Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A quart of syrup a day!

Since I got such a late start in hiving my bees, over a month ago now, I am still feeding my girls so they can draw comb. Because it was the beginning of June when I got set up, they missed the nectar flow here, and at this point in the game, we're in a dearth. So I'm feeding them sugar syrup and giving them a pollen supplement as well, and hopefully this will help them draw out the one deep super and maybe a shallow. At this point I'm playing it by ear to see what happens. Maybe between now and the fall I'll be pleasantly surprised by their hard work.

I have played with this feeder and that feeder, using a hive front Boardman feeder at times, making my own and using it at others. But after the first month, I decided the girls would work harder if I didn't disturb them every week, especially to restock the two-quart homemade feeder that fit inside the hive. So I went back to using the hive front Boardman feeder with the quart jar and pray that it wouldn't encourage robbing.

So the other day, I put the Boardman feeder on front of the hive at around noon and forgot about it, figuring that it would be a day or two and I would replenish it. But the next morning, the feeder was completely dry, nadda...nothing. I figured that either I didn't screw the top on tight or maybe there was a crack in the jar, so I got a new jar and filled it with syrup and put it on the front of the hive.

No joke...within minutes, I noticed a slow "glub, glub, glub" inside the jar...tiny bubbles going to the top of the jar every minute or two. I sat there for twenty minutes watching it, the slow bubbles going to the top of the jar. And over an eight hour period of time, a third of the syrup had disappeared.

I decided I had to find out what was going on. Nothing was out of the ordinary. There were no cracks in the jar...there was no loose seal of the lid.. I discovered t was my girls using all that syrup. They were using it inside the hive! They were using it to build their nest.

But honestly, all that going up and down the hill to refill that jar was turning into a hassle. As much as I love my bees, I had other things going on, so I had to figure someting out.

So I decided to give my two gallon hive-top feeder another try. I bought it from Dadant when I bought my hive equipment, but when I tried it initially, I didn't like it.

But this time, I tried a different approach, I put it on top of the brood box, then I put an empty super on top of that...then the inner cover and the top cover which is weighted down with a landscaping paver to create a tight seal. It works much better this way and it doesn't take nearly as many trips to replenish the syrup. Plus I can do it without smoking the hive and disturbing the girls at work.

Today, they never even paid attention to me when I opened the top and put the syrup in. I think maybe one may have made her way to find out what I was doing, but after she found out it wasn't anything exciting, she buzzed away. They rest just kept on flying in and out of the front and going about their business.

With the exception of a few invading black ants I found inside the empty hive body that is covering the feeder, I think this will work much better. I can deal with a few ants and I know the girls will too if it gets to be much of a problem inside the brood box.

I was initially turned off by the plastic two gallon hive-top feeder. But I can see now that it will be much more beneficial for the hive since there will be fewer disturbances by I won't have to lug as much syrup down the hill every day.

Until next time, my friends, bee smart!


  1. Hi Mark. I used a boardman feeder all last winter because I had only one hive at the time. It worked quite well for me and I, too, was amazed at the amount of syrup a colony could go through in a very short time. Hopefully, I won't have to feed this year since I already have 2 supers filled with honey and 2 more drawn and starting to fill. We have sourwood in bloom now and goldenrod still to come. And yeah, send your girls this way. I'm always looking for good cheap labor to pollinate my garden :)

  2. If I may add to my previous comment, if I do have to feed this winter, I won't use boardman again since I now have 2 hives. It's interesting to see what other type feeders are working successfully for others.

  3. Hey Lynn! Its always good to hear from you! I know lots of experienced beekeppers that love their Boardman feeders..and most tell me they've never had robbing problems. Honestly I would use it now, but with everything else going on, I figure its better to go with the hive-top feeder, and if my calculation is right, I'll only have to replenish it every seven or so days. If you want to try the hive-top plastic feeder, I say go for the gusto. I think my initial reaction to it in the beginning was just a little premature. And I'll proably use it this winter too so I won't have to open the hive and disturb the cluster. Hope you're well!

  4. I've tried 2 hive top feeders and the one I like best is a very heavy styrofoam one with a plastic sheild where you can actually see the bees drink the nectar. They were taking it up very fast in my hives too - they were building comb and then filling it with the sugar syrup. It looks like you and I started at the same time - I started with 2 hives the first week of June.

    Your weather sounds much better than ours. It's like we're not even having a summer in Southern Ontario - just rain, rain rain. The temperature hasn't even gone over 25 yet this year.



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