Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Feeder troubles

When you're just getting a colony established you need to feed the bees regularly to give them the resources they need to build all the new honeycomb for their new home in addition to all their regular activities of brood raising and honey producing. They could do it on their own with what they gather naturally but they may not develop the hive fast enough to be strong enough to survive their first winter.

What do you feed the bees? It's a simple syrup made from equal parts of water and granulated sugar. There are many methods for delivering this syrup and I've been through 3 of these methods in the last few days.

Up until Friday I had been using a hive top feeder on both the Clare and Galway colonies but over the last couple of inspections I started finding dead bees in Clare's feeder. There was no problem in Galway and the feeders are identical.

When I first saw the dead bees in the feeder a few weeks ago I thought I might have left the upper entrance to the hive open and that a robbing situation had occurred. Robbing is when bees try to steal honey and/or syrup from another colony which results in fights to the death as the bees defend their stores.

That could have explained the first instance but I wouldn't have left the upper entrance open again immediately afterward. Still, last Friday when I inspected Clare there were hundreds of dead bees in the feeder. In Galway there was only one. It seemed Clare's bees were drowning in the syrup. Something had to be done.

I tried using an entrance feeder but after a day it seemed it was leaking which would attract unwelcome visitors to the hive. So today I tried something different: a Ziploc storage bag filled with syrup. The bag rests in the feeder. I cut a slit on the top of the bag so that the syrup rises up to the slit but is still contained in the bag. The bees stand on the baggie and the slit acts as a trough for serving up the syrup.

We'll see how this technique goes. I'll check the hive on Friday and let you know.

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