Sunday, June 21, 2009

Different Types of Hive Feeders

I have now tried 3 different types of hive feeders - all top feeders.

(Pictured is a hive top Styrofoam feeder with a plastic cap/window on the left. Bees access the syrup from under the plastic hood. Syrup is poured into the area on the right. They won't drown with this system).

Initially I had a wooden and metal feeder that sat on top of the brood box. This feeder had holes drilled in its metal bottom that the bees would climb through from below.
Note the burr comb the bees built on the bottom, but other than that they didn't make too much of a mess.

These holes entered into a wooden well area where the bees would climb up and over to reach the feed.

A square metal cap would cover this wooden well which would keep the bees from being able to fly freely inside the feeder - making it easy and smoke free to refill without disturbing the hive.
This feeder had zero deaths from drowning so I do recommend this type of design for a feeder.

I have two of this type of feeder and unfortunately the seals between the wood and the metal failed on one of them and it created a slow leak which was a problem.
I will resilicon it so I should be able to put it back in service in the fall.

Because of the leak I removed the feeder and instead went with a rim spacer and baggie on top of the top bars as a feeder.
This worked well in that it was really close to the bees and they could access it easily.
BUT the bees found the space too irresistible and couldn't help themselves building comb in this area.
I think the bees find it too tempting when there's a frame of comb right there and a little space above and they rush to fill it - they created quite a bit of comb and wild combs in 2 1/2 days!

My conclusion from advice, reading and emails from beekeepers is that the rim feeder is really best for cold conditions because the heat of the hive will keep the syrup warm which will ensure the bees eat it. This method has room for only one baggie so if medicating the bees and you want to ensure they take all their medicine this is a good control. But for feeding in general, they were emptying this baggie in 2 days so it was very labour intensive. And then I had to scrape and clean up the extra comb they built too. The biggest drawback too is having to open the hive and smoke to move the bees so you can remove and replace the baggie.

I ended up buying a new hive top feeder, this one made of heavy Styrofoam and I really like it--it's completely leak proof. It has a slit the width of the foam on the bottom and the same type of well where the bees climb up the inside wall of the well and down to access the syrup at the bottom.
The area is narrow so they can't drown themselves. It has a cover too to prevent the bees from flying freely in the feeder and drowning.
What I really like is that the plastic is see through so you can actually see the bees accessing the syrup whereas with the wooden one the metal cap is solid and I couldn't see the bees accessing the syrup.

It's interesting to note that a temporary solution I made was to remove the metal cover from the wood/metal feeder and put two baggies in, one on each side of the well. This enabled me to leave them double the amount of feed - which they ate in just over 3 days.

(In this photo the bags had just been removed). The bees had free access to climb into the feeder but they did not build any burr or comb in this large space at all. I think it's because it was divided away from the frames in the brood frame that it wasn't so tempting. After 8 days they had not built any comb but I would think that if the feeder was left that way longer that they might have.

Top bars of Hive#1 covered in bees and a little leftover comb after I had scraped it down. I did this change of feeders on Sunday, taking off that leaky ______(enter explicit word) feeder and replaced it with the new Styrofoam one. I did all this without smoke.
The bees were so busy they ignored us. I didn't want to disturb them any more. Now I can leave them alone for a couple weeks before I have to do another inspection. I can just top up the feeder without disturbing them.

What was really neat to see was that when I lifted the outer cover on Hive#2, they had eaten all their syrup and I could see tons of bee tongues sticking out under the edge of the metal cap.
They were trying to reach the last of the wetness where the dregs of the syrup were with their long tongues.
Another big thrill was when I got out of the truck parked at the lane and saw my honey bees working the wild roses out at the road.
I really hope hive #1 gets a good break over the next week of sunny weather. I've disrupted them way more than I had planned in their first two weeks. Faulty equipment can certainly be a real pain and cause unplanned issues.
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