How to Add Feeders to Your Beehive

4 of 11 in Series: The Essentials of Setting Up a Backyard Beehive

Feeders are used to offer sugar syrup to your bees when the nectar flow is minimal or nonexistent. They also provide a convenient way to medicate your bees (some medications can be dissolved in sugar syrup and fed to your bees).

Hive-top bee feeder

The hive-top feeder is easy and safe to use. The hive-top feeder sits directly on top of the upper deep brood box and under the outer cover (no inner cover is used when a hive-top feeder is in place). It has a reservoir that can hold one to three gallons of syrup. Bees enter the feeder from below by means of a screened access.

The hive-top feeder has several distinct advantages over other types of feeders:

  • You don’t have to fill the feeder more than once every week or two.

  • You can fill the feeder without risk of being stung (the bees are on the opposite side of the screen).

  • Because you don’t have to completely open the hive to refill it, you don’t disturb the colony (every time you smoke and open a hive you set the bees’ progress back a few days).

  • Because the syrup is not exposed to the sun, you can add medication without concern that light will diminish its effectiveness.

    A hive-top feeder.
    A hive-top feeder.

Entrance bee feeder

The entrance feeder (sometimes called a “Boardman” feeder) is a popular device consisting of a small inverted jar of syrup that sits in a contraption at the entrance to the hive. Entrance feeders are inexpensive and simple to use. And they come with many hive kits.

  • The feeder’s proximity to the entrance can encourage bees from other hives to rob syrup and honey from your hive.

  • You’re unable to medicate the syrup because it sits directly in the sun.

  • The feeder’s exposure to the hot sun tends to spoil the syrup.

  • Refilling the small jar frequently is necessary (often daily).

  • Using an entrance feeder in the spring isn’t effective. The entrance feeder is at the bottom of the hive, but the spring cluster of bees is at the top of the hive.

  • Being at the entrance, you risk being stung by guard bees when you refill the feeder.

    An entrance feeder.
    An entrance feeder.

Pail bee feeder

The pail feeder consists of a one-gallon plastic pail with a friction top closure. Several tiny holes are drilled in its top. The pail is filled with syrup, and the friction top is snapped into place. The pail then is inverted and placed over the oval hole in the inner cover.

  • This feeder is placed within an empty deep-hive body, with the outer cover on top.

  • You essentially must open the hive to refill the feeder, leaving you vulnerable to stings.

  • Refilling this feeder requires smoking your bees and disrupting the colony.

  • Its one-gallon capacity requires refilling once or twice a week.

  • Limited access to syrup means that only a few bees at a time can feed.

    Here’s a pail feeder placed over the oval hole of the inner cover. By covering the feeder wit
    Here’s a pail feeder placed over the oval hole of the inner cover. By covering the feeder with an empty deep-hive body you can keep raccoons out of the feeder.

Baggie bee feeder

Here’s yet another cost-effective solution. Into a one-gallon size sealable plastic baggie, pour three quarts of syrup. Zip it up. Lay the baggie of syrup flat and directly on the top bars. Note the air bubble that forms along the top of the bag. Use a razor blade to make a couple of 2-inch slits into the air bubble.

The advantages of using a baggie feeder are as follows:

  • Very cost effective

  • Reduces the likelihood of robbing

  • Puts the feed directly on top of the bees for easy access

  • No drowned bees

    A baggie feeder is a cost-effective feeding option.
    A baggie feeder is a cost-effective feeding option.

Frame feeder

This plastic feeder is a narrow vessel resembling a standard frame that is placed in the upper deep-hive body, replacing one of the wall frames. Filled with a pint or two of syrup, bees have direct access to it. But it isn’t very practical.

  • Its capacity is small and must be refilled frequently, sometimes daily.

  • You lose the use of one frame while the feeder is in place.

  • Opening the hive to refill the feeder is disruptive to the colony and exposes you to stings.

  • * Bees can drown in the feeder.

    Frame feeders are placed within the hive, replacing a frame of comb.
    Frame feeders are placed within the hive, replacing a frame of comb.
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The Essentials of Setting Up a Backyard Beehive

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