Sunday, June 13, 2010

Feeder woes continue

The good news is that the colonies continue to grow. The bad news is that bees continue to drown in the hive top feeders.

I was quite discouraged on Friday when I opened Clare and found many more dead bees in the hive top feeder. I decided to pull both the feeders and come up with a system which would not allow pooling of the syrup to occur.

In one hive (Galway), I used the baggie approach but set the baggie directly on the frames as shown in the picture above. The bees feed through a slit cut in the top of the bag. I have read much information on this technique and it is supposedly quite reliable. Still, it makes me uneasy because it seems that if enough bees were on the baggie they could weigh down the edge of the slit and pooling could occur in the center of the baggie. I am lifting the cover of the hive once a day to check and make sure this has not occurred.

I am far more comfortable with the approach I used in Clare which was to place entrance feeders directly on the frames. The entrance feeders use mason jars with small holes drilled in the lids. The surface tension of the syrup offers little droplets of syrup through these holes which the bees feed on. The syrup does not leak because there is no venting of the jar, thus a vacuum is created.
Even if these feeders were to leak there would be no place for the syrup to pool, rather it would run down through the frames and out the screened bottom of the hive. And refilling these feeders is simple -- just swap out the jars.

Entrance feeders, as the name suggests, are designed to be used at the entrance to the hive. But when used at the entrance the syrup sits in the sun which shortens the life of the syrup. And you can only feed so much with just one feeder at the entrance. Also, these feeders have been known to encourage robbing when used as designed.

Putting the feeders inside the hive overcomes these issues. I say this as if I am an expert on the topic -- but my expertise, as evidenced by my frustrations so far with feeder problems, comes mainly from what I've read in books, forums and online articles. I'm developing a healthy skepticism about what I read. I'm tending toward using frequent visual verification of what should be happening. I'll let you know how it goes.

If the entrance feeders perform up to expectations then I will switch Galway over to them as well. I'll have to place an order for a few more feeders and lids before I can make that change.

With the new feeding techniques, I've added an empty hive body to cover the feed. I wasn't ready to be doing this so the hive bodies were not painted. I'll paint up a few and replace them.

On the plus side, I added a third story to Galway this week. I'd probably be doing the same for Clare if I had not drowned so many bees there. Things look good in both hives but Galway is coming along more quickly. More good news -- things are blooming all over the meadow. There is heavy clover and the rains have been coming soft and nicely spaced keeping things well fed without disturbing the bees foraging too much. I'm hoping things really begin to take off.


  1. Just a quick follow-up on my daily peeks into the hive. The baggie looks fine for the second day in a row. The bees are crawling on it and presumably feeding through the slit with no signs of pooling. I also took a quick peek into Clare. Bees are in and around the feeders and everything looks clean and dry. No dead bees:) I'm beginning to feel like a beekeeper again.

  2. I had issues with the baggie feeder leaking down into the frames. I also switched to encasing a few entrance feeders on the inner cover and enclosing them with an empty super. Worked like a charm!