upper limit of 60mg/kg, but I imagine they are in the dark like the rest of us and just kicking for touch. In any case, it is NOT a standard we have to meet.

 

To quote Jacob again "when sending syrup samples to our lab for testing beekeepers have sometimes made the observation they they had seen hives weaken.......... We have never found toxins in syrups sent to us, other than sometimes finding high levels of HMF."

 

I rather thought he would find alcohol in a fermented syrup, but apparently no. (At some point it is going to be good to read the whole article, I found the link here:

https://www.analytica.co.nz/News-Resources/hmf-can-be-found-in-sugar-syrups-too

 

I think that there is bound to be a safe limit for HMF and going over that is a problem and you don't need brown or burnt looking syrup to be in trouble. It is probably far more than 60mg/kg but feeding bees massively more say 500mg/kg would be a very gutsy call, that is a line I wouldn't like to cross.

 

So, eating Egyptian honey from the pyramids is fine, but in a new twist it is not to be fed back to bees :) .

 

I'd love to know the HMF of the European commercial fondants because HMF levels in fondant don't necessarily mean the same thing as HMF levels in syrup. Maybe those Germans have a limit for that also... (more google searches )

Edited by ChrisM
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so far it looks like the European fondants (ambrosia neopoll) are mostly "raw fondants" that is they are not cooked. Instead they use a syrup typically glucose and fine sugar to form a paste without heat. Frequently mixed with pollen substitutes too it seems. Separate to this are the English (not trying to make joke, but I can't help laugh) they do seem to use a bakers fondant but have no idea how it is made. Everyone worries about HMF in cooked fondant, nobody seems to measure it nor have an agreed limit, grrr. nobody seemed to know exactly what was in baker's fondant some sort of trade secret like KFC :) 

 

A home made raw fondant recipe proposed by one is 4.5kg of white refined sugar, 236ml of water, mix together well, put in a plastic bag(s), let set overnight. This can be used for a series of bricks that then can be placed in feeders. results in no HMF and this might suit me using takeaway containers and freezer. We don't actually need any right now, but we'll give this a try at small scale in the food mixer and if it works it will be faster and easier than heating.. doubtless it will go mouldy and have more robbing smell, but still easy to make, easy to move, compact and store in freezer. 

 

Of the cooked fondant, (used for years without incident by many) there was some suggestion from the pro' camp that a few bees might die from HMF, but that the overall benefit of avoid starvation and consuming a low water content feed already inverted had benefits that outweighed the effect of a small amount of poison (HMF).

 

I'm starting to really worry about HMF now if that is what the supporters club says..

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10 hours ago, ChrisM said:

I'm starting to really worry about HMF now if that is what the supporters club says..

 

It may be a little bit like barbeque and beers: although they're bad for you in excess, in many cases the benefits outweigh the cons 😄

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50 minutes ago, Jacob said:

 

It may be a little bit like barbeque and beers: although they're bad for you in excess, in many cases the benefits outweigh the cons 😄

 

ah yes, aka bowel cancer...

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If you feed a sugar syrup with high hmf you will have bee die-off , but if you feed a fondant with a high hmf you would be less likely to see much bee loss because the bees use fondant a whole lot slower than they do with syrup and therefore the amount of hmf each bee consumes would be lower and extended over a longer time. 

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18 minutes ago, mischief said:

Maybe its time to stop treating them like a commodity.

 

At least they're not just "bugs' like so many other life forms. I sometimes worry that I'll turn up at the Pearly Gates and St Peter will give me a bucketfull of squashed sandflies, and tell me I can pass once I've reassembled them all.

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We used to save thousands of boxes of manuka to feed the hives in the spring but you could still end up with a season so bad you had to feed some sugar. They will certainly build up faster on sugar than they will on frames of honey and cold climate bees generally winter better on stored sugar than stored honey especially honeydews .

I run all my hives in a double brood box and aim to have the second box  pretty much full of honey by the end of the  honey flow and I don't take it even if its solid manuka. Some years unfortunately nature doesn't play ball and also after a bad drought it is important to stimulate the hives with sugar so they breed up and have some young bees to survive the winter. 

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