Thursday, June 18, 2009

Rim Spacer with a Syrup Baggie vs the Hive Feeder

If not for one leaky hive feeder this experience would have been a perfect experience, but then what these days is perfect?

(This baggie is now empty and ready to be replaced - but see how the bees have been naughty? Maybe not truly naughty, more like they've been bee-having naturally by building comb in the space the rim feeder creates).

I discovered on day 2 after the nuc installation that Hive#1 had sugar syrup on the boards around the hive. There was also a raccoon print on the hive so I was left wondering if the hive was somehow rocked enough by a raccoon to spill or if the hive feeder was leaking.

I left it for a day or so and then checked it again. Unfortunately the boards showed fresh syrup so it looked like the issue was a leaky feeder.

The weather wasn't cold being June but I didn't want my bees to be constantly dripped on. I solved the issue temporarily by placing paper towel in the feeder to soak up the little syrup that remained and then I placed a baggie inside instead of pouring the syrup in.

It was the first week and I really wanted to avoid opening the hive to put on a rim feeder. I did worry about them building burr or wild comb in the feeder since they now had access to this space, and the queen could even come up into the feeder, but I decided to risk it.

Then when I did my one week inspection I returned to find that they had not built wild comb in the feeder. That was a relief. I decided that it would be best to use the rim feeder instead so they didn't have so much free space. I didn't want them to get the idea in their heads to build burr comb. So I installed the rim spacer with a baggie and closed up the hive.

I discovered 2 days later that they had built wild comb in the space provided by the rim feeder. That bit of space was just too tempting for them. The baggie was finished too so they were certainly taking the syrup back really quickly. I replaced the baggie and made plans to come back in 2 days at which time I'd have to decide what to do.

I had taken the hive feeder home and filled it with water. Hours later I lifted it up to find that it was indeed leaking so the raccoon was not to blame. I could silicon it but then it would need drying and curing time so instead I opted to order a new one.

They had been busy building their own wild combs. They were covered in bees. I felt bad to have to scrape it away from the frames and I shook the bees off the little pancake-like ones on the inner cover. These I'll keep to show kids/adults what natural comb looks like when doing presentations.

The comb built up on the tops of the frames had honey in them and I really hated to scrape it away but I had to clean it up and make some space for them because the feeder would be sitting on top.

The new feeder didn't arrive yesterday in time to use so instead I removed the rim spacer and used the leaky feeder with 2 baggies inside, one on each side of the central entrance. They were eating the syrup faster than I could get back to top it up which was the main reason why I thought to remove the rim spacer--I could only fit one baggie on the hive (the amount of syrup that can go in the bag is limited by the depth of the rim spacer.

I figured too that if they were determined to build burr comb, it'd be easier to scrape and clean off a feeder I could remove than to have to scrape the frames with my hive tool.

I expected to get stung that day. I thought the bees would be frustrated or angry at me doing all this scraping away of their comb. I was picking up wild comb absolutely covered in bees and then shaking them off. Not a single sting the whole time.

I didn't need much smoke and I really wanted to limit it but I did have to smoke more heavily to get the pile of bees off the top bars of the frames or they'd get crushed when I put the feeder on. They were busy trying to lap up the honey leaking from the comb I had scraped and were really reluctant to move.
I really wish I had a photographer with me. It's really hard to stop to get photos when you're holding onto things carefully, trying to focus on the bees, and my fingers were sticky. Speaking of sticky, you should see the camera!

My conclusion at this point is that a rim feeder is only really good for feeding medicated syrup using a baggie to ensure that the bees eat all the syrup/medication. They will build burr comb in a rim spacer because they like the extra space and prefer to build their own comb instead of using foundation. Also the baggie runs out very fast - sooner than 2 days in my case so the maintenance on it is very high. Also, the biggest downside is that you have to open the hive and smoke to change the baggie. An upside though is that the baggie isn't around long enough to get mould.

Wild roses are in bloom in the swamp at the moment and I'm sure the bees have been collecting nectar and pollen from them.
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