How to Assemble the Hive-Top Feeder

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With all the parts cut out for your hive-top feeder, it's time to assemble the pieces. The process is identical whether the hive-top feeder you're putting together is for a ten- or eight-frame Langstroth hive.

  1. Attach the feeder's short sides to the floor.

    Start with one short side board. Insert one of the plywood floor pieces into the dado groove of the side board. Repeat this process with the second short side board and the second piece of plywood.

  2. Attach the feeder's long sides to the short sides and the floor.

    Fit the rabbet edge of both long boards to the edges of the short side boards, with the dado grooves securing the edges of the plywood floor pieces. Note that there's a 3/4-inch gap at the center of the floorboards. This is the bees' entrance into the feeder.

  3. Fit the shallow entrance walls into the feeder.

    Using a hammer, tap the two shallow entrance walls into the center dado cuts of the long side boards.

  4. Screw together all the sides and the shallow entrance walls.

    Place the assembly flat on the worktable with one of the long side boards against a "stop," such as a short piece of 2x4 clamped to the table.

    Using the deck screws and a power drill with a #2 Phillips head bit, start securing the corners of the long boards into the edges of the short side boards. Start at the end away from the "stop." Put three screws in each long side, screwing them into the edges of the two short side boards.

    Reverse the entire feeder end to end and screw the other corners of the long boards in a similar manner. Make certain the entire assembly remains snug and tight as you do this by using the "stop" for leverage.

    Now use a total of eight screws to secure the shallow entrance walls to the long side walls (two screws in each).

  5. Nail together the shallow entrance walls and the floor.

    Turn the feeder over (upside down) and use the wire nails to secure the edges of the plywood floor to the shallow entrance walls. Eight nails per wall should do it.

    Consider using weatherproof wood glue in addition to the nails. It helps make the outer cover as strong as possible. Apply a thin coat of glue wherever two pieces of wood are joined together.

  6. Make the feeder watertight with varnish and silicone.

    Apply two or three coats of exterior polyurethane or marine varnish on the entire inside wooden surfaces of the feeder. Let each coat dry completely before applying the next coat. Pay particular attention to all the seams (where the wooden parts come together). Let the last coat dry overnight.

    Apply a bead of fish tank silicone to every interior seam (anywhere the liquid might seep through). Alternatively, in place of silicone, you can use melted beeswax, sloshed into all the seams to create a watertight feeder.

    Take the two deep entrance walls and coat them with two or three coats of exterior polyurethane or marine varnish. Be sure to let each coat dry completely before adding the next coat. Let the last coat dry 24 hours.

    As an option, consider painting, staining, or varnishing the exterior parts of your feeder (the parts exposed to the weather) to match the look of the hive it will sit on. Doing so protects the wood from the elements.

  7. Attach the deep entrance walls to the feeder.

    Tap the two deep entrance walls into position with a hammer or rubber mallet, positioned 3/4 inch from the shallow entrance walls and flush with the top of the feeder (note that this leaves a 3/8-inch gap between the bottom of these deep walls and the feeder floor; this gap allows the syrup to reach the feeding area).

    Secure with a total of six deck screws, screwing them through the long side boards and into the edges of the deep entrance walls.

  8. Add the hardware cloth to the feeder.

    Take the two V-shaped pieces of hardware cloth and shove them into the two spaces between the deep and shallow entrance walls. The V faces downward. These screened inserts are pressure-fitted, so you don't need to secure them with fasteners. This way you can easily remove them to clean the feeder before putting it away for the season.

    Take the 16-1/4 inch x 5 inch piece of hardware cloth and center it on top of the feeder assembly area. Secure it with a staple gun and staples (you'll use about ten staples in all).

    Don't use more staples than you absolutely need. Use just what's needed to keep the screen in place, with no gaps for the bees to squeeze through. At some point you may want to pop out these staples so that you can thoroughly clean the area within the feeder assembly.

Now that you've built your hive-top feeder, it's time to place it on the hive. It simply sits on the uppermost hive body (or super if you're using one). You don't use the inner cover while the feeder is on the hive. Fill the feeder with up to 2 gallons of sugar syrup and place the outer cover on top of the feeder.

[Credit: Illustration by Felix Freudzon, Freudzon Design]
Credit: Illustration by Felix Freudzon, Freudzon Design

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