When it comes to feeding your bees, you do have options. Likely more options than even I know. Having covered open feeding in a prior blog, here we are going to cover in/on hive feeders. These are designed so bees don't have to go far to get feed, and should maintain that the feed only goes to that hive that needs it, rather than being a free for all like open feeding. 

For a quick video about the different types of feeders, here is video by a friend of mine. I actually sent him the pictures of the top feeder, so I claim some fame in this one :)

Jason does a wonderful job of laying out the pros and cons in the video so I'll simply reiterate and explain what I've experienced.

For starters, I simply don't like frame feeders. The big downside is having to open the hive to refill the feeder. Also, you have to open the hive just to check if the feeder needs to be refilled. I prefer a glass jar or a hive top feeder where I can take a quick peak. I also don't like the drowning aspect of the frame feeder. Furthermore, I don't like the violation of bee space. Hang around me long enough, and you'll learn that I beat bee space to death. In an area ridden with small hive beetles, proper bee space is critical.

Jar feeders. I use two different types of jar feeders. Boardman inserts on the front of the hive, and top feeders similar to a drip pail design. I like the top feeder as it can't be robbed by other bees. It sits snug down in the lid. I used a 3" hole saw and it fits a regular mouth Mason jar nicely. I've also modified this design to put a 1/8" hardware cloth so the bees can't come out when you replace the feeder. However, the screen does slightly inhibit the bees' ability to take the feeder. I've see far faster consumption when not using the screen. 

For the entrance application I just use the standard boardman insert. As Jason suggests, this can attract robbers, but I've never actually witnessed it. The biggest issue with a boardman is that you have to approach the front of the hive which is typically right in the flight path. If it's a warm night, there may be bees clustering on the feeder as well. Jar feeders do limit you to a quart, unless you can find a bigger jar, but a larger jar won't fit a boardman feeder as it will have a larger lid. Still you can use a larger jar like a pail feeder for feeding inside a super or open feeding. For more volume, you could place several boardman feeders side by side in the entrance of a 10 frame hive, at least 3 would fit I suppose. 

Top Reservoir Feeders: The other feeder I have used is the top reservoir feeder. I bought the plastic insert from Mann Lake LTD beekeeping supply. It fits a 10 frame dimension but is only I think about 4" deep, not quite a shallow super. I like this feeder for feeding large hives large volumes. The bees are screened below so you can remove to outer cover to check/refill the feeder. And the screen doubles as a way for the bees to keep from drowning. I like them as feeders, but don't use them very often, just because I'm rarely feeding that much. But if say you had a large package you were setting up in a 10 frame setup (or you caught a large swarm) they will take feed quickly, and it's very viable to give them 2-3 gallons. That beats filling a quart jar every day.  

So again, these are just the version I have used. There are others out there. Be careful with home made feeder options. Something like a chicken waterer or hummingbird feeder may seem like a quick fix, but in both cases I've actually seen the bees somehow get inside the reservoir, and then of course drown because the don't know how to swim or get back out. 

AuthorTom Brueggen